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Old 2nd March 2017, 23:52   #1
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Default The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II

What is the relevance of 6174?
6174 is known as Kaprekar's constant after the Indian mathematician D. R. Kaprekar. This number is notable for the following property:

Take any four-digit number, using at least two different digits. (Leading zeros are allowed.)
Arrange the digits in descending and then in ascending order to get two four-digit numbers, adding leading zeros if necessary.
Subtract the smaller number from the bigger number.
Go back to step 2.
The above process, known as Kaprekar's routine, will always reach its fixed point, 6174, in at most 7 iterations.[4] Once 6174 is reached, the process will continue yielding 7641 – 1467 = 6174. For example, choose 3524:

5432 – 2345 = 3087
8730 – 0378 = 8352
8532 – 2358 = 6174
7641 – 1467 = 6174
The only four-digit numbers for which Kaprekar's routine does not reach 6174 are repdigits such as 1111, which give the result 0000 after a single iteration. All other four-digit numbers eventually reach 6174 if leading zeros are used to keep the number of digits at 4.

Source Wikipedia
KLF 6174 has been a constant in our family for the last 44 years. To establish the importance and relevance of the protagonist and the emotional connect it shares with each character in this story, we need to go back in time. This is the story of a car and her family members. This is a story of waking up a grand old lady from her slumber and turning over a new leaf, all over again. This is the story of from this…

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-first-pic.jpg

to this.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-6.jpg

P.S :I will be sprinkling some pictures in between the story so that you won’t be bored with the long history of the car. All pre restoration pictures are taken using my Motorola X Play and the post restoration photos are snapped by awesome photographer Suman Marydas. Suman chetta thank you so much for the photo shoot in Fort Kochi. Also big big thanks and hats off to Sajiappan (Chief Surgeon, Harihara Automobiles), Sajeevan (Orthopedician, Autoworks Automotive) and Murugan chetten (Head Cosmetologist, Murugan’s painting workshop) and Prasis industries (Electroplating). These guys restored the car in 3 weeks flat!

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-2.jpg

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-4.jpg

So, Let’s begin with the prelude then, shall we?
Story begins by early 1970s. my paternal grandfather, Capt. E Gopalan Menon, was posted as the port officer in Okha, Gujarat. Though he was not an automotive enthusiast, he had two station wagons, one his own Ford Super deluxe and the other his official vehicle, a Willys station wagon. My dad grew up in these cars during his school days. Even thought my grandfather was not an enthusiast, recently he gave me an interesting piece of information. Hindustan motors was first established in okha in 1942. It was only in 1948 that they shifted base to west Bengal. I cross checked the information and it turned out to be true.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-1.jpg

Coming back to our story, after his schooling, my dad returned to Kerala for his higher studies. As this was anticipated, my grandmother had booked two cars in 1970 itself. Why two cars? Back then car deliveries took it’s own sweet time and that means, not weeks or months, but years. And for Hindustan motors, there were two categories. Taxi and private. Taxi category was given priority delivery back then so to get early delivery, read relatively, we booked two cars. As expected, the taxi batch car came in early but with a catch. It was factory painted in taxi color. My grandmother did not want it so was sold at the dealership itself, for a premium. The wait started for the next car. On 15-05-1973, My grandmother took delivery of 6174 from Marikar motors(Yes, the now notorious erstwhile Skoda dealer was a prestigious car dealer back then. The total price paid was 24,500Rs . Little did anyone know that this car is here to stay in our family, hopefully forever?

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-7.jpg

As we know, owning a car back then was proper luxury. But my dad was not really happy, the reason? One Mr. Rajesh Khanna and Miss Sharmila Tagore and a song, "mere sapnon ki rani" ! Mr College going Rajesh Khanna of Kerala wanted a jeep to woo potential Sharmila Tagores in his college. Unfortunately, Rajesh Khanna’s mom did not take heed of the demand and gave the ultimatum; ambassador or a much more expensive four wheeler, telco bus aka public transport. So content with the ambassador, dad started using it for his college commute. His college was 25kms away from Tripunithura so 50km round trip was taken during weekdays. At the same time, my grandmother who was the deputy director in State education department was transferred to Thrissur, 81kms away from home. On weekends dad used to go to Thrissur, to stay with grandmother and at times to pick her and drop her back. From early on, the car was well run and my father developed a deep bond with the car, being his college companion and enjoying long drives, with the quarter glass open and elbow on the door, wind in his hair and living the good life.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-8.jpg

Sadly by 1976, my grandmother’s diabetic condition got worsened and she was subject to advanced treatment in Christian medical college Vellore in tamil nadu. This was a 567 km drive and the car dutifully ferried dad and grandma many times without breaking down even once. Meanwhile as a sub plot, my dad’s Sharmila tagore entered his life, my mom. They dated for 4 years before tying the knot in 1981. They drove around Ernakulam city in this car while dating. KLF-6174 was their wedding car as well.

