Question: If the Hindustan Ambassador Is No More, What Car Takes Over As Current Continuous-Production King?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
question if the hindustan ambassador is no more what car takes over as current

As we all know by now, Hindustan Motors has shut down the production line for the venerable Hindustan Ambassador, a car whose production run stretches all the way back to 1954 and the Morris Oxford II… or, depending on how strict your interpretation of the definition of “same car” happens to be— the 1948 Morris Oxford MO. Whether it’s a Type 1 Beetle-beating 66 years or just a merely staggering 60 years, the passing of the Amby means that the acrimonious debate must begin: which current car has been in continuous production, in more or less the same form, for the most years?

What we’re talking about here isn’t the longest continuous use of a model name (though the Chevy Suburban and Mercedes-Benz SL fanatics make that issue interesting), it’s the longest continuous manufacture of what amounts to the same car. Now, the reason that this discussion can and must turn into a crockery-throwing, ad hominem ming brawl is that the definitions are inherently squirmy things that nobody can pin down to anybody’s satisfaction. What distinguishes a car from a truck? What distinguishes a true production car from a low-numbers novelty? How much can a platform change before it’s a different machine? Does an interruption of the assembly line due to war count? What about pirated copies built in a dirt-floored Guangzhou shack? When I wrote the Automotive Survivors series (in which I honored cars built for at least 20 years) for Jalopnik in 2009, I received more hate mail than with any piece of writing I’ve done before or since. “You idiot!” they read, “Don’t you know that the (Volvo 240, Ford Model T, Land Rover, Hundred Flowers BXX-991D) qualifies?”

I’m going to avoid the death threats from the Hundred Flowers BXX-991D Jihad this time, by leaving the question up to you, dear readers. You will go in the comments and posit the cars you think have been built in unchanged-enough-for-the-purposes-of-this-debate form for the longest consecutive streak of years, and then your fellow readers will tell you that you suck, and then you will epoxy down your CAPS LOCK key and the fun will begin.

I’m going to be like Wotan here, staying above the fray (actually, the real Wotan would start blasting fools left and right, but you get the idea), but I will point you in the direction of some cars I think have a case for the Longest Production crown. The Morgan 4/4 has been built in much the same form and without a break since 1955 (since 1936 if you ignore a couple of breaks). The Lotus Seven goes straight back to 1957, if you count all the many copies in recent decades. If you want to be stricter about definitions and look at cars built in large numbers, the demise of such cars as the Fiat 128 (built until very recently in Egypt), Hillman Hunter/Iran Khodro Paykan (built in Sudan until who-knows-when), and the South African Mk1 Golf (2009) makes for some tough judgment calls. The Lada Niva has been around since 1977, but many will say that it’s actually a truck. The 1986-vintage Kia Pride/Ford FestivaMazda 121 is still being built in Iran as the Saipa 132. The VAZ-1111 goes back to 1988. They’re still building Daihatsu Charades in China, and you could argue that we’re talking about a 1977 car in that case. Vague rumors point to current Chrysler K-car production somewhere in the former Soviet Union. So much to talk about here!

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 29, 2014

    There are too many individual standards to achieve anything but flame war on this topic. My own standard is not any unchanged model car, but any vehicle type that is recognized as that type of vehicle throughout it's manufacture. In that case, a tank, a yellow school bus and a standard Greyhound bus are the top three, with the first modern tank appearing in 1917, by Renault, taking top honors for longevity and the school bus with the least-changed exterior. So... how many here have ridden in all three?

  • Ratsnake Ratsnake on May 30, 2014

    I'm late to the party, but Mercedes Gelandewagen seems like the only competitor to the Land Rover--the question being which set of glacial pace changes resulted in the creation of a "new" model.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?