Saturday, June 23, 2012

Daewoo Cielo - A dream fulfilled (1998)

We did not had to wait long to upgrade those cars that we drove for good couple of years. My cousin sold off all of his Fiats, 118 NE and even he dumped new Maruti 800 and took a used Maruti Zen from a friend of his as he wasn’t using it much. Now Zen was a better powered car than M800, its Air Conditioning and stereo too was too good. Although this car too lacked so many basic features like power windows, power steering, lousy braking, almost no boot space etc. As he actually got appointed as Financial Advisor to one of the US based Largest Consulting Company based in Noida. Other than the basic benefits company offered him as a consultant – the one thing that we both loved was the spanking brand new car offered to him and that happened to be a DCM Daewoo Cielo. Launched that year only it was an eye candy of all the rich and the famous who could not afford an imported car at that point of time. The only other sedan in India which came any closure to Cielo was Maruti Esteem and any other cars being launched were at least a year away.
Daewoo Cielo
The car came with a driver; we both were almost drooling on day 1 – just by looking at the car. It was silver in color and looked Gorgeous, just look at the picture and tell me, what you feel. It was huge from all standards, call it the size, the boot, the hood, its engine and everything about it was big and damn good. It was a 1500cc with a 90 BHP Engine. Its bonnet was so huge that 2-3 people can definitely sit on it and party. You could actually use it as a dining table on a road side dhaba – if you do not intend to go inside – we indeed did that couple of times on our road trips and it was too much fun, just open the bonnet and fix up something small on the bonnet and it can be used as a table. This car was an instant success right from the day it was launched because it offered so many unique features which were never offered by any car company in India. i.e. All four Power Windows, the switches to operate windows were in the central console right below the handbrake – a unique location although it was a little inconvenient for the rear passengers but nobody ever mind that. The features I loved most were a little different like the adjustable steering, as I am not too tall – I loved the low lying steering and my cousin will always push it back to adjust his tummy below the steering. It had illuminated cigarette lighter, the moment you took the lighter out there will be blue light flashing from the lighter – very convenient in night driving as it directed where to put the lighter back if you were driving alone and needed to light up your cigarette. Electrically adjusted rear view mirrors were a first too. Although it had no remote opening but the central locking on the driver side lock was a good feature, at least all the doors can be locked by just twisting one key. The day we had a flat tyre – I saw its another damn good offering in the form of a hydraulic jack. It was such an easy task to put up the car on jack that even a kid could turn the jack without any effort, just that you needed to know where to fix the jack on the running board. I totally loved it. I indeed bought the same jack from the market and kept it in other cars too for its ease of use.
The cars that we had driven before Cielo were all hatch back smaller ones or at best a friends esteem. When you compare a Cielo’s power with these cars – it was outstanding. As company claimed it could hit a 100 KMPH mark in just 11 seconds – guess we were able to do it faster than that for sure. As my cousin was a speed freak and I was in my 20’s so you can imagine how we must be flying that car everywhere. We never bothered to check its mileage though but as far as I remember my cousin told me it used to give us around 8-9 per liter of petrol. The other Director of the company claimed that his Cielo was giving somewhere around 5-6 only. Since it was a company car, all they were required to do is to get to a fuel pump where company had an account, just instruct the attendant to fill up the tank, sign a slip and relax. It was taken care by the accounts department, such was the luxury – so who would be bothered. The only botheration was when we hit the highways on our personal trips that we realize it was burning holes in our pockets in the name of luxury and low mileage. But wherever we went it was surely a head turner and no one ever raced with us on the highways. Barring a very few Mercs or Beamers at that time. The boot of the car was monstrous, we never felt out of space ever. Three adults could easily fit on the rear bench which was more like a sofa than a regular car seat. Driving this car was a pleasure. Since it had that hydraulic power steering and we had no experience whatsoever till that time driving a car with one, we almost screeched and burnt rubber on all the corners of the town, sometimes by mistake but sometimes intentionally. I loved that sound and had already marked some sharp corners of Noida where I could do that stunt and impress my friends by the sheer power and sound of the car. I always made sure that all the windows were rolled down so they could actually hear the sound pretty clearly.
