End of the road for iconic Premier Pad­mini taxis

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - [email protected] times­group.com

Mum­bai: It’s the end of the road for the Premier Pad­mini taxi. The iconic In­doI­tal­ian model that was once more pop­u­lar than pizza in Bom­bay will be phased out soon — with pro­duc­tion hav­ing stopped in 2000, there are fewer than 50 of them sput­ter­ing around await­ing their D-day of June 2020.

An in­di­genised ver­sion of the Fiat 1100, the car de­buted as Fiat 1100 De­light in 1964. In 1965, its name was changed to Premier Pres­i­dent, and in 1974 it be­came the Premier Pad­mini — named af­ter the leg­endary In­dian queen. For the next three decades, it vir­tu­ally ruled the roads.

One will rarely en­counter a Pad­mini on the city’s streets to­day, says his­to­rian Deepak Rao, rem­i­nisc­ing about his com­fort­able rides in this cab.

Sources said the Mum­bai au­thor­i­ties had in the 1960s opted for the Pad­mini over the bulkier Hin­dus­tan Mo­tors’ Am­bas­sador, which was then very pop­u­lar in Kolkata and Delhi. “It (Pad­mini) was a sim­ple com­pact car, but ev­ery ci­ti­zen here was proud of it,” re­called Rao. It be­came so pop­u­lar in the ’70s and ’80s that it took the taxi trade by storm in the ’90s when a record 63,200 kaali-peeli taxis were reg­is­tered with state trans­port depart­ment.

For any new vis­i­tor who landed at the air­port, the first im­pres­sion of the city was through a com­fort­able ride in a Pad­mini taxi which had enough lug­gage space in the boot and also on the car­rier above. Parel res­i­dent Kishore Raj re­called, “For any trip — be it per­sonal or pro­fes­sional — I would al­ways hail a Pad­mini taxi as these driv­ers were ex­cel­lent nav­i­ga­tors.”

Most driv­ers were old­timers, who have had a long as­so­ci­a­tion with the taxi trade, they fol­lowed traf­fic rules and did not honk much. KM Mishra, one such driver, was emo­tion­ally at­tached to his Pad­mini taxi. “We al­ways got a word of praise from com­muters who found these cabs com­fort­able in terms of good leg space, sus­pen­sion and also ride qual­ity.”

Mum­bai Taxi­men’s Union leader A L Quadros, who now heads a union of cab­bies who ply any­thing but a Pad­mini, ad­mits that these taxis had done a “fan­tas­tic job and served mil­lions of com­muters over the years”. The Pad­mini model has now given way to other car ver­sions. The Santro model took the lead with 80% share for kaalipeeli taxis while Wagon-Rs com­prsie10%, i10s 4% and the rest are made up of Ee­cos, Om­nis, Al­tos, Ritzs, etc.

NOT JUST A CAR

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