Untold Story of Meera Mini Car: The ‘People’s Car’ Before Tata Nano

Everyone remembers the Tata Nano hatchback, which was launched back in 2008. It was the vision of Sir Ratan Tata, who wanted Indians to have an affordable car. However, it met its fate of discontinuation after a decade of lackluster sales. While the Nano remains well known for the hype that surrounded it, there was another car that can be called the spiritual ancestor of the Nano, but that’s largely forgotten. Say hello to the Meera Mini Car. This unique car was designed by Shankarrao Kulkarni, who wanted Indians to have a car for just Rs 12,000.

Meera Mini car

India’s very own Mini Car

Now we know many people might not be aware of the Meera Mini Car, as it never made it to production or country-wide sale. However, its creator Shankarrao Kulkarni, who was a school dropout, had a great vision. Kulkarni, who was well-known for his expertise in engineering, brewed the idea of making a people’s car in 1945 when India was still under British rule.

Following years of hard work, Kulkarni managed to create the first-ever prototype of the Meera Mini Car in 1949. This first model was a two-seater prototype. And by 1951, the hardworking dropout created another prototype. This time around, it was equipped with three seats, and after a few more years in 1960, he developed another prototype model.

What did the Meera Mini Car come with?

Meera Mini. car sketch

Not only was the Meera Mini Car an amazingly designed car, but it also came equipped with a number of innovative features. Kulkarni provided the Meera Mini Car with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine. Apart from this, it was also given a number of lightweight and cost-saving parts like the all-rubber suspension.

Kulkarni highlighted that the rubber suspension not only saved over 100 spare parts but also ensured independent suspension. He stated that the use of this suspension prevented shock transfer between wheels. Apart from this, the Meera Mini Car’s ground clearance was adjustable, ranging from 6 to 11 inches.

Another one of the biggest highlights of all the prototype Mini Cars designed by Kulkarni was that they boasted remarkable fuel efficiency. The 1951 model achieved up to 21 kmpl and a top speed of around 90 km/h. The primary reason for this performance was its air-cooled 19 horsepower engine, which, despite its modest power on paper, proved to be highly efficient.

Final design of Meera Mini Car

Meera Mini. car sketch

Finally, after designing and updating the prototypes from 1949, the Meera Mini Car’s design was finalized in 1970. It managed to retain the compact size and three-door configuration with a rear-engine setup.

Later in 1975, Kulkarni also equipped the car with a water-cooled V-Twin engine. This engine was capable of generating a maximum power output of 14 bhp, and it came coupled with a 4-speed transmission. This model also, like its predecessors, was able to achieve an impressive fuel efficiency of approximately 21 kmpl. It came with a four-seater layout and even had a small trunk in the front for storage.

Why did it not come into production?

Like many good things in India, the Meera Mini Car never managed to enter production. Kulkarni wanted to launch this unique indigenous car in India at a price of Rs 12,000. However, due to bureaucratic hurdles, including red tape and lack of government support, the Meera Mini Car could never come into production. Hemant Kulkarni, the grandson of Shankarrao Kulkarni, revealed that his grandfather even drove the vehicle to Mumbai to showcase it at an exhibition.

Upon reaching there, he even got an offer from Jaysinghpur municipality for free land where Kulkarni could set up a new factory for the car. But the lack of support from the government caused the car to never see the Indian mass market. Following this tragic end, the Japanese automotive giant Suzuki entered the Indian market and launched its 800 model, which went on to become the most iconic car of that era.


The post Untold Story of Meera Mini Car: The ‘People’s Car’ Before Tata Nano first appeared on Cartoq.

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