Maruti 800 – an obituary?

April 3, 2010

maruti 800After the iconic Bajaj scooter,  another symbol of the eighties and the then acme of middle-class ambition — the Maruti 800 — is driving into history.

With new emission norms kicking in, it won’t be sold in 13 major cities.

Nearly three decades ago, this delicate looking car in various hues begged for space on Indian roads next to ageing off-white rivals whose stolidity was misinterpreted as dependability and ruggedness.

The car entered my life only as a toy model as we were only aspiring 800-buyers but that didn’t beat its influence.

The Maruti 800 introduced the middle-class to the “small is beautiful” concept at a time when even music systems were supposed to be as tall as cupboards.

Made near India’s capital, the car was tailor-made for the brash, flashy Delhi yuppies that were just coming into their own in the 80s.

It announced the arriviste’s entry into the ‘vertiginous altitude of Delhi’s class system‘ as Rana Dasgupta describes it.

And in small towns, this not-so-expensive car was the kind of dowry that earned the guilty parties bragging rights of being ‘car-wallahs’.

The Japanese, when they designed the Maruti 800, knew what it could do but it is the Indians who showed them what the little red car could be made to do.

The Maruti 800 was as often found on the highways as in narrow lanes, proving the superiority of the user over its maker — and of Indian adaptability over Japanese technology.

In a nineties television ad, Maruti even claimed a service station in the rugged terrain of Ladakh.

The Maruti 800 will be phased out as the Bharat IV norms are extended across the country over the next few years.

Like old soldiers, it seems this road warrior too won’t die, just fade away.

3 comments

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I still remember the day i first saw a white Maruti 800 parked in front of our house, with my beaming father standing next to it…..it was more than a decade ago, but it’ll never fade from my memory..

Posted by Da_Bit | Report as abusive

I was around seven when we got our first car — the Maruti 800. We called it Jumpy and had our share of wonderful childhood memories involving mishaps, punctures, long hours whiled away in traffic jams and getting scolded for spilling icecream on its pristine floor mats. We had Jumpy for around 10 years before we gave him away to a cousin in Kerala. Visited him some years later, refurbished and looking brand new, it was truly a nostalgic moment. We have graduated to bigger and better cars since but I’ll never forget Jumpy — the people’s car.

Posted by ToeKnee | Report as abusive

The 800 came in so early, that even the makers did not have time to think creatively to give a intriguing code-name to the engine. And they came up with simple yet effcetive name for the engine – car – well as it turns out it is intriguing now.

Posted by Pujya | Report as abusive