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Old 25th January 2005, 20:58   #1
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Default HM Ambassador - At 45th year. Reincarnation process in progress.

Four decades of a deep strong relationship.
Sounds either abnormal or weird.
No logic can possibly come in the way of justifying my passion for this half a century old contraption. Affectionately called Ambassador.

Old in every which way. Old in design. Old in handling. Old in power. The look is really old! But this is where I think it carries itís charm and carries it really well amidst an ocean of modern designs. Please remember that Iím only discussing the Ambassador from the period of Mark I to Mark III. Post this, everything in the Ambassador has gone down the drain like the company HM itself.
The only exception or saving grace was the introduction of 1.8 ISZ engine.

One can travel back in time when it was a sellerís market and not buyerís.
There was a minimum level of respect and the customer used to get the value for his money. Every critical component was imported. The reason was simple enough cause we did not have those manufacturing facilities those days. As a result, an Ambassador bought 30 years back (well maintained) was running way better than one from the 80s.

We had two cars in our family. One was my fatherís office car, bought in 1964 and mine, which is still with me. I bought this car from my fatherís friend way back in 1984. He was building his house and ran short of cash and not to mention that heíd already graduated to a Maruti 800. I helped him by downloading my four years of savings to clear his garage. The damage, was 20,000/- to be precise.

Itís a 1959 (December) model. It should have been a Mark I by default. But it was Mark II. Why? Because HM those days were thinking a little ahead. There were quite a few changes from the original Mark I offerings. This was one of their test cars. Car came with Over Head Valve (OHV) engine 1500cc (1489) with a compression ratio of 7.2:1 from Side Head Valve. The SU semi-down draught carburetor from Birmingham was designed to give a good FE. Instruments cluster consisted of an analogue watch, speedometer with odometer and trip meter indicating 90MPH (!!!!!???) with ignition and high beam jewel lights, one console with amp meter, oil pressure gauge and direction indicator light. All three were connected with a potentiometer to increase/decrease the meter lights. A thoughtful and useful device which faded out in time. Made in England, the brand called ĎSmithí gave me faultless service for twenty years. Self-starter motor, wiper motor, dynamo, electric fuel pump motor and foot assisted high/low beam switch were from LUCAS England. Surprisingly my wheel jack was also from England and it was so smooth to operate that it managed to draw everybodyís attention. Soon enough, I found it missing from my luggage boot.
Interior appointment was pretty simple to accommodate 4 +1. Bench seats comfort was enhanced by ĎDunlopilloí foam. Till date, (one may disagree) an Ambassadorís rear seat is the best in terms of comfort.
The car came with child-proof lock. It was really surprising for me to see a whole lot of manufacturers starting to boast about this as a feature during early 90s.

Mechanical are simple. No changes in the design for the last three decades. A simple wishbone suspension and lower arm assembly for the front. Leaf springs with shock absorber mounted on axle at the back. The original differential was extremely touchy and any lack of maintenance (checking oil level on a regular basis) would result in massive hum. 1489cc engine was a smooth one (heavily tuning depended) and took itís own time to reach 50km speed. The maximum speed Iíve done with this engine was 60mph (96kmph) with SU carburetor and 70mph (112kmph) with SOLEX M32PBIC carburetor. SOLEX carburetor was an introduction sometime during the 80s. One had the choice of various jet sizes to get a little more juice out of that 55bhp mill.

15inch cross ply tires were in 155/165 width. Choice of standard black wall or white side wall. Cross ply it may be but it used to take all the road impurities aplomb. Simple suspension helped but regular rubber bush changing was a chore.
Iíve done enough number of cross-country trips with this set up. Frankly, there was time when I could venture out of town without a single farthing in my pocket. Just fill in petrol and drive.

1991 January, I landed in Bangalore. My car landed after a month. According to me that was the time my Ambassador started a different chapter in life. In 1992 I met a cute guy who owns a workshop. I took a great amount of time and energy to explain to him what I was looking at. He took double the time to digest that. The plan was simple enough for anybody to understand but not to execute. Letís go through the planÖ.

