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Gallery: India's coolest Ambassador cars
Artists, designers and luxury hotels are giving India's iconic automobile a new ticket to ride
Getting into an Ambassador is like getting into a time machine. Since it was first manufactured by Kolkata-based Hindustan Motors (HM) in the late 1950s in India, as a copy of the Oxford Morris, this automobile has seen few modifications and stylistic changes.
Affectionately called the "Amby" these cars are jokingly referred to as elephants for their slowness and size, and remain the wheels of choice for the Indian army officers and and government ministers.
(Resist joke allegorizing the efficiency of the government and its favorite mobile.)
Minister Karan Singh Tanwar claims that the all-white government Ambassador still commands respect.
"I still have a white Ambassador and I love it," he declares. "It is pure India and total VIP."
Ambassador's retro-cool new avatar
Now that Japanese and Korean technology has modernized demand for sleeker and faster sedans, HM sells around 15,000 Ambassadors annually -- a modest number to be sure.
Around 65 percent are run as taxis (ease of maintenance and availability of spare parts), 20 percent are sold to the government and the rest to individual consumers.
When Singapore-based luxury hotel group Aman Resorts opened their first city property in New Delhi in 2009, their fleet of bespoke Ambassadors became somewhat of a minor USP.
“It seemed natural to embrace the understated unique style of Hindustan Motor’s Ambassador and add it to our fleet," Antony Treston, the then general manager for Aman New Delhi had said.
"The car is synonymous with India as well as New Delhi.”
Aman worked with HM to create custom-made retro dashboards with a large, central speed dial, mushroom leather interiors, wood finish details, an Ipod docking system, a cool box -- and even an exclusive shade of silver body paint.
“All our international guests love them and, in fact, many ask if they could have one shipped," Treston said.
Hip fashion designers, artists and Indophile expats have also given the Amby a new lease on life by adoring her as an historical design object.
CNNGo photographer Divya Dugar catches up (it's not hard at the pace they travel) with a few individual Ambassador owners across India, to uncover the enduring nostalgia and retro charm of this great Indian relic.
Hindustan Motors Ambassadors range from approximately Rs 431,000 (US$8,100) to Rs 604,000 (US$11,300) for the Classic, Grand and Avigo models.