Landmaster Project - Part II
For those who came in late, the original plot (that we lost!) can be found at this link:
8 months, 4.5 lakhs (not including the cost of the a/c fitment and various miscellaneous corrections that had to be done on the car after it was "delivered" or rather taken away, which works out to another 0.5 lakhs!) and several frustrating moments after that original project, I now have a car with a great body and a whole bunch of mechanical issues to be sorted out.
There are also the following bits of work carried forward as unfinished business from the previous attempt:
1. Power Steering
2. Disc Brakes
3. Original Dash (meter console) and Steering wheel to be procured and fitted
4. Original tail lamps to be fitted and current autorickshaw lamps to be removed.
5. Chrome-plastic work in place of original chrome trim to be replaced by original stuff.
With all these in mind, I began looking for a suitable mechanic near my dad's house in Shornur, Kerala. While driving around the countryside, my eyes fell on a beautiful black Landmaster parked by the side of the highway. I inquired about it and was directed to a garage on a pocket road off the highway, where I find the old owner of the "Land" (as these vehicles are referred to in Kerala) sitting in his very simple garage.
In the garage is another 'Land' undergoing restoration. Some chai, a few oily snacks and smokes later I understand that this chap has had the original 'Land' since the last 20 years, and the second one was a single-owner Land that belonged to one of his oldest customers. The customer died a few months ago and before that the chap insisted that the "Land" be transferred to the garage owner's name as he did not want anyone to sell it off after his death. He also warned the garage owner not to EVER sell the car or his ghost would return to haunt him for the rest of his life.
So the old man is restoring this 1955 Land. This one has the original side-valve engine, NEVER opened up till date. Every part around is original - the meters, the bumpers, tail lamps, steering and the works - but the body had been removed and sent to Color World in Trichur for a full restoration.
Perhaps I should've done the same....but then we are all wiser in hindsight.
Somewhere in the midst of all this conversation, the old man's youngest son arrives on the scene and has been watching me for a while. Then he comes forward and says "Arent you Sangeeth's brother?" Turns out that this chap was my brother's best friend in college. He had heard of the "Landmaster Project" from my dad and my brother and wanted to see the car.
Took him and the old man home, where they exchanged lots of 'car' stories with my dad. They were full of praise for the bodywork, but pointed out some flaws in the same - they think the body had been removed from the chassis and rested on its mounting points for too long without the chassis, as a result of which there are visible bends in the bodywork. According to them the 'high rear' stance of the car is probably because of this - the body itself had bent inwards.
However the paint finish and "patchwork" were greatly applauded, after which the old man and his son took the car out for a spin.
The expression of pure disgust on their faces after they got out of the vehicle deserves a photograph, but I did not have a camera right then.
We then took the car to the garage for a full inspection, after which the old man's diagnosis is as below:
1. The engine mounting is messed up, it is not aligned linearly nor was the mounting points decided properly. As a result, the engine is mounted slightly backwards and therefore the gearbox housing is rubbing against the steering rack.
2. The lack of linear alignment is also the cause of all the drivetrain noise as the engine, GB and Diff are not in a perfect line. We are lucky not to have suffered a snapped driveshaft thus far. According to him there is nothing wrong with the engine or gearbox as such - it is the alignment and the timing that are causing all this matador-like noise. He reckons the timing has been advanced too much.
3. The entire brake setup will have to be redone. The current setup is hurriedly put on and totally messed up. He suggests that if we are going for a full rework of the brakes, we can try Discs or else he will work on the current setup. I would like to try discs.
4. Steering is okay, thanks to the garage in Cochin who reworked the entire steering setup. However the old man suggests that if the car isnt going to be used much the current "bush type" can become difficult to drive when the grease hardens so it is better to change to "ball type" if I didnt want power steering. I dont want power steering as the steering feels quite good now (after rework at Cochin) without power assist.
5. The entire pedal setup is hotch-potch and looks very bad. After the work in Cochin, the pedals are at least at a usable level, else you had to lift your knee to chest-level in order to reach the brake or clutch pedals. The pedal setup will need to be reworked, and some better looking pedal stems to be installed, rather than the hotch-potch, badly welded (without grinding) bits of metal that serve as pedal stems now.
