Make a list of the best car designs in automotive history and I bet it will include the VW Beetle, the Land Rover and the Jaguar E-Type. One car that would be missing is the subject of today’s discussion, and it will be very familiar to our readers from India. The Hindustan Ambassador was introduced in 1948 before India’s independence and remains in production right up to today. The car is a dinosaur in the modern automotive world, but like the crocodile it seems to have found the perfect niche to thrive in.

Hindustan Motors Limited (HML) is one of India’s best recognized brands and has been building cars since 1942. The Ambassador is the poster child for the Indian automobile industry, and is known as the “King of Indian Roads.” Affectionately called a car, I mean the Amby; it has remained mostly unchanged for the past 62 years and was designed to be a tough and reliable car that could handle any road condition. Based on the Morris Oxford, the car is powered by engines that range from a whopping 35.5bhp to a mind numbing 71bhp and uses front disk and rear drum brakes that are completely useless. Other features include the suspension from a horse cart with real rear leaf springs, optional power steering, and consistently bad panel gaps throughout the body. A trip to the company website will also tout amazing technical innovations such as head lamps with clear glass (Painted lenses never worked well) and side indicators with escutcheon (snails) plus you can have the car painted any color you want, as long as its white or silvery white.

The interior of this little car is actually where it shines, with a back seat like a sofa and with a bench seat that can fit three people. The seats are elevated to improve visibility and the interior is spacious for such a tiny car. The trunk has the capacity to hold several bodies, making it the preferred car for Bollywood villains, though the car’s performance does makes for some extremely long chase scenes. The dashboard and fittings are not the highest quality, but options like power windows and MP3 music are offered and now the Ambassador can be ordered as a diesel or CNG Green vehicle.

Overall, the Ambassador is not a pleasant vehicle for those of us blessed with the gift of sight. However, in its niche market the car remains a best seller. One reason for this is that it meets all the design requirements that were placed on it in 1948, and since those needs haven’t changed over the years, neither has the car. The Hindustan Ambassador is a primary example of good design with regards to function, but poor design with regards to form.

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Article courtesy of Chris Raymond and Car Design