Around the World : Hindustan Motors

Hindustan has a long history of building British-designed cars in India, starting with the Morris Oxford in 1942.

Its bloodline would survive for a very long time…

A potted history of Hindustan

Hindustan Motors was set up during the Second World War in order to produce motor vehicles for the burgeoning Indian middle-classes. Because of the fact that India was still very much a part of the British Empire, it was inevitable that ambitious industrialists based in India would look back to the homeland to provide the manufacturing technology and facilities. Successfully established, the company’s first product—the Hindustan Ten, based on the Morris Ten Series M—duly entered production in 1942. It marked the beginning of a long-lasting and fruitful relationship between Morris Motors and Hindustan.

Production history

During the early 1950s Hindustan extended their arrangement with Morris Motors by commencing production of the Morris Minor. Interestingly renamed the Baby Hindusthan (note the extra h at this point) for local consumption, the Minor would prove to be something of a success.

The Morris Oxford II entered production in India in 1957 as the Hindusthan Landmaster, following its withdrawal from the UK market. The exercise was repeated with the Oxford III in 1959.

This arrangement made a lot of sense because the car’s tooling was moved lock, stock and barrel from the UK and it enabled Hindustan to produce the car very much on their own terms. This new model was named Ambassador, and would prove to be the mainstay of Hindustan’s production well into the new millennium.

It was during the 1960s that the name reverted to Hindustan.

The next new model would not arrive until 1980, when the Contessa (essentially, a localized version of the 1972 Vauxhall Victor FE) went into production after its tooling was sold to Hindustan Motors by General Motors.

Hindustan Ambassador

Hindustan Motors have been providing relatively cheap but rugged transport, ideally suited to the local driving conditions, for well over 40 years. The Ambassador replaced the Hindustan Landmaster, based on the Series II Oxford, in 1959. This restyled version, known as the Ambassador Classic and bearing an uncanny frontal resemblance to BMW’s new MINI, was unveiled in 2001.More…

Thanks to Asopèe Simeli, author of this article; corrections and updates by Jack Yan, December 2012

Keith Adams


  1. Hello team
    Your website is really great. Very informative. I’m from Mauritius Island where there are still hundreds of Bedford J6’s working in our sugar cane fields. these are tough trucks!. Please note that the Bedford’s J6 were manufactured in india as Hindusthan and there are thousand of them in pakistan. It would be a great idea to write an article on the Bedford J6 and note that these were the glory days of Britain best manufactured products! The proud of owning a “Made In England” product. These trucks were very well conceived about 50 years ago. I’m astonished of the power & refinement of the 6 cylinder diesels of the Bedfords at the time. They weren’t noisy. There were also lots of Bedford buses in Mauritius at the time. Around 20 years ago. Diesel Bedfords were considered as the best engines at the time. Very swift, quiet, refined & powerful. Don’t hesitate to contact me. It will be a pleasure for me. Thanks. regards

  2. @Soorej,

    Although most Bedford trucks have dissappeared from British roads, with the exception of the occasional preserved one, or horsebox, the British Army still have a number of Bedford MKs in active use, which use that engine

    The MK is a very simple truck, with no engine electronics, which makes for an easy to maintain vehicle. Because of a raised air intake the engine will even run completely submerged in water.These trucks are now very old compared to their civilian counterparts- it is unusual for truck fleet operator (small independents excluded) to run vehicles (apart from spare ‘panic wagons’) over about 8 years old.

    The Bedford 6 Cylinder engine was even used after the second world war as an occasional engine donor to certain large cars- I’m sure I’ve seen something somewhere about a Bedford powered Bentley!

  3. Hello Chris
    Thanks for your reply. It’s very kind. Do you want some pics of the trucks on the road here? I’ve also seen the Green Godess Bedford truck in the british army on BBC about 5 years ago. Bedford diesel engine in a Bentley! lol. Yes the engine was refined & quiet. And powerful too. And they did it without a turbo at the time. DOn;t hesitate to contact me on my personal email add : Thanks

  4. Hindustan apparently developed a small light front-wheel drive prototype in 1960 called the H.A.L Pingle, a 4-door saloon with a welded sheet steel chassis and fiberglass body powered by a 21 hp 700cc water-cooled Inline-2 2-stroke engine.

    Not sure whether the Pingle would have worked in India despite having 4-doors, even though the Ambassador was a suitable car for India Hindustan would have been better off retaining a connection to Morris later BMC.

    Still a pity though that Hindustan never considered building its version of the Mini in place of the Pingle prototype, especially after seeing the Mini look at home on Indian streets in Top Gear India Special.

  5. Bedfords were the backbone of the army for decades. The army wasn’t bothered about luxury like a civilian lorry operator, they wanted a simple, basic lorry that could transport soldiers around. I’m not surprised many of these survive in India.

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