6. Tail lamps to be reverted to original. I have the lenses (2 sets, 2nd set thanks to Gogi bhai) and the old man wants one set to replace the broken pair on his car. In return he will fashion a custom tail-lamp assembly out of another Autorickshaw's unit and get rings made in brass (and chromed) from the nearby brass and bronze factory.
7. Chrome strips on the side will be remade in Bronze (and chromed) using the original pieces from his car to make moulds.
8. He says the semaphores are fakes. He showed me the originals and those were the ones on the Land when it went in to Motorsmiths in October last year. Perhaps the originals were damaged and hence they put in these units. No remedy for this.
9. He will try and source the original instrument cluster housing (the aluminium part on the dash) but there are no guarantees hence the fallback option will be to make another set in metal (not alumium) along the lines of his original console, and paint it body colour. The meters are original an he will make them work.
10. Steering wheel - he has a spare Land steering wheel without the horn ring or the centrepiece. He says these are difficult to procure or replicate, so we may have to make do with an OHV (Mk 1 in Mallu speak) steering wheel.
Work will start after the Shravan (karkidakom) month which is when the monsoons are extremely intensive. He estimates 2-3 weeks for all the work. I'm not believing any estimates anymore, but the car will be kept at home and taken to the garage only when they have work, and then returned home immediately after.
This garage is a simple shed, they have no fancy boards or markings for 'Body Shop' or 'Paint Booth' or 'Wheels and Tyres'. They also have no guard dogs so anyone can walk in and take a look. But they know their ambassadors and landmasters, and the old man has genuine passion for these old beauties. He is very much like the old man in Trichur that works on my RD 350.
His 'estimate' for all this work is "about Rs.15 - 20,000 without factory items (i.e., disc brakes etc), we will try and reduce it as much as posisble".
Will keep you guys updated, as usual.
If you can get her back in shape for < 20K it will be great!. All the best in your endeavor.
Great to hear this Steeroid, this old man sounds like the ramu kaka of mechanics. I have heard this from veteran Jeepers recently, You need to find a reliable Jeep Mechanic first before purchasing a old Jeep. I guess same goes for old HMs and Fiats.
Finally your Land is in safe hands.
That is good news. The quote looks great for all the job.
All the Best!!
There is no replacement for dedication, and certainly no price as well. This mechanic seems to be a godsend, and all the best for phase 2. Hope this has a happy ending !
PS: If all else fails , why not the avigo dash. it does look okayish
Steer, I wish the Landmaster the best in PartII. It really makes a difference when the people doing the job have passion and also know what they are doing.
clap:, This is great news.
Nothing better than a passionate old man to do up your Landie.
I'am hooked to this thread now.
This is good development Steeroid, I hope this is the old man that your Landy has been looking for, and I get the feeling that, this time around things are going to work out to your liking.
Great news Santosh. I hope all goes well this time.
Phewwww......finally! Best of Luck Santhosh, may this old man bring a happy end to this wonderful (but till now painful) project!
Toughest. I repeat toughest part is to maintain the body without any scratch while they're working. Santosh take special care here. You need to think in advance on this.
Well, all the best on phase two. Im sure Ramu kaka will do a damn good job, they always do.
What are the chrome plastic parts yuor refer to in point 5? Also the side trims were original on the car. They shouldnt have been replaced. One was cracked but brazing wouldve solved it.
Original semaphores wouldve have been common to many english cars of the era, hunt for them in England.
Best of luck steer for part two of the project. AM sure your car will come out fit fully and also dad will be happy this time around.
WONDERFULL TWIST!!! Wish you all the VERY best Steer!
hmmm... I too had that doubt the old mech identified bout body and chassis. I have heard the same comments from many old age mechs who are 'ashans' of Ambassadors and Fiats!!
Really Really happy to know the ball is rolling.
Hey! Do u remember hearing the above same stuff a few days before from someone?? Especially the first part??:D
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