Engine had to be changed from the existing 1.5 one to 1.8 ISZ.
Front suspension had to be modified to accommodate disk brake.
Pre-historic dynamo should go and alternator should come.
Reinforce the chassis/sub frame to house the Isuzu 5 speed gearbox.
Reinforce the middle floor area to mount the two piece prop shaft joint.
Replace the rear axle/differential housing to an Isuzu one.
To accommodate that extra 6 inches length of rear axle/differential, tap the body out.
Change the location of clutch/brake/accelerator pedal. Instead of mushrooming out from the floor they should be suspended from the top.
Work out a linkage to position the gear lever close to the driving position.
Change the entire dashboard assembly.
Make bucket seats (During that time it was not available in the market as option).
More lumbar support on all the seats.
Put vacuum booster to supercharge the brakes.
Make enough room for stereo system controls.
Bring the hand brake lever in between the front seat (this was one big let down for overall Ambassador design).
Change the wheels to 13inches from 15inches.
Tap the bonnetís sharp curve to a rounded smooth one.
Re-position the rear number plate down and have plate lights from Maruti 800. (When SUMO can use it blatantly then why not me?)
Put anti-roll bar in front.
Add tachometer. Simple one though.
Add rear wiper.
Add windshield washer. Front and back.
Remove that ugly fuel cap. Hide it inside. Give me a flick lever next to my seat.
Have air conditioner. After all this, you need one.

After explaining all this (over a couple of lousy whiskies in some shady bar) to my Mallu Christian friend, I came back home with very high hopes.
Not knowing that Iím not going to see him for next few weeks. The guy absconded.
He got back from his native (thatís how they describe their hometown here), rejuvenated after two and a half-week with a brilliant proposal. ĎLetís buy a car (Contessa) and strip ití. Weíll get all the necessary parts and the remaining corpse can sold very easily in the market. Apart from my initial 20000/- for the car, I paid another 60000/- to get a Contessa.
The deal looked ok to me. Work started and almost never ended. Every day after my usual work shenanigans, I was there in the workshop. Endless cups of lousy tea (instead of my favorite) and lots of ifs and buts, the day used to end as lemon.
It may sound pessimistic but that exactly was the situation. We had no point of reference to check or judge our progress. Car got ready (read road worthy) after two and a half months. External jobs such as making a new grill to house the A/C coil fan, painting eight coats of paint (cut off at least two coats to get that smooth mirror finish) took another month.
One mild breezy January evening the car was ready to hit the road after her long hibernation.

The car did move and how! It could be a perception or a reality or a mix of both. After graduating from 1500cc push rod to 1800ISZ, car felt different. Only natural, as I guessed a few teething problems started showing up. Front left side brake was biting more then the right one. Handbook says advance position of 6 degree TDC with 600rpm. No, doesnít work for me. Since this carburetor doesnít come with low idle vacuum switch for A/C, 10 degree and 900rpm (no heating up) position suits me fine. A small leakage problem from brake booster played havocÖ car would start and run for sometime and suddenly engine cuts off with a violent shake. Problem got sorted out by putting a new booster unit. Engine, as it came from that Contessa, had ran over a lakh km. Later, I got it replaced with another one. Since this engine has no demand, you get by dime a dozen. Only factor is the reliability. Till date Iíve changed six engines and the current one is a gem.
Current engine is 16000km old, porting job done by my friend Sajay Agarwal and waiting for my dear friend Psycho to take the challenge to design a free flow.

The car behaves little better than a regular Ambassador. A little more composed, little less roll, sure footed braking and with incredible torque. Gearing is as tall as Empire State building. Third produces the best result if youíre above 50km. Normal cruising on highway is comfortable at 110/120km speed. After that one may push it further but huge monolithic anti aero dynamic design will prove the law of physics once again.
Constant speedometer error (compared with my other slightly more modern car) of 10km.
This is due to 13inch wheel and speedometer designed for 15inch. Small wheels allow me to feel all the small ups and downs on the road. Seldom I get a chance to visit a massage parlour, so Iíve decided to live with it. No seatbelts cause retractable type is not available in the market. IF ANYBODY CAN HELP ME IN THIS AREA, IíLL BE GRATEFUL.
Audio system consists of Pioneer player, Pioneer EQ, Pioneer baby amplifier (2nos), Sony ĎXplodí 200watts amplifier and Pioneer 12CD changer. Two pairs of speakers on rear shelf.. 6988 and 6995. Pioneer tweeters in front. Sounds ok for my kind of music.