The car came with 5 forward and one reverse gear and it had a manual transmission, I don’t even remember if it came with a auto box at that time. But its reverse gear was a little unique. You had to lift the underside of the gear up before pushing it on the slot further left to the first gear, once reversed just press the clutch and pull it back without pushing the lever and it will come back to neutral. We had to teach that to everybody who drove the car initially as on first trial – no one ever got it correctly. I wonder why company did like that but now I feel it was great securities feature that you couldn’t put it on reverse by mistake anyways. The car was damn powerful, 90 horses pulling it all the time was too good. We were able to achieve the top speed in no time at all. It was a damn good car to speed up on the highways and was too good on hilly rides too as I personally never felt under powered on any of the occasions. Even the 30 odd KMS drive from Dehradoon to Mussorrie which was like total hill drive – I used to do with quite an ease. Once the car is in top gear – it almost behaved like an automatic – right from 50 KMPH to 120 KMPH – you can pull it easily in the same gear. Even while overtaking – doing down shift was hardly required.
Look at the short gear lever and space below stereo.
I still remember my nephew who was almost 4-5 years got me into a fix when he asked his dad on one of our highway trips “Dad, what’s the speed that you are driving?” he proudly told him “Son, we are almost doing a 100” to which he replied with a little frustration in his voice “What Dad? Chachu does 120 always on this road”. Bang! He was shocked to hear that and gave me that menacing look, but then I realized that he did floored the accelerator a little bit more to beat my record.
The very first day that we got this car, we instantly set the driver free for the weekend, packed our bags and went on a little trip to Meerut which was like a 90 KMS from Noida. To meet my cousin’s parents and show them our new acquisition. It was quite a pleasant drive and fun to be in it on a long trip. Later we almost covered all the hill stations around Delhi within a year like Mussorie, Nainital, Simla and a couple of more places. My cousin was a born Roadie and he almost went everywhere driving in those junk cars of his. After this – he made it a point to go anywhere and everywhere by car only. Even I waited anxiously for my turn to drive too. As my duty was to drop my nephew to school, pick him back from school, go shopping on the weekends, and drop my cousin to airport whenever he went out of town. And once he was out of town – I was the Boss of the car and would take all my friends on a drive. I loved those days. We did have so much fun with the car as long as it lasted.
One instance with the car that I could never forget was its repairs. One fine day we faced some problem with its wiper blades. As we had an office in an industrial area where there were too many car workshops around. I just drove in to a Maruti Authorized Workshop, being neighbors their chief mechanic agreed to check the car and work out the solution. He tried his level best for good twenty minutes but couldn’t open the wiper blades, then he called couple of his assistants and they all tried their level best but in vain. Finally I had to take the car to the service station and when I told them what happened at Maruti workshop they just smiled and told me that “Sir, this isn’t a Maruti, after all” and the problem - trust me – was corrected in flat ten minutes.  During our first long distance drive to Gwalior, we had to stay there for couple of days, one fine day the car won’t start at all. We called the customer support and to our shock they told us that the car came with a factory fitter catalytic converter and we were supposed to fill unleaded petrol only and to my knowledge during those days the unleaded fuel was mostly available in Metros only and it was our mistake that we drove it out of town and started filling the regular fuel cause of non availability of unleaded hence the outcome. Finally we had to get a converter from the company and had to arrange for a guy to deliver and install. Poor guy came with two huge cans of unleaded fuel too, fix the new converter, refueled the car and gave it to us with new set of instructions. Yeah! We had to bear all the cost, which was a shocker. Later that problem was finally rectified as I remember that we never faced that issue ever down the line.
One of my close friends still has that car, unfortunately Daewoo went bankrupt and there were no takers at that time in India to take it over. Hence its plant in Surajpur near Noida is in ruins now. Although their smaller model car was later taken over by General Motors and became one of the most sold cars in India but unfortunately there were no takers for Cielo. Such a fantastic car got trashed cause of the poor management of the company. I so much wish it was still there in the market – it could have done wonders on the sales for sure if it was managed properly. Anyways! Such was our super experience with the car.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I had to live 5 more years with my dreams before the final moment came and I was set free to decide my own future. I had been waiting for this moment for ages - that's how I felt like. Summer of 96, I graduated and with first class results, my dad gave me an option to either pursue PG or join my cousin in New Delhi and pursue Chartered Accountancy. I gladly took the second option and June 10th 1996, I reached Delhi with my brother, who came to see me off. The very first thing I wanted to see was to go to "India Gate" and check it out in real. Had seen it so many times in movies and television that I just couldn’t wait to see it in real - but that had to wait - as we took a bus straight to Noida from New Delhi station. I totally loved that ride - that's one memory I fail to forget - not that - I want to forget but it’s always fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday. I still cannot forget the sight of "Noida Gol Chakkar" (Noida crossroad was a big circle) as it was called earlier - a huge round about right at the entry point of Noida. It’s no more their now as a traffic signal has taken its place now and Delhi metro goes on an elevated surface now a days. I tried but couldn’t even find a picture on internet of that time. I would have loved to put it here.

