Short bio of my grandpa – Mahmood Ahmed (86) born at Mangalore in 1929, graduated at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai in Radio Engineering. After the course came back to Mangalore and started a tea business, later opened a first Nippo Battery dealership in Mangalore. In 1969, my grandpa brought Tempo-Bajaj Matador and bought a new Lambretta 175cc scooter in 1972.
I invited my grandpa to share some of his experiences about the Indian automobile industry in past on my blog, like myself he too is a die-hard automobile enthusiast. Although he didn’t know much about the Indian automobile scenario in past but shared some of his experiences on ‘Mangalore’s automobile market from 1937 onwards’.
On these times, they were hardly any cars plying on Mangalorean roads and its countable in our fingers probably 8-9 cars and there were no roads. As per his knowledge, he remembers 4 cars and its owners, namely, 1930 Ford Model A (Narian Mallya), another 1930 Ford Model A (Miraj Govind Pai), later 1937 Ford convertible (Adyar Ahmed) along with my great grand fathers Morris 10 (Ahmed Hussain) made its entry.
Surprisingly, in those days there were 3 garages in Mangalore one in Bunder named ‘Monappa’ and the other in Hampankatta because the cars used to break-down every now & then, also it was hard to find the spare parts. At this time, the cars used to cost average of Rs. 1200 for brand new car, while the used car price could start at Rs. 300 (now toys too cost more 🙂 ).
Come to 1940, the cars had an average booking of 5 years and the pure petrol just costed 0.50 paise per litre. And at this time, only 2 brand tyres were available in Mangalore, Dunlop & FireStone (a subsidiary of Bridgestone). In 1944, Mangalore’s first bus service started ‘Manjunatha Motor Services’, later ‘Ballal Motors’ too added buses.
In 1950, 3 more cars were added to the Mangalore cars line-up, 1948 Buick Roadmaster, 1946 Chevrolet Convertible and 1948 Dodge Coronet. In the same year, Automobile Products of India (API) began assembling Innocenti-built Lambretta scooters in India and the waiting period for the scooters was 2 years. My grandfather brought a brand new Lambretta 175cc scooter (also known as API-175) in 1972 and the booking period was 1 year, until 1980.
Today you can see thousand of cars plying on Mangalore roads, including few Supercars and Exotics. One can look positively at the years ahead.
My knowledge –
The first car to land in Mangalore was ‘De Dion’ in 1906. The car without its engine is available at the museum in St Aloysius College, Mangalore (where I studied 🙂 ). The French-made De Dion was imported by P.F.X. Saldanha of Highland Coffee Works in Mangalore. As there was no petrol station in Mangalore then, the fuel had to be brought from Madras in 38-litres drums and under special licence. This single cylinder car had a maximum speed of 30 kph. People then used to flock the residence of Saldanha to have a look at the car.