Ambassador has an inherent problem of noise and rattle. This cannot be stopped and at the same time one cannot possibly blame a 50 years old design being the reason. The only way to avoid this problem is by looking after it. A little more than necessary I suppose. If one is using good components and parts, trust me itíll give much better service.
For instance, clutch plate (in case of 1.8ISZ) should be DIAKEN. Indian options are available at half the cost and have half the life. All my light bulbs excluding headlamp and front HELLA are PHILIPS and theyíre three years old now. Headlamp bulbs (100/130watts) are FLOSSER from Germany. All wheel bearings were scavenged from my fatherís old stock (SKF) of imported lot. Theyíre eight years old and no sign of wear and tear. Wiper blades are two years old BOSCH. I have K&N filter (for 118NE) and itís helping. This list may go on but nobodyís interested in Ambassador anymore so I should stop.

Iíve done more than 350000 km in this car. Of course with previous and current set up put together. Done a great part of rough road driving for my photography assignments. Used the roof to support my tripod and to gain height. At times it was virtually my second home, especially on the hills where I couldnít take up a hotel room for having a thin wallet. Never I repeat, never the car let me down. Itís with me from my mid college days. Through good times, and through bad times. People ask me questions at traffic signals. People are all around the car at any parking lot. In Coimbatore somebody offered me a princely sum so that he could plug in a diesel engine without much botheration. One more ready car for his taxi fleet I guess. I did turn back to look at my baby and told him sorry.

Through TBHP I met lot of people. I go little out of my to do that because I believe Itís important for me. Even more so when Iím in the business of communication.
Forum helped me to bump into mad characters like PSYCHO (how appropriate) and his even more mad mechanic VASU. Any holiday is a workshop day for them. Continuously working on their Contessa and Esteem. Both of them know my future agenda and Iím waiting for their time.

Psycho, are you listening?
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Old 25th January 2005, 21:16   #2
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Hey Rudra,

3 Points:

1) Have already gotten you a free flow.... the challenge you have posted is for headers through a 3 inch dia opening you have ... boy you will get it but you gotta wait some time till I can get someone who can do stainless steel pipe bends so that I can plasma weld the same within the confines of the engine space that is available.

2) Should you stop: I dunno after the talks flying around between Vasu and you about a DOHC head (and me pulling a fast one on you for a Turbo to make you forget the discussion... well is a different story if I can get my hands on a bolt on kit.) and you being after me for a webber God I really dont think you will ever stop.

3) And a last point the targets that you lay down for me are always a slipping target ... always graduating a step. Maybe the best way to define your needs is a car that is just short of being defined as a hot rod and yet a refined driving machine to lug your cameras about... (By the way I dont think the cameras are that heavy)

Anyway hats off to you for maintaining a beauty like that and God help me find that Stainless Steel Tube Bender ...
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Old 25th January 2005, 21:17   #3
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Awesome write up Rudra . This has to be the bes long tern review yet. That rear wiper looks cool on your car the interiors are simply outta this world. Hope to see the car in person someday


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Old 25th January 2005, 21:55   #4
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What a review!!!

You really love that car dont you. It shows.

The amount of care you take of it. And do i need to mention it just looks awesome. Keep up the good work.

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Old 25th January 2005, 21:57   #5
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boy was that an awesome review !! like dippy says has to be the best review till date on this site!!

the car in the 1st pic looks absolutely MINDBLOWINGLY BEAUTIFUL !!!

the interiors can put any new car in the market to shame !!
the music system setup as u have described , is great too.

and offcourse to top it all off is the TLC that u give to the car - no wonder it hasnt failed you till date !!

beleive me with a car like dat , atleast i wouldnt want to sleep in the hotels !

and yeah- lets have a report on the free flow that pyscho has done for you - its been a long time on hold.


now this is one more reason for me to visit bangalore


Last edited by Rehaan : 24th August 2009 at 14:12. Reason: LOL. Old post - 6 extra smileys removed upon report post from member.
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Old 25th January 2005, 22:27   #6
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Amazing review Rudra, loved the front nd back snaps (with the foreground and back ground out of focus). BTW, which road is that?? It looks great.


Last edited by Shan2nu : 25th January 2005 at 23:37.
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Old 25th January 2005, 23:35   #7
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The car looks mind blowing!!!!!

But Rudra Where are the ALLOYS????????????????????

