DC Design has stretched the boundary of imagination when it comes to ambulances in its recent project.

Story by Bhushan Mhapralkar
With an estimated population of 1,385,123,108, it is tough to imagine the complexities that make the healthcare industry in India for what it is. It is burgeoning, and has a part of it, an estimated 30,000 ambulances. Such numbers are enough to spell out the shortage of ambulances and the steep rates they command. The Covid pandemic aggravating the situation, there is a clear need for more ambulances; better ambulances. It is in the wake of this call, that the country’s leading automotive design and customising firm, DC Design, took to building ambulances that would stretch the boundary of imagination. It took to building some 16 such units at its Chinchwad facility on the Mercedes-Benz V-Class (Vito) platform for a big corporate entity. Exceeding the ambulance standards the government has put in place, the company, according to its founder, Dilip Chhabria, succeeded in marrying aesthetics with functionality. Stressing on how the Covid pandemic exposed the lack of well-equipped ambulances as the weakest link in the healthcare industry in India, he mentioned that there are scores of ultra-luxury hospitals for the HNIs, but very few fully equipped and ultra-competent vehicles to cater to the patient in his hour of need. Lapping up the opportunity when a big corporate inquired, DC Design put to use its hard-earned knowledge and resources  for the project.


In the automotive customisation business for the last 27 years, DC Design started work on the project in February 2020. However, various clearances and other issues meant that the project saw the light of day only in July. For the firm that has done 800 unique ground up projects till date, this project meant a lot. For a firm that has done 5500 vehicles, according to Chhabria, the project made of the most prestigious for various reasons. First, it was linked to a big corporate. The other was the challenge it posed when compared to the projects that DC Design has done until now. Stating that his firm is the world’s largest custom house given the sheer number of projects executed, Chhabria expressed that the brief given to them elevated this project far beyond the various ambulance projects they have done thus far. Touching on diverse automotive projects ranging from a microcar to a luxury home on the longest multi-axle luxury coach found in India, or a 40 feet tractor-trailer, he said that the ultra-luxury ambulance project gave his firm an opportunity to once again do what it does best. To combine acute functionality desired of a vehicle of such a nature with the highest order of aesthetics. It doesn’t take long to find this out after looking at what DC Design has done. The well laid out, furnished and equipped ultra-luxury ambulance interior is clearly aimed at an HNI to be his saviour in the hour of crisis.

Aesthetics and functionality
Featuring a long list of equipment like an intelligent transport ventilator, defibrillator, syringe pump, power stretcher, suction unit, oxygen cylinder, flow meters, spine board, etc., the ultra-luxury ambulances are replete with some very unique amenities that may seem passe at first, but make an integral part of the aesthetics and functionality equation. The dimmer switch panel for example. Flaunting a beige interior that is complementing of the van’s luxury three-pointed star status, the other amenities like power fold-down doctor’s seat, a proprietary rolling shutter storage and a day-glow sky lighting mechanism built into the roof section above the stretcher extend the boundaries of imagination when it comes to an ambulance indeed. Averred Chhabria, “The layouts were dictated by expatriate doctors having over 500 years of work experience cumulatively.” “The inputs by expatriate doctors added to the goal of creating an outstanding product that would also deliver on the requirement of speed, safety and comfort,” he added. With the stretcher located to the right side of the vehicle compartment, on the left is a seat that could accommodate the patient’s family members. It is designed such that there is ample space of storage underneath, and is well-ventilated. A well-designed ventilation grille takes care
of that.

For a panel van like the luxurious Mercedes-Bens V-Class (Vito), the ambulance that DC Design has built marks a curious case of incorporating the demands to accommodate various medical equipment, facilitate a fast travel, easy ingress and egress, provide space for the doctor to manoeuvre as well as attend to the patient, and provide an opportunity to scale it as per the need. This would certainly involve the service-ability of equipment, its scaling up and an attention towards passive safety, proper illumination and various other factors to eliminate any possibility of disparity or inconsistency. Said Chhabria, “Our research for this project got us to dig into the knowledge and experience that we have gained over the last three decades almost.” “We combined our research by benchmarking our efforts with some of the best and most well-equipped ambulances the world over,” he added. As a first responder the role of an ambulance has been well defined and underlined since the advent of the Covid pandemic. What the pandemic has done in fact is brushed away from any lethargy surrounding the standards and ways of building ambulances. These are largely centred around the transport of a patient under investigation, cleaning and disinfection, EMS guidelines, etc. Stating that they have been exceeding all CMVR codes in their projects, Chhabria averred that this project once again tested their extreme capabilities and the ability to meet the expectations of the customers across the world.

Technology and versatility
Revealing that the choice of Mercedes-Benz A-Class van for an ultra-luxury ambulance as the basis was of the client, Chhabria explained that they did not do any change to the exterior. “The exterior remains incognito,” he quipped, stressing on the fact that the client demanded it. Highlighting once again that it was the prospect of marrying aesthetics and functionality that was at the centre of the effort, Chhabria said that his company designed and executed the project such that the important task of reaching the hospital in the shortest time was in no way interfered with. “The foremost task we took to was to ensure that this ambulance did what it was meant to, and in the best manner possible,” he added. Concentrating on the ability to save a precious life, and possess the capability to wade through gridlocked traffic, what marked the V-Class as the vehicle of choice was its manoeuvrability. Powered by a 160 hp, 2.2-litre diesel engine mated to an automatic transmission and measuring 5370 mm in length, 1928 mm in width and 1880 mm in height, the vehicle features some of the most advanced active and passive safety technologies. A fine piece of automotive engineering, it made the mark with the client, according to Chhabria, given its abilities to make a versatile first (or early) responder machine.
Consulting expatriate doctors and leading equipment suppliers, DC Design focused on building an ultra-high quality, fully equipped ICU on wheels. It, remarked Chhabria, incorporated utmost reliability, speed, space and safety as the key factors. Inspired by the possibility of creating a product where with only some rare exceptions, form and aesthetics are married, a rare possibility indeed, the firm took four months to execute the project. It was volume-based and therefore subject to repeat-ability, service-ability and trace-ability. An estimated 30000 man-hours went into the design, development and execution of the 16 ultra-luxury ambulances. This project, said Chhabria, taught us many new things that we would be putting to good use in our upcoming projects. “The project also taught us,” he added, “how ambulances should be as first responders and lifesavers rather than be rickety machines that merely rush patients to hospitals amid extremely challenging road conditions.”

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