Anyways, with so many dreams I finally landed in my city of dreams and a great future awaited me here, so I thought. My cousin who was already running his own company had some plans for me too. Although I was more interested in the fleet of cars he had at that time, it included one Ambassador, a Fiat, his favorite old boy Padmini Premier 118NE was still there in his garage and was one of the most frequently used car. We all loved that car so much because it was the only one with air conditioning. It was a little too old for its age and was slowly and steadily moving towards its retirement and soon enough my nephew who I guess was hardly five or six years old dropped a bomb on him one day and that was that.

I still remember that day when me, my cousin, his wife and my cool nephew were going on a Saturday evening outing to Connaught Place (Delhi) in his worn out Padmini Premier 118 NE and as we stopped at Noida roundabout, The moment traffic signal turned green a couple of cars whoosh past us and my cousin was still flooring the paddle hard to run, only after a couple of kilometers we did manage to overtake some of them as he usually loved driving fast and mind it! We never met an accident till he kept sitting on the driver’s seat. My nephew then was hardly in class 2nd asked him “Papa, why do all these guys keep on over taking us? Is our car khatara? (Obsolete)” and that was it. I could see that in his eyes that this car is going to be trashed soon as soon as he can get a new one.

Oops, what a mistake that child had done that day unknowingly, it almost cost us all the savings my cousin had for the second floor he was planning to build. It hurt his ego very badly and he being one of those guys who can do anything under the sun for his son at whatever cost. Next day morning I saw him gone past me in the office telling me that he will be back by evening and I was ordered to collect some 8 – 10 good old classic songs cassettes and pack the bags as we were going out for a long drive, I had no clue why and how and where? Anyways we packed our bags and waited eagerly for the evening – as there were no cell phones at that time, so we actually couldn’t call him and ask – what was he up to. He came back around 5 O clock in the evening – driving a brand new car. I can never ever forget his bright shining eyes that evening with that 800 watt smile he had on his face when we were really shocked, happy, thrilled, jumped and touched the car as if it was a new born baby and needed some cuddling and loving from our side. My cousin was quite over weight and used to sweat a lot. He took the then top model available which was a deluxe one with an Air Conditioner which was hardly effective in Delhi’s summer; still the current model of the same car too isn’t having that great Air Conditioning.

We were all proud and happy with our smiles flashing from ear to ear. My sister in law performed a quick prayer and we set out on our drive to Simla overnight. My nephew was thrilled that his dad was overtaking almost all the cars on the highway and my cousin was always making sure to look at our faces as he beat all the cars, trucks, buses - took special care that he didn’t go overboard on speed. Now, with 37 horse powered engine that the company had given to this small car was more than enough to carry our small family of 4 to places, mileage was not at all an issue – although he never bothered to check, but it gave us more than 20 on the highways with his driving and close to 16-17 on the city roads. We easily clocked 100 KMPH in no time at all. Almost with 37 horses pulling the load they have put in the car, I was surprised by the cars pick up and the sound it will make once we really race it ahead on the red lights. While he drove it with ease but I had issues of pulling up the car once he was on the passenger side, I found that car was dragging once he was in and without him I used to feel as if it was flying. May be he was too heavy. Although we never felt a need to have a power steering in such a small car, but the shock absorbers were good being a brand new car as I remember I will always ignore that there were some speed breakers on the road and we almost jumped so many of them, car did land with a mild thud but we never broke anything anytime, yeah he always complained that the alignment must have gone out after all those high jumps. But me being a new driver was given a benefit of doubt.

Surprisingly the brakes were better than our oldie as it had front Disk and rear drum brakes. In the history of my driving – I never got an opportunity to skid or scramble both – but with this new baby – I did some skidding to show off friends – I loved that screeching sound – thanks to the disk brakes and did some scrambling too – thanks to the nice pick up. At that time it always felt as if I am driving a Ferrari cause of its pick up when almost all of my friends had either a bike or a Scooter to their credit. Mine was still a Car.

Air Conditioning was not at all efficient as I could see my cousin sweating profusely even after turning both the AC ducts towards his face and this was one point where we used to miss our good old NE as its AC was a lot better than Maruti’s, getting inside the car too was an issue for him – as he was maintaining his huge pot belly throughout the last 20 years, the moment he will sit on the driver’s seat, the car will tilt to the right side and he will instruct us to sit on the extreme left side of the car, me, my sis in law and the little angel to keep the balance. Stereo which we got fitted was good enough to play the cool songs. And the dash board glove compartment was quite ok to hold 10 – 12 odd cassettes and the car documents. I still remember the Compact Disc Players were a luxury at that time and no one had them fitted in the car yet.

It came with puny tyres but with my friends help we got them all replaced with Radials at a very meager exchange price right then and believe me it looked so cool to reverse park it with the steering positioned on extreme right, when the front right wheel will be out and will be showing its width proudly, at that time it was a thing but pretty soon every other car came with a company fitted radial tyres.

Boot was nothing great to talk about but just about OK to hold a couple of normal family size suitcase – we always used to put in the suitcase first than close the boot door and rest of the hand bags and air bags we will stuff from inside - that ways you can make the full utilization of the space and later we will beat up the hang bags so that my cousin could still see the little bit of traffic on his cabin mirror. Fuel tank capacity was 28 liters and Maruti has still maintained the same capacity tanks for their all 800 models even today as they knew its going to give good mileage, hence no point putting a big tank and take up much space. Easy to drive and maneuver in the congested city road, parking it was a kids game – as after learning driving on a Padmini Premier that too, a quite wider one – this was like a left hand task for me.

Maintenance wise it was a clear winner – we spent nothing in the initial couple of years – apart from the regular service and a little things I used to break but that will be inside the bracket of a thousand rupee per service including Engine, Oil Filter, Washing, Vacuuming etc. One of my very close friends happened to be a spare parts dealer in the city and I was glad to know that almost all the parts of the car were so damn cheap and easily available. With so many authorized service centers in almost every city. We had no issues in driving it down to any part of the country. We almost visited Simla, Mussorrie, Nainital, Chandigarh, Amritsar etc in it and never faced any breakdown or any issues at all.

That sums up my first hand experience with a car right after I learned driving.