Last edited by The Wolf : 25th January 2005 at 23:36.
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Old 25th January 2005, 23:37   #8
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Post HM Ambassador Avigo

Excellent write-up Rudra!
Its very difficult to find a true Ambassador lover thesedays, and your write-up brings out the intense passion you have for the car.
I have grown up in a family where Ambassador's were rampant till the day we got the Maruti 800 old japanese model. Premier Padminis (not to mention our old Dodge Kingsway & Ford Zephyr) were also a part of it to an extent before the Maruti but Ambassador's were the main attraction (after the Kingsways & Zephyrs slowly faded away).

A couple of months back when I was in India, my cousin Aditya & I dragged my dad to the HM/Mitsubishi showroom in Mahim to get a test-drive of the new Avigo.

To my surprise, HM have drastically improved the external paint quality & build quality of the car. The classic look is very attractive though lots of people think it looks funny or drastically outdated, but then thats my opinion.
It comes with HM alloys as standard fitted with Bridgestone radials - though fatter rubber would look much better on it.

The seats are as comfortable as ever with good lumbar support and the car is stable as a rock - booster brakes, power steering, good gearing have improved handling of the car exceptionaly. The ride is extremely comfortable - no bumps are transmitted to the riders. Interior instrumentation is a decent effort to bring back the Classic look.

Unfortunately, the same cannont be said about the fit and finish. This is one area in which HM needs to improve DRASTICALLY!!!. Door handles & levers, Window levers (no power windows yet), Light stalks & switches, AC controls - UGH!!! All of them are made from cheap looking/feeling plastic & metal.
There is an ugly metal ashtray incorporated in the door handles which managed to nick my finger just as i was trying to open it.

In this century all these fitments make it look as if the car has been put together in a hurry. It seems they started off on a good note but then just lost interest mid-way and put the car remainder of the car together as fast s they could. With HM manufacturing Mitsubishi cars this is unforgiveable.

The gear box is positioned perfectly but the gear lever is not as one would expect it to be in a newer car. Its too loose with a lot of play.

Was in contact with one Mr. Ajay Kaul from HM - who was pretty enthusiastic and noted our comments in a positive sense. One of the few people who seemed interested in the betterment of the car. Didn't have the "chalta-hai" attitude. Hopefully, HM will improve in the future - who knows.

Maybe your car can serve as a bench-mark to what an Ambassador could be! What levels it could achieve - could have achieved in the past.

Have been meaning to write a review for the past 6 months but when I saw your post I just thought I should mention my experience here.

Last edited by aah78 : 25th January 2005 at 23:37. Reason: title rename
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Old 25th January 2005, 23:53   #9
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Finally finally the Amby review!!
was waiting for this one big time..........
Great write up Rudra.......
Cool snaps.....

BTW, you still owe me a ride in the Amby!!

Last edited by Rehaan : 24th August 2009 at 14:12. Reason: Old post, but extra smiley removed :)
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Old 25th January 2005, 23:57   #10
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Rudra Sir that was one awesome review of one truly amazing looking car.
Like in Filmare they give 'Lifetime Achievement Award' you shud be given a 'Lifetime Maintaining Award' truly truly classy man.
And thanks to give me inspiration to complete review of my car of 50000+ kms. i dont get time to complete it man.

Last edited by F50 : 26th January 2005 at 00:01.
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Old 26th January 2005, 00:04   #11
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amazing car and awesome review,your car is a real cutie especially from the front with those hella fogs try removing the covers,the car looks a mini rover from front angle
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Old 26th January 2005, 00:07   #12
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Fantastic review....awesome car..Hats off to you Sir.
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Old 26th January 2005, 00:18   #13
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just like your photographs, the beauty is in the details. I kept on looking back at the pics while reading your review to see what you were talking about. The missing fuel cap, the rounded bonnet, the enlarged grill...the list goes on.

And how do you remember everything in such detail?

Seriously, you are one crazy fella!! Great stuff!
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Old 26th January 2005, 00:36   #14
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Rudra Sir

That was a grear write up. I bow to you and your car. Interiors look beautiful. I like that 3 spoke steering wheel. Is that from HM? Your seats remind the white leather recliner couch I had when in US. And not to mention the paint job on your car.

If one in his twenties has to pick up a car and show proudly to his grand children, what car couldit be? It can be only Amby. May be it would still be in production at that time and celebrating it's centenary.
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Old 26th January 2005, 09:11   #15
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hey rudra
the interiors are pure leather? or art leather?
how much did it cost!
looks really lovely!
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