[The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-1488453400786736d7905b9b148c1b44e700d2019cc28.jpg

My grandmother passed away in 1979 and my father was devastated. He shared a great bond with his mother and this car was her gift. My dad decided to use this trustworthy car for his life and vowed he would never sell it. Time flew and he got involved in civil construction business. He had many projects around Kerala at that time and this very same car took him places without breaking sweat. Maruti 800 was launched in Kerala, and everyone wanted one. Dad almost booked one being an enthusiast but emotions prevailed and he cancelled his booking. In retrospect, if he had bought a maruti, KLF would’ve been side lined. He did not do that.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-3.jpg
After a long wait, I was born in 1989. KLF-6174 took my mom to hospital and brought me back home in supreme comfort. Time flew and the car was dieselized in 1994. Back then engine conversion was still legit and the smooth petrol engine was swapped for Matador engine. This car was doing school duties and I was pretty cool with it. Up until, my so called ‘friends’ in school started mocking me. Why is your dad driving around in an old car? Back then, old car was bad car! They used to call it “patta vandi” in Malayalam, which loosely converts to rust bucket in vernacular. Now I protect my old car with passion, how perceptions change. But back then, I was visibly fumed and upset with the constant mockery by those idiots and started pestering dad for a new car. I wanted him to buy the Opel Astra, which was just launched then. It was love at first sight for me. But knowing that the mockery was the reason behind my demand, being the wise man he is, he did not buy one. He taught me to face critics with a bold face. He made me ask them in return, what’s wrong with an old car and the guys did not have anything to say other than patta vandi patta vandi! When I look back now, what he did was the right thing. He taught me to hold my head high and not to buy things to show off. Thank you dad.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-12.jpg

Fast forward to 2001 and Honda launched the Accord. I was all of 12 years and binge reading Autocar, Motoring and Overdrive back to back. Not reading or understanding, but drooling at the car pictures. I was smitten with the accord and wanted dad to buy one. Started pestering him again. This time I was more persistent. But he threw a googly at me asking, will you be able to drive the car? I could only say no. then why do you want it when you cant use it ? and then he gave me one of the best advices I received in my life. He said, son, count your blessings first. Learn to appreciate the beauty of what you have in hand before running behind what you crave for. He tactically shot down my accord demand with this beautiful advice.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-5.jpg

By 2007, I was eagerly waiting to turn 18 to get my license. Dad used to let me hold the steering from a young age, so I had steering balance. Now I wanted to master ABC controls and get my license as soon as possible. Dad said he will teach me when I turn 18 but I was over enthusiastic and immature and I did something which I will always regret in my life. I went ahead and joined Maruti driving school bypassing my dad to get my license soon. This hurt dad badly but the great man did not say anything. He was patiently waiting for his only son to turn 18 so he could teach him to drive and I took away that dream from him due to my immaturity. If any young bhp’ians are reading this, take my advice, don’t be over enthusiastic and take away these precious moments from your father. Else you will regret later.

I got my license soon and a surprise was waiting for me a week later. Dad bought me my first car, my dream car of my school days, Opel Astra Turbo Diesel. This was the full option version minus the problematic sunroof. I was in cloud nine and was ecstatic that my dad remembered my dream car even now. Opel had discontinued in india by then and maintaining that car was costing a bomb. Still dad was very supportive and we had many memorable trips in that car(Now you know where my Team BHP Handle came from). Dad was meanwhile using the Ambassador on a daily basis and I used to alternate between ambassador and Opel during college days.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-astra.jpg

In 2009, Our Old Rajesh Khanna wanted to fulfill his college dream now with his son. So he asked me to find a good Mahindra Jeep and guess where I went searching? No price for guessing, I found my jeep in team-bhp classifieds. We bought our Blue MM540 is 2009 and dad’s 35 year old dream was finally fulfilled. Now I had three rides to shuffle as dad gradually started becoming lazy and enjoying his retired life, entrusting driving duties to me. Now here starts the problem. I was using the Opel as my primary car and Jeep for time out with friends. Ambassador slowly started resting in our garage by 2010.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-jeep1.jpg

