Fifty-one, but still a Baby

Shortly after Independence, the Indian Government took various measures to step up industrial growth. The one adopted for the fledgling car industry produced great, if not immediate, results. By slapping heavy duties on import of Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits and parts, it successfully prodded companies that thrived on assembly of popular marques into manufacturing cars on Indian soil.

For years following its inception in 1944, Premier Automobiles was assembling Dodge and De Soto cars at its facility in Pune. First at its Port Okha unit and then at its new Uttarpara unit (Calcutta), Hindustan Motors assembled Morris cars and rebadged them.

Both automobile majors began to take over the manufacture of parts for cars built under licence. But the switch to independent production was gradual. For example, the Baby Hindustan, which was the Morris Minor 1000 bearing an Indian name, continued to be built alongside the production of Ambassador (based on the Morris Oxford Series III). Hindustan Motors fostered its link with the Morris Minor because of the car's enduring popularity — until the latter part of the 1960s, Morris Minor models, believed to “typify Englishness”, were in the ascendant.

A 1958 Baby Hindustan, owned by Dr. Susikaran Thangasami, is visible evidence of the fact that Hindustan Motors' romance with the Morris Minor survived (if only for a short period) a spirited initiative to carve out a completely Indian identity for its cars.

It possesses one of the biggest and most efficient engines received by the Morris Minor models — a 948cc BMC A-Series inline four. The flashing direction indicators are one of the technological advancements that swept the British car-manufacturing industry in the mid-1950s.

This 1000cc Baby Hindustan facilitates ease of driving, thanks to a rear window that is wider than those of earlier Minors. The windscreen is of one piece in contrast to those in earlier Minors which came in two compartments.

Dr. Susikaran bought this car in 1989, but not to be kept pampered in an isolated garage as a valued antique. He elevated it to the position of his regular car, dislodging a 1966 Fiat 1100 in the process. But he did not cite daily driving as an excuse for turning it into a modern car cloaked as a Minor 1000. He has neither added nor removed anything. Which is why the car continues to have meters (barring the Smith's speedometer) and switches that are extrinsic to Minor 1000.

As he began to cut down on work in consideration of his age, he had less need for the car.

Now, the major responsibility of maintaining it is shouldered by his son, Dr. Sudhan(in pic). Despite its compactness and road-worthiness, Dr. Sudhan prefers to drive it only infrequently through the quiet lanes off Balfour Road.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 8:12:07 AM |

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