Cars have a long-standing history in India, which began in the 1890s. One report says that it was in 1897 that the first car ran on an Indian road, which was owned by a British industrialist. A different one says the Maharaja of Patiala imported the first motor car into India in 1892, and it was a French De Dion Bouton steam-powered two-cylinder tricar. While all cars were only imported, in small numbers, till the 1930s, it was in 1942 that Hindustan Motors started assembling cars in India. The history is quite vast to cover in one story, so, for today, as India celebrates its 72nd Republic Day, we take a look at 5 cars, which were sold in the country, in the 1950s.
Hindustan 10 (Morris 10)
Following a technical collaboration with Morris Motors, Hindustan Motors launched its first car in 1948, the Hindustan 10, which was based on the Morris 10 Series M. The car was assembled by the Indian carmaker at its Uttarpara plant in West Bengal, however, Hindustan 10 was only sold in India only until the end of 1950, when it was discontinued. The car was powered by a 1,140 cc Morris XPJM overhead valve engine, which was mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
Willys Jeep (Mahindra 4x4)
In 1949 Mahindra and Mahindra began assembly of Jeep CJ-3B utility vehicle, better known as the Willys Jeep or as the home-grown automaker calls it, the Mahindra 4x4. The company started local assembly under licence of the Willys Jeep in India and later made purpose-built military vehicles since the 1950s. Initially used only by the defence forces in India, by 1954 the company started selling the vehicle to civilians.
Another classic car that was on sale in India during that era was the Dodge Kingsway, and it was assembled in India by Premier Automobiles until the late 1950s. Incidentally, the Dodge Kingsway models were rebadged Plymouth vehicles for the export markets as they were cheaper. The car was powered by a six-cylinder, 3.6-litre engine, producing about 27 bhp.
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Hindustan Landmaster (Morris Oxford)
Meet the predecessor of the iconic Ambassador, the Hindustan Landmaster, the model based on the Morris Oxford Series II. Continuing its relationship with Morris Motors, the Indian carmaker introduced the Landmaster in 1954 and the car was sold in India until 1957, before being replaced by the Hindustan Ambassador, which itself is based on the Morris Oxford Series III model. For irs time, the Hindustan Landmaster came with a modern design and it was powered by a 1.5-litre, in-line 4-cylinder engine.
Also Read: Hindustan Ambassador: A Brief History
In 1954, Premier Automobiles introduced the Fiat 1100 in India, the predecessor of the iconic Premier Padmini. The Fiat 1100, which was globally launched in 1953, initially came to India as a fully imported model, in fact, Premier did not start local assembly of the car until 1964, when it started producing the Fiat 1100 D. As for the initially imported 1100 model it was offered in two options the 1100 Millecento, which was launched in 1954, and later the 1100 Elegant, introduced in 1955. The car was powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine producing about 35 bhp and it had a steering column-mounted gear lever, which was considered fashionable for that time.