The Car Uttam Kumar Drove…

In a candid chat with Team WHEELS, classic car connoisseur Udayaditya Dutta speaks about his prized possession –the 1959 Rambler Super Six

The Rambler was arguably the most important car built by American Motors Corporation (AMC) in that era. The company not only created and defined a new market segment, emphasizing the virtues of compact design, but the model also enabled the automaker to prosper in the post-World War II economy which transformed a seller’s market into one of buyer’s.

The sales war between Ford and Chevrolet conducted during 1953 and 1954 had left little room for business  for the much smaller ‘independent’ automakers trying to compete against the standard models offered by the domestic Big Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler).

AMC was developing a new line of smaller models under Styling Director, Edmund E. Anderson. Although according to conventional business strategy demanded sales of bigger cars for larger profits, AMC lacked the resources to develop a full-range of new models.

As the head of AMC, George W. Romney avoided a head on battle with the ‘Big Three’ automakers by focusing on the compact car. He felt that with the Rambler, he had the car of the future. Romney had the firm bet on the Rambler by spending US$5.4 million on a crash program in order to bring out the 1957 Rambler to the market, a year earlier.

In the year 1959, this car was purchased and shipped to India by an American gentleman, Stephen Hitchcock. At that point of time, Hitchcock working in the American Consulate was posted in Calcutta.  After using the car for a very brief period, Hitchcock sold the car to a broker in Delhi.

But as luck would have it, a well-known imported car dealer residing in Maniktala purchased the car and brought it back to Calcutta. Later the car was sold to the God of silver screen of yester years – Uttam Kumar.

I was a second year under-graduate student of Mechanical Engineering in Jadavpur University in 1963, when my father purchased this car from Uttam Kumar for a princely sum of Rs 35000 after much persuasion by me and my brother.

At the time of purchase, the car was in an immaculate condition and we regularly got it serviced by either the French Motor Car Company or Austin Distributors. This car was used for regular commutation between 1963 and 1988 including several long hauls to Jaipur, Benaras, Gopalpur, Puri, Hazaribag and Ranchi to name a few.

It might be interesting to note that this car featured in several movies starring Uttam Kumar. Till date, the car has clocked well over 1 lakh miles.

Between 1988 and 2012, the car remained grounded at Sen Automobile in Panditya Road near Hazra. Years of neglect took a heavy toll on it. I was keen to get the car restored but somehow couldn’t get the job done. Finally, my friend who also happened to be the owner of Sen Automobile suggested that we should get it restored by Sanjay Ghosh.

The car was in shambles and required restoration from the very scratch. The engine, gearbox, suspension, meters; practically every bit of the car had to be worked upon. Several parts had to be imported while many others were fabricated according to original specification at Ghosh’s workshop. Needless to say, that it was a daunting task; nevertheless the restorer took the challenge and the car was ready in less than six months. He had definitely done a good job since in its debut appearance at ‘The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally’ in January 2013, the car won the Concours d’ Elegance award in the Classic Category.

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