Ratan Tata has been successful in creating a people car when he offered Tata Nano. Tata Nano also revived the memories of the Kulkarni family. Shankarrao Kulkarni, late grandfather of the present generation Kulkarni family, had a similar dream about 50 years ago. He also desired to create a small car that would be available to masses at the price of Rs. 12,000 in the year 1975. Hemant Kulkarni stated that his grandfather created a prototype in the year 1949 and in the following two decades he made amendments and create 5 more enhanced and improvised models.
The first two seater model of Meera was passed by RTO. It received the registration number MHK1906. The last developed model was fully working model of a mini car that was even smaller than Nano. This model received the registration number MHE192. Shankarrao, well known for his engineering skills despite having studied till 7th standard, named this model that he created in the year 1970 Meera. Hemant Kulkarni mentioned that the two cars, Tata Nano and Meera, have a lot in common. They both feature single wiper, rear engine, similar mileage (20 kmpl on petrol) and come with 5-seater capacity.
According to Kulkarni’s grandson, red tape and bureaucracy were responsible for the failure of what would have been India’s first small car. “He (Mr Shankarrao Kulkarni) wanted to start commercial production, but needed government approvals as it was controlled by the government. He took the car to Mumbai where it was exhibited at the Gateway of India. He drove the car to Mumbai, crossing the Khandala Ghat which was much steeper than it is today,” said Hemant.
The Jaysinghpur municipality in the state had offered to put up a plant for manufacturing the car and had also offered him land free. Mr Kulkarni had approached the central government, but by 1975, Suzuki had also planned to come in India and Mr Kulkarni’s proposals were rejected. He had spent more than Rs 50 lakh on the car at the development stage and later could not pursue the matters with the government. “So our efforts started declining and eventually the project died out. He had made, five more cars, but they were not permitted on the road as the excise duty hadn’t been paid,” said Hemant. “He had his limitations and could not pay it,” he added.
During the 1950s, Shankarrao with this small car Meera were a familiar sight in their city. Shantanurao Kirloskar, Mohan Dhariya, Rajarambapu Patil, Shankarrao Chavan and other eminent people even used the car Meera. As per a news report then published in a regional paper, Meera caught a lot of attention at the Belgaum engineering exhibition. The Kulkarni family has expressed their happiness that their grandfather’s dream and vision has been fulfilled. They are happy to be a part of it. Hemant Kulkarni also stated with deep emotions that he wishes to turn out to the first buyers of Nano in 2008.
Check out more pictures, after a jump.
Also see – Rajah Motors Kazwa (India’s first ever MPV)
Source – Blogspot.in