I sold the Astra in 2012 and bought a Nissan Micra. Now Jeep and Micra were primary rides and Ambassador was not even used at all. Blame me completely for that. We had a pet dog back then, Miss Bruni. We actually named her Bruno when we adopted her as a pup, by only later realized that he is a she! Bruni loved the good life, she loved junk food and even had a sweet tooth. And unknowingly we pampered her too much. The jeep was her favored ride and used to accompany me for short spins around town. Bruni passed away in 2015 due to a massive cardiac arrest and had inflamed liver. If you have a dog, make sure you exercise him/her regularly and never over feed them, no matter how much you love them. After bruni’s death, I always felt a void next to me while driving the jeep. So with a heavy heart we decided to sell it. Call it life coming full circle or Karma. The first call I got from Olx was from a father-son duo. This father wanted a jeep during his youth but could not afford it; now he is gifting a jeep to his son who is happily accepting it.

After selling the Jeep bought an Innova. Now it was Micra and Innova doing duty and Ambassador was still resting in peace. For the past 6 years. Every single day I was passing the ambassador but never did I start the car as the battery was dead by then and it was not used for a while now. I wanted to restore it but the stratospheric rates quoted by a patch worker for restoration made me back out as I will be using the other cars more frequently. I must be honest and admit that I was doing great injustice to our family heirloom.
Come march 2016 and I was engaged to my high school sweetheart. The marriage was fixed on December 14 2016. Now here starts the restoration story. If you are still reading this, thank you so much for enduring the lengthy prelude but I hope you understood the importance of KLF-6174

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-11.jpg

Once more let’s Fast forward the story to October 28 2016. Even now I had no intention of restoring the Amby or not even a thought about it. Life was fairly hectic with the wedding fast approaching. I was returning home after visiting my Charted Accountant in Edapally and I had a sudden urge to test drive the RE Himalayan at The Brand store located there. The parking entry had a slab over a drain and it collapsed denting Innova’s running board. Thankfully the staff and others at the showroom rushed to help and we pulled her out without much damaged. Cursing my stars for taking this unpleasant detour, I went to my painter Murugan chetten who said the dent needs to be pulled out. He asked me to go meet Sajeevan. Now Sajeevan was a simple guy working alone in his tinkering shop. We started talking while he was pulling out the dent using a Wurth Dent remover gun. Turns out Sajeevan was working in Dubai for a Toyota dealer’s body shop. The dent was straightened and the job was very professional. I was expecting a 4 figure bill and he just took 300rs from me. Another 500 for getting the section painted at Murugan chetten. Don’t know how much Toyota showroom guys would have charged me for this.

Coming back home I had a brainwave. If Ambassador was my parent’s wedding car, why cant it be my wedding car as well? No car is more appropriate than this for the very first journey after marriage. I felt a sudden boost of positive energy and called Sajeevan home the next day to inspect the car. I knew we did not have the luxury of time but , heck there is no harm in trying. Surprisingly, rust did not eat much into the car over these years. Thanks to covered parking. Next question was how fast he could do a proper patch work? He said a week was enough. It was already October 30th by then. Next step was finding a mechanic to revive the grand old lady her from 7 year slumber. As a first step bought a new battery. In comes the third restorer, our trusty mechanic Sajiappan. He was busy during the first week of November so that added to my tension. Now Sajiappan is amongst those rare breed of old school mechanics who doesn’t mind coming to your place and working on your car at your garage itself. So the wait was well worth it. Finally on 11-11-2016, Sajiappan arrived.

We tried reviving the car with new battery but she was not starting. Then we realized the diesel was in there for the last many years. Bought fresh diesel and gave a direct line and boom, she roared back to life in the first attempt itself. We were grinning from ear to ear! Gave a quick wipe and the 15 year old paintjob still had some of it’s sheen left.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-after-wash.jpg

Sajiappan took Amby to his workshop and the car went for a rejuvenation treatment.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-sajiappan.jpg

Host of spare parts and fluids were ordered from Grand automobiles in Vytilla thankfully they had everything in stock.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-parts-list.jpg

Sajiappan kept his word and the completed the work in a week’s time. The total cost including parts and labour was 15,000rs.

Now it was the Sajeevan’s turn. I was excepting major patch work as Ambassador is notorious for rusting. But thankfully, except for the few rust patches in the platform, nothing major came up. Sajeevan was very prompt and he completed his work in 5 days.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-sajeevan.jpg

Total cost including material and labour, a very reasonable 5500 rupees. After the patchwork, did complete underbody rust proofing before sending for painting .

