Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Ambassador car

A generation back, there was a simple method to separate the men from the boys. The real men were those who could claim total mastery over the Ambassador car.

The kids of today who gallivant all over town in their toys such as Ford Ikons, Santros and the Zens will never be able to understand what it took to drive one of those Ambys.

You could never be taught to drive the Amby. Either you were born with the skill or you weren’t. The chemistry between the car and the driver had to be perfect, not unlike that between a horse and the rider.

One started the day with silent prayers. If the battery and the electrical systems were in good condition, the car could be cranked in half a dozen attempts and still the engine had to be “raised” for a few minutes to get it to behave. The steering wheel was stubbornly pivoted in one position and would refuse to move. It was far easier to get down from the car and rotate the tyres with your bare hands, than attempt to steer it . The clutch and the accelerator pedals would put up such resistance that the driver had to practically jump on them to avail their services. Releasing the clutch pedal and simultaneously pressing the accelerator called for multi-tasking skills and not many would pass the test. Some ended up with fractured feet and injured pride.. Hand brakes existed in theory, but there is no recorded instance of these actually being put to use anytime. One was advised not to rely on these handbrakes, but to always carry a large stone, to insert as a wedge under the rear tyres, in case the car came to a halt in the ghat section of the road.

Driving was just one part. One had to be a mechanic too and have a fair idea of how the system worked. Checking the radiator water level and the crankcase oil level was a daily ritual carried out diligently. Rainy days called for a fair bit of daredevilry. Windshield wipers were either missing or not functional and so the driver had to use one hand to clean the windshield and the other to steer the car. The Ambassador car would stall if the water on the road was more than 6 inches high. “Water got into the delco” was the immediate pronouncement of the knowledgeable driver. What this meant was that the driver had to pull out the petrol pipe from the carburettor, suck out some petrol, spit it into the distributor cap, light it on fire and drive away the moisture in the cap, in complete disregard for one’s own safety or that of the other passengers’. It was the done thing and theirs was not to question why.

These days, life’s too easy for the kids and driving has become too unexciting. I know of quite a few people who have never opened the bonnets of their cars or learnt to pull a car out of a slope without using a handbrake, let alone setting the distributor cap on fire. What a pity.



Pareshaan said...

Wow, I tried learning how to drive on a Mark II, I still cannot drive well, 10 years down the line. The Ambassador...LOL

Mambalam Mani said...

haha...nice one...i comepletely agree on the part that nowadays not many know the inside of a car. People drive as long as it runs and at the first signs of some malfunction take it to the mechanic!
And I think for the Indian roads, there never were better cars than the Amby and the fiat (premier padmini) :)