Republic Day Special: The Maruti 800
Republic day couldn't be related any better, could it?
This day paraded the establishment of a fresh Government with the Constitution of India being implemented to serve the nation and being crowned as the longest constitution in the world. An event in the automotive industry as prominent as this was the launch of a car in India that can be unofficially regarded as India's first 'people's car.' You have the right image radiating in your head, of the Maruti 800!
3 decades, best-selling car for over 2 decades, 2.66 million customers and a legacy which a few other cars have had the audacity to contrive, these are just some of the approbations that can be associated with this iconic and revered Maruti 800, colloquially referred to as the 'Maruti' in India. It would be safe to mention that this was the car which transcended India from 2-wheels to four, exactly what the first VW Beetle has remained instrumental in doing for Germany.
On the 14th December, 1983 the keys to the first-gen and first-ever 800 were handed over to its proud owner, Harpal Singh in a function held with pomp and show where the blue-coloured car was presented to him by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.
The SS80 or the Fronte, parlances by which it was called by Suzuki had a boxy silhouette with a tapering C-Pillar and squared headlamps and taillamps. Notwithstanding its petite proportions, it had the merit of 5 passengers seating abreast with ease to its side. It made a 'great' for its time 37 hp and 59 Nm of torque and came coupled to a 4-speed automatic tranny. It got a major overhaul in the year 1987 which was also exported to countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and post meeting some homologation requirements to Western Europe. This variant also remained in production for the longest period and came with features such as A/c, front disc brakes and also got a power bump to 45 hp for a couple of years during its tenure.
It wasn't a no show, no go proposition clocking a top whack of 140 Km/h and attaining the 100 Km/h barrier from a standstill in just 14 seconds which made it adequately swift for its time.
As all good things do come to an end, either by factors which are within control or by those beyond control, Maruti Suzuki bid Sayonara to the hatch in 2014 for several reasons.
Firstly, as it kept nearing its senescence, the number of buyers intrigued by its value was falling sharply. Secondly, India had tightened its emission norms which would impose an embargo on the 800 because of its higher level of carbon footprint. Thirdly, the company wanted to promote its Alto 800 which is a far more advanced and newer model and costed a trifle more than the 800. While the claimed mileage was 14.1 Km/l, there were cars within Maruti Suzuki's stables which eked out beyond 20 Km/l thereby, reducing its value quotient.
The 800 can be touted as a car that came in at the right time and fulfilled the dream of many to own a car. It came as an economic opportunity for the Government to expand India's wings in the automotive industry that could prove to be conducive for the expansion of the Indian economy. It shall be remembered as an icon millions have fond memories which would be indelibly stuck in our cheerful hearts.