Update : Dear readers, your interest in this article and its resultant enormous reach seems to have made Maruti take cognizance of the situation. The company has contacted us acknowledging that they need to take care of this iconic car. We received an assurance that they’re communicating with the current owners of this car as we speak. Things seem to be working out, and hopefully, India’s first Maruti 800 will be brought back to shape soon.
If you’re wandering around the Green park area in Delhi, and chance across a white, first generation Maruti 800 (DIA 6479) lying in shambles – that’s national heritage sitting in tatters right there. It’s a bit of a shame, because not only it used to be a fine automobile when it was healthier, it also happens to be India’s first ever Maruti 800. Historical ramifications are acute – after this very car rolled off the production lines in December 14, 1983, a whopping 2.7 million units followed, spawning three generations, until it was officially discontinued in January 2014. Apart from being one of the best sellers of the world, India literally drove with the Maruti 800.
Harpal Singh and wife Gulshanbeer Kaur with their Maruti 800.
Keys to this very car were handed over to the legacy’s first customer – Indian Airlines Employee Harpal Singh and his wife Gulshanbeer Kaur by Indira Gandhi on the aforementioned date. Not only was it the birth anniversary of the former Prime Minister’s son Sanjay Gandhi, but it also marked the fulfillment of his dream: the “people’s car” for India.
A proud Harpal Singh receiving the car’s keys from former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The very next day after taking delivery, Harpal planned the first trip in his car to Meerut along his wife, elder daughter Govinder Pal Kaur, her husband Tejinder Ahluwalia and younger daughter Sunita Walia. Ahluwalia, 65, recalls about halting at two places on the way and how the car was the cynosure of all eyes, with huge crowd pulling abilities. Back then it was the Indian dream, with many people applying to buy one, but it was being given only to few through lucky draws.
Harpal Singh’s family: (From left to right) Govinder Pal Kaur, Tejinder Ahluwalia, Amardeep Walia, Sunita Walia.
“People were ready to pay more than Rs 1 lakh (its actual cost was Rs 47,500 then) to my father-in-law to buy it, but he never even contemplated such a move,” says younger son-in-law of Harpal Singh, Amardeep Walia, 55. Yes, Mr. Singh was very stern about his prized possession, so much so that he owned it till the very last day he lived. Singh passed away in 2010, and his wife two years later, leaving the car to gather rust and dirt. His two daughters currently live in South Delhi, and their husbands are unable to take care of the car. Also emission norms have rendered it undrivable in and around Delhi, while letters to Maruti to restore it were all unanswered.
The old man himself, with his beloved DIA 6479 in the backdrop.
The car is technically a SS80, a name the first generation models produced from 1983 – 85 are referred to as. This one is particular, looks like a standard variant, while the range topping Deluxe came with goodies like a digital clock, Stanley leather seats ,clarion HI FI stereo with two speakers, HVAC,tinted glass,three point seatbelts,velvet floor mats and carpets. Is there anybody out there who’d restore this piece of national heritage back to its glory days? We reckon it’ll become somewhat more valuable in the years to come – a true museum piece.
Images & Source : Hindustan Times