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Nokia 3310 is coming back, so why can’t these cars return to Indian roads?

Since Nokia 3310 is coming back, should we bring back those iconic cars to this age with updates but the same class? Because, why not!

autos Updated: Feb 27, 2017 14:57 IST
Gulshankumar Wankar
Gulshankumar Wankar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Old cars in India,Nokia 3310,Hindustan Contessa
An Ambassador moves through Vijay chowk in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

Everyone, at least once, had a Nokia phone in their pockets. The Finnish company is coming back with its iconic 3310 handset, indeed with an upgrade.

So we thought maybe bring back those iconic cars to this age with updates but the same class. Because, why not!

Here are five cars which we would love to see back on Indian roads:

Hindustan Motors Ambassador

Even today, no Indian car can make a statement of authority as heavy as the Ambassador. Kolkata-based Hindustan Motors bought rights to remake the 1956 Morris Oxford Series III model and sold it as Hindustan Ambassador.

“The tank”, as it was often referred to, was as comfortable as some of popular sedans today, which is why it became the first choice of the government, becoming a symbol of power. The Ambassador was powered by a 1.5-litre BMC B-Series engine which generated 50 hp of power. It came in four Mark generations and subsequent editions -- the Grand and the Encore -- until they stopped production in 2010, after alternative carmakers rose and Hindustan Motors failed to make cars compliant to changing emission norms.

Earlier this month, French carmaker PSA Group bought the rights of Ambassador at Rs 80 crore; too less a price for an icon like that, right? Well, as long as Peugeot plans to launch it back, we’re happy. We’d be happier if this Dilip Chhabria-designed Amberoid comes back.

This Ambassador designed by Dilip Chhabria is Amberoid. ( Photo courtesy: )

Hindustan Motors Contessa

Hindustan Motors launched the Contessa in 1984, a swanky luxury sedan based on the Vauxhall VX Series of 1976 to 1978. It had everything one would fall for at the dawn of the 1980s before the likes of Ikon, Esteem, Astra or the Cielo were available. The car also became the first choice of Bollywood golden era heroes and villains alike, especially for those bumpy car-chase sequences.

It was also powered by the same 1.5-litre BMC B-series engine as that of the Ambassador mated to a four-speed transmission. In need of more power for a big car like this, Hindustan then tied up with Japanese carmaker Isuzu and brought in the 1.8-litre Contessa Classic. With more power, the Contessa became an instant hit.

Hindustan Contessa Diesel in Goa, in October 1994. ( Photo: Wikipedia Commons )

Before other carmakers came in with alternatives, the Contessa was the luxury car to make a statement with.

It was phased out in 2002, but some still stroll with their classic open-top Contessa during weddings.

Premier Padmini / Fiat 1100

Since Ambassador acquired a political tone, the Premier Padmini became a family car for the masses. Based on the Fiat 1100, the Padmini was marketed by Walchand Group’s Premier Automobile Ltd (PAL), and became an instant hit with even Rajinikanth getting one.

PAL made Padmini at their Kurla facility in Bombay, and named it after the Rajput princess Padmini. It was powered by a 1,089-cc petrol engine that generated 47 BHP.

A 1969 Premier Padmini, based on a Fiat 1100D, in Coimbatore. ( Photo: Wikipedia Commons )

With new cars coming in, Premier Padmini became synonymous with the “Kaali-Peeli” taxies across metros, until their production ceased in 1998.

Some Premier Padminis, once popular college cars, can still be seen on the roads, albeit in a rather fragile condition. We would love an updated version to come back, even a two-seater, with fresh gadgetry. But they could keep that small fan on the dashboard. We loved it.

Mahindra Jeep Commander

In 1948, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) acquired a license from Willys to bring the Jeep to India. The initial Jeeps on Indian streets were mostly open or with soft-tops in a left-hand-drive version, like the one featured in Rajesh Khanna’s “Mere Sapno Ki Rani” (Aradhana, 1969). Soon, M&M made right-hand drive Jeeps just like the one you see in “Keh doon tumhe” (Deewar, 1975).

A Mahindra Jeep in Hyderabad. ( Photo: Wikipedia Commons )

The Jeep was the first SUV of India, and Mahindra still remains the largest SUV-maker in the country, all its present-day cars based more or less on the genes of the Jeep.

So if you want the Jeep back, knock at Mahindra’s door; or maybe even at the original American brand’s. Jeep, now a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Group), came to India last year with their Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler, and have plans to make more Jeeps in India now.

Maruti 800

Because first love never dies. The Indira Gandhi government drove Japanese carmaker Suzuki into India through the Maruti route; and thousands of Indians got their first car in 1984 – the Maruti 800 at Rs 47,000 only.

Maruti 800 was based on the 1979 Suzuki Fronte, with an 800-cc F8B engine under the bonnet.

Harpal Singh and Gulshanbeer Kaur of Delhi became the first proud owners of the first Maruti 800 car in 1983. The couple bought the car for Rs 47,500 and its keys were handed to them by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Maruti 800 fuelled a car revolution in the country and became a symbol of status for the Indian middle class in the 1980s. ( HT File Photo )

It was also the first small car, with a small boot-lid, rather than the giant boxes of the Ambassadors and Padminis. And then there was the price aspect: it came under the budget of the middle class, and hence was called “The car that put India on wheels”.

Rise of alternatives, falling sales and outdated technology prompted Maruti Suzuki to stop producing the 800 after 30 successful years of production.

True, there’s an Alto and a Celerio pretty much like the Maruti 800, but we rewrite: First love never dies.

And since Maruti Suzuki brought a badge like Baleno back, why not 800?

Tell the author what car would you want to see in a refreshed avatar on the Indian roads, on Twitter @GulshanMWankar

First Published: Feb 27, 2017 14:45 IST