Happy Independence Day.
On this day, as the first moments of 15th August 1947 drew near, Jawaharlal Nehru uttered those well-remembered words, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom,” as part of his famous Tryst with Destiny Speech that took India from being a colony of the British to an independent nation.
As PM Modi, makes his way to the Red Fort to give the speech once again this 15th of August, we at Cartoq take a look at the vehicles that have transported our Prime Ministers and the head of state, the President, to these historic parades over the years.
The Early Years
The Presidential Car – Cadillac Country
While India gained freedom in 1947, it took nearly three more years for the nation to adopt a constitution. After the adoption of the constitution, the Governor General was replaced by the President, with Rajendra Prasad becoming the first person to take control of the Presidential Palace of the Republic of India. The President’s ride of choice was a convertible Cadillac. Many more cars from the American carmaker have been seen as part of the Prez’s cavalcade over the years. However, like almost everywhere else, even the hallowed grounds of the President’s palace were taken over by the humble Hindustan Ambassador.
The Prime Minister’s car – Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first PM, was known to travel in various American and British car marques, as he traversed the nation before and after independence. However, the best-known car he used was a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. The story behind the Wraith is a fascinating one, as it was gifted to Nehru for use as the state car by Lord Mountbatten. The Roller was a gift by the English monarch to Mountbatten, the last British governor-general of India.
However, with Jawahar Lal Nehru’s socialistic approach to the economy, cars becam more expensive – a commodity than a necessity – and nearly kicked the car scene in India back into the stone age.
The 80’s Wild Child
While the Ambassador became the neta car for the bureaucrat in the 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi’s love of fast cars, saw him driving a Maruti 1000 (later called the Esteem). He was later seen being driven to Parliament in his Range Rover Vogue, which was given to him as a gift by the King of Jordan.
In the 1990s, after India opened up its borders to global brands, the President and PM’s cars changed again. With Nehru’s India a thing of the past, cars have undergone a rather tectonic change with robust design and features involved.
The President’s Cars – The Armoured Three-Pointer
Shankar Dayal Sharma, K.R. Narayanan & APJ Abdul Kalam – W124 Mercedes S-Class
President Shankar Dayal Sharma was the first President to make use of the armoured S-Class limousine. The President’s car was a W140 S-class, best known for its reliability and exemplary build quality.
This W140’s reliability saw it being passed onto the next two presidents, KR Narayanan and APJ Abdul Kalam, India’s rocket man.
Pratibha Patil, Pranab Mukherjee & Ramnath Kovind – W221 Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard
When Pratibha Patil became the first female Head of State in India, the Presidential Limousine was given an upgrade to the W221 generation Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard armoured limo.
While exact details about this limo are considered a state secret, its civilian versions can withstand machine gun fire, grenades and bombs. This bombproof armoured Mercedes was also used by Pranab Mukherjee and is currently serving its third President, Ramnath Kovind.
The PM’s car – From Ambassador to the UK’s finest SUV.
Narasimha Rao, IK Gujaral, Dewe Gowda – Ambassador
When India opened up its borders, the PM was Narasimha Rao and this PM retained his ambassador despite the entry of foreign carmakers into India, Subsequent PMs like IK Gujaral and Dewe Gowda did the same.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee – Ambassador to Armoured BMW 7 Series
The first PM from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee led the nation through the Kargil conflict with Pakistan. H was forced to ditch the neta Amby for an armoured BMW 7 Series after terrorists attacked Parliament House in 2001.
Dr. Manmohan Singh – Armoured BMW 7 Series
Succeeding, Mr Vajpayee to the hot seat in the BMW and Parliament was Dr Manmohan Singh. The man who saved the Indian economy from shutting down in the 90s, Dr Singh was the first Indian PM to exclusively use the armoured bomb-proof car.
Narendra Modi – Armoured BMW 7 Series to Armoured Range Rover SUV
Narendra Modi’s official vehicle may just show a PM moving with the times. With the SUV fever gripping the country, the current PM has ditched the BMW limo for an armoured Range Rover SUV.