Arjun Singh in a Lamborghini. Amitabh Bachchan in a Maruti 800. James Bond in a Buick. Arundhati Roy in a Humvee. Without knowing much about cars, anyone can tell that there is a serious problem with the list above. While automobiles may not make a man, they certainly behove their passengers and inject a certain psycho-profile to their owners. So is it surprising that the Ambassador, sturdy design-anachronism and surviving step-child of the Morris Oxford III, is the favourite of the politically powerful in the state of Bihar? Before you rustle up your tsk-tsks, know that the Amby, with its strong suspensions, crunch-deflecting design, bucket seats and spacious interiors is, still, perhaps, the most suitable vehicle for most Indian roads — Bihar roads in particular.
But all these virtues are inconsequential when it comes to its power of inspiring awe, especially if it adorns a red flashing light on its bonnet. Truth is that like all signifiers and signifieds, the context in which the Ambassador finds itself is of utmost importance. The nostalgia associated with this mutant Morris Oxford finds the Amby invested with great retro-chic value in the West — and among some of the diplomatic community in the national capital too. Of course, when the same Amby comes in the form of a yellow-black taxi, we know why Ambassadors are not best-selling cars.
So if one has to lust after an Ambassador, it will probably be a white one, with a red light, and — this is important — with seats covered generously with towels. It would be truly a buy if you can get a government number plate and a neta thrown in with it.