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-rustproofing2.jpg

Now Murugan chetten’s paint shop is a busy place. Because of his work quality and reasonable rates, most commercial vehicles come here for repainting before fitness test. Understanding my urgency and the fast approaching wedding date, we decided on the paint scheme and went ahead with the painting. The sanding was done and the surfacer was coated.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-muruan3.jpg

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-murugan2.jpg

Next task was to get the electroplating done. Now this is a dying industry. Pollution norms and lack of demand has forced most of the electroplating centres to down their shutted in Kerala. Thankfully there was one old place still active. Prasis Electroplating Industries. With prayers in my heart and hoping they will complete the work in time, I went ahead with all the parts that needed plating. There was this very senior aashan there who was visibly happy seeing the mark 2 grille and parts. It was nostalgia for him and inspected the condition. While at Prasis, happened to meet the owner. A very knowledgeable person, he completed his Mtech from Cusat. Prasis was started by his father and he toom over later. As electroplating is done as a batch, he asked me not to have high hopes but promised that he will complete the job as soon as possible.

Next day I went to Trivandrum to complete the last leg of invites. The painting was going on simultaneously at Murugan chettan’s place and I was excited to see the result. Somehow I wanted to get back to Cochin and I was pestering my parents so as we can go back soon! My mother’s angry gaze was enough to bring back me in line and the obediently obliged to complete the invites patiently like a small boy! Little did I know another pleasant surprise was waiting for me at maternal grandfather’s sister’s farmhouse. We went there to invite her and one look at the garage made me behave like a monkey. The dignified groom jumping up and down like a monkey was a sight to behold. Here was a car I thought they had sold long time back. But they retained it all these years. I as a kid, I used to spend endly hours checking out this car when I went to Trivandrum during holidays. This was their 1993 Tata Estate.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-estate.jpg

After invites, I sheepishly asked if they had any plans to sell it. Knowing my love for the car, she said yes. I could have the car, if I wanted. I immediately said I do! Will be picking her up and restoring her soon. Thanking my stars, headed back home super excited.

Painting was done when I reached back. The red color was prominent so two coats were required to get the final finish. Three coats of clear later, Amby acquired a totally new personality. For me, the car was Eye candy!

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-post-painting.jpg

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-post-painting1.jpg

Car came home by December 04th. By then the wedding preperations were going on full swing. Got new insurance policy and all that was needed was the freshly electroplated panels. And surprise, got a call from them on 5th. It was all too good to be true. Got the parts and thanked them. The total cost of electroplating was 5000rs. Reasonable, considering the number of parts plated.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-prasis.jpg

Fitment was done the next day and the car went for fitness test on December 7th, exactly a week before wedding.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-sunshade.jpg

Now this is what you call a roller coaster ride. I totally rewarding one! The day before wedding, gave the car for polishing at Murugan chetten’s place. I was busy with the pre wedding bash ans Sajiappan promised to bring the car home after polishing. Now, sajiappan is a small submarine. Read, under water after 7pm!! Dude was not answering the phone and I had no option but to go to Murugan chettan’s place by 12am. Thankfully he was waiting and we got back home by 1am.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-weddingday.jpg

The car was a rockstar at the wedding venue and more people took pictures with Amby than with me and my pretty bride! Ambassador was the real star of the day. I drove myself to the wedding hall and on return, the love of my life, now my wife, was next to me in the passenger seat.

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-firstdrive3.jpg
Yours truly and my blushing bride and our first journey as husband and wife

Now that was the story of KLF-6174. I hope you enjoyed reading. As the mystical Japanese character loosely based on Nissan USA founder Yutaka Katayama quotes in the famous 1996 super bowl commercial, Dream Garage, “Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!”

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-fort-cochin-10.jpg

The Wedding Story : Restoring my 1973 Ambassador Mark-II-you-lucky.jpg

Last edited by Rehaan : 3rd March 2017 at 12:42. Reason: Few minor formatting changes. Do take care of proper spacing between words & punctuation. Thanks!
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Old 3rd March 2017, 12:20   #2
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section).

Thanks for sharing this amazingly narrated story with us!

Last edited by Rehaan : 3rd March 2017 at 12:29.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 14:13   #3
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What a absolutely stunning story. To this date, I regret the decision of selling our Ambassador - you have got a valuable piece of Family heirloom and I am happy to see that you are taking the pains to restore it.

