Rewind ride with these masters of India's roads
About a week ago, the Indian Army announced its plans to phase out the Maruti Gypsy — a vehicle that’s been serving it for over two decades. Originally introduced as a four-wheel drive in 1985, the Gypsy came with rigid suspension and was a no-comfort ride, which meant it performed well on rough terrains, making it a popular choice among law enforcers and in car rallies. Maruti Suzuki updated the vehicle three times since it rolled out the first Gypsy in 1985 — the MG410W, the Widetrack Gypsy in 1993 and MG413W (Gypsy King) in 1996. But, the future of this monster on four wheels seems uncertain as the Indian Army, who is also its biggest client, is planning to phase out the Gypsy. The Gypsy, however, is not the first vehicle that ruled Indian roads and pushed down the road in history. Here are a few tidbits on the wheels that were familiar sights across Indian towns, cities and villages.
CAR: Premier Padmini
Start of production: 1964
Ended production: 2000
Named after a 14th century Indian princess, the Premier Padmini made its debut in India as the Fiat 1100 Delite in India in 1964 with a carburetted 1,089cc four-cylinder petrol engine. The car was renamed as Premier President in 1973 and later as Premier Padmini. The car came with a manual transmission with a column-mounted shifter, on the left-hand side of the steering column and was available only in petrol until 1996, when PAL launched it as 137D in diesel variant, which was also its final model. The car was produced by Premiere Automobile Limited in its Kurla factory, until it was sold to Fiat Spa in 1997. Numerous Padminis could still be spotted on Mumbai’s roads as taxi cabs.
Start of production: 1983
Ended production: 2012
Just like once Ford’s model T made automobiles affordable in the West, India had the Maruti 800. A symbol of pride and status, for the country’s middle class, over 2.5 million cars have been sold till now and could easily be credited for the success of the brand Maruti as a big small car company. It was India’s most popular car till 2004. However, when foreign automakers started gaining popularity in the country, and emission standards became more stringent, the 800 lost the top place. The company stopped production in 2012 and will sell what’s there till 2014-2015. Also phased out: Maruti Omni
Start of production:1974
Ended production: 1996
Produced by Ideal Jawa Ltd in Mysore, Yezdi motorcycles were known for their loud noise, and one could start the bike in any gear after pressing the clutch. The Yezdi Road King, launched in 1974, featured a two-stroke 250cc air cooled engine was very popular in the Indian motorcycle racing circuit as well. Also phased out: Rajdoot, Yamaha RX100
MOPED: Hero Puch
Start of production: 1988
End of Production: 2003
Hero Puch was one of the most popular mopeds in India after Kinetic Luna. The Hero Motors, which launched the moped in India in the 80s, bought the rights for the gearless motorcycle Puch Maxi Plus from the Austrian company Puch. The moped was known for its reliability, ease of maintenance, fuel economy and weight carrying capacity.
Also phased out: Kinetic Luna
Scooter: Lambretta (Vijai Super)
Start of production 1950s
Ended production: 1997
Italian designer Ferdinando Innocenti’s Lambrettas ruled the Indian roads for years. Automobile Products of India assembled Lambrettas in India after Independence till 1972, after whichScooters India Ltd (SIL) bought the entire Lambretta manufacturing and trademark rights. It sold Lambrettas as Vijai Super. Also phased out: Bajaj Chetak