I did try to buy the car back after few years, only to realize that the car was junked by previous owner :(

--Anoop
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Old 3rd March 2017, 14:41   #4
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Great story telling. I am glad your restoration went well. I am curious to know the reason for that blue drape on both side, some story behind it?
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Old 3rd March 2017, 14:48   #5
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Wonderful narration! The paint finish looks top notch

Quick question - Why is the front number plate slightly placed inwards at the bottom? Is the new trend in Kerala. I have seen couple of pics in Tastefully Modified cars thread where the number plate is similar to yours.

OT - Is that Vinayaka Kalyana Mandapam - Cochin?
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Old 3rd March 2017, 15:17   #6
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Memorable story. We used to have a Fiat Padmini which i had insisted on keeping forever being my fathers first car but due to some stupid reason we had to sell it. Tried to find it back a few years ago but couldnt find the guy who bought it at his address or the car.

Just reminds me of my Fiat.

Your ambassador is definitely the family heirloom and i agree with your father that we in our youth tend to get spoilt by the new choices of automobiles in the market but the old ones definitely should be cherished and kept as well.

Wish you and Your wife lots of safe kms in the Ambassador & the soon to be bought Tata Estate.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 16:04   #7
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Only a select few get a new bride and a new makeover car with so much memories at the same time. Lucky you and lucky 6174.
Any specific reason for this style of dual tone paint? I was searching for a silver beading type thingy before I realised that it was just the painting .

Last edited by GTO : 5th March 2017 at 22:18. Reason: Typo
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Old 3rd March 2017, 16:21   #8
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Wow.. that's the art of restoring and story telling!

Dual tone paint looks too good.

Wish you happy miles with this beauty .

Last edited by GTO : 5th March 2017 at 22:18. Reason: No SMS language please
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Old 3rd March 2017, 16:28   #9
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Excellent write up Astraholic! Was hooked on to every single word and totally loved the whole story. I too grew up with an ambassador in our garage and so many lovely memories came back while reading your story! It was such a reliable vehicle and we did so many long trips on that! It was bliss.

Thank You
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Old 3rd March 2017, 17:23   #10
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Wonderful story and a great job in restoring the car, mate! Wish you and your wife a very happy and long married life. Hope the car will be your child's wedding gift!
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Old 3rd March 2017, 17:28   #11
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Beautiful story peppered with some amazing pictures taken by the photographer Suman Marydas!

Rated 5 stars! Do let us know how the restoration for the Tata Estate goes!
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Old 3rd March 2017, 18:34   #12
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Amazing post. Firstly CONGRATULATIONS on your WEDDING. Have a happy and blessed life.

After going through each and every line on your post, the time that I read the last word it felt like I have seen some amazing car themed hero-heroine love story movie.

Seriously amazing composing and appreciable work. Your car would seriously turn heads.

Added to your direction in the thread, superb quality pictures and stills have exponentially amplified the beauty to it.

Your dad must be proud of you.

All the best.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 19:17   #13
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Wonderful story! Lucky to have your dad & moms car ferry you at your wedding! Its a dream come true for both your dad & you.

One question: What engine is it running now?
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Old 3rd March 2017, 20:08   #14
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Man, aren't you feeling blessed?

That car is a real stunner. I was always lusting after the Amby while growing up.

My Papa was the old school type who thought cars to be more of a luxury which we can do without. Thankfully, that changed later with a car named Indica with patriotism as its main USP winning his heart and that became his first and only car in 2000. Ambassador was the only car Mummy ever wanted as she only knew two, Ambassador and Fiat. Being born in 1938 and brought up in a small town, that is understandable. Ambassador was her favorite as it was more, shall we say, regal of the two.

I was a very late issue, and while I was growing up she always would say that we will get an Ambassador once I came of age.
That was not to be, but she was happy with our Indica as she felt it was almost as roomy as...

You guessed it!

The Ambassador.

I'm rambling, ain't I? Well, seeing childhood dreams in flesh does that to you.

Astraholic, amazing job, very lovingly carried out.

Congratulations and God bless you.

Last edited by aah78 : 7th March 2017 at 01:52. Reason: Grammatical error. EDIT: Post edited for readability.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 20:56   #15
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Isn't that a fabulous way of narrating love over three generations in a single page
As easy as it might seem to skim through/read/glance the page, one can only wonder the excitement/tension you must've gone through getting it ready for that picture-perfect climax.
Take a bow bro!
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