Bought a first-owner 1995 Maruti 800 and restored it to mint condition

The owner was an elderly man in his 70s and was honest about the car's condition. He even gave us the original owner's manual!

BHPian BeemerBug_06 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Warm Greetings to everyone. It has indeed been a long since I last wrote something on the forum. Work and other commitments never seem to leave me with enough time to sit back and write on TeamBHP.

Anyway, expect this to be a fairly long and detailed thread. As for the title, it may have you wondering as to why restoring a 1995 Maruti 800 is being called Mission Impossible. Read on and you will know. Also, let me add that the restoration job has not been one that was light on the pocket but considering the car in question was a 'money no object car' it does not really matter. The result however does matter, greatly!


Now here is a little backstory.

Those of you who know me personally know that I enjoy spending my free time tinkering with cars. Having spent a lot of my days over the years with my friendly neighborhood mechanics - Ravi and Sanjay bhai has taught me a thing or two about working correctly on a car. As a result, I love to work on cars, especially older ones and help the owners with getting them up to speed.

An enthusiastic friend of mine named Chetan, who happens to own a rather diverse garage and also the 1990 Premier Padmini that I worked on last year, gave me a call in September 2023.

He wanted to know my opinion on how viable it is to purchase a Maruti 800 today. Me being myself, I told him to go for it immediately if he came across a good car. The 800 is one of the simplest cars ever to work on and maintain. Parts availability is still good, so it would make for a good choice. His reason for wanting one was interesting though. He mentioned that his uncle owned a White Maruti 800 SB308 (Second Gen) which he had purchased brand new in the early '90s. He went on to tell me that his uncle truly loved the car and used it for several years, driving it across the country. Sadly, the car was sold and does not exist anymore, but the memories made with it were priceless and his uncle fondly remembers and misses the car till date.

His plan was to find a White 800 of the same type, restore it to near brand new condition and gift it to his uncle on his upcoming 70th birthday in March 2024. What a lovely gesture I thought to myself. I agreed there and then to be a part of this process from start to end assuring him that it would end with his uncle having the best birthday present ever!

Searching for an 800 is no big deal given the millions of numbers that they sold in and are still around in. However, finding a car that is well looked after and largely original is a challenge. We strictly wanted a car that had not been tampered with much and was in good honest condition overall. At the end of the day, a 25+ year-old car would naturally command some work so we did not have unrealistic expectations.


We saw a few cars listed online and a few more in person but none of them seemed to tick the right boxes. They were majorly rust buckets with multiple owners and expired paperwork. The fact that we wanted only an SB308 (Sold between 1986 and 1997) narrowed down the search greatly. One day while scrolling through a Facebook group I came across an ad for a 1995 Maruti 800. The Ad proudly mentioned that the car is a FIRST OWNER vehicle, being posted by the owner himself. It had its fitness and documents in order and was asking for a very reasonable price. There was only one picture in the ad. The car seemed pretty decent going by that one image. I decided to send it to Chetan and he contacted the owner.

Purists would notice that the rims aren't original to the SB308 and are from the Type 2 model. But otherwise, the car seemed fine from this angle at least.

Chetan spoke to the owner. The owner was an elderly man in his 70s, an architect by profession who said he had purchased the brand car new in 1995 and had driven it about 90k km in all these years. It was his first new car. He was honest about the fact that the car was not in great condition and needed work but was largely left original and had been kept running at least for the past few years. His reason to let it go was that his age does not allow him to maintain it like before and the fact that it does not get used lately. Hence, to avoid it from deteriorating he had finally taken the call to sell it off. He was nice enough to send us some more images of the car and a video of it running (it sounded healthy).

The car did look tired. It was dull, the interior had its share of wear and tear. The door trims were from a later model. But at least it was honest, unlike some of the others we had seen which had fat layers of filler putty painted over the rust to hide it and other hidden surprises. Note that this car was largely still on original paint apart from one of the doors and the bonnet which had been replaced at some point due to a small fender bender.

Honest opinion - Good base; mechanically seems good. Documents are sorted. Cosmetically needs attention.

We decided to leave this car on the backburner for a bit and look for better options. However, we found ourselves back with this car rather soon. Chetan then came to a common standing with the owner regarding the price and the car was sold. A mistake we made was not going and examining the car in person as both of us were busy with our respective jobs and the car was located in Thane. Considering the honesty of the owner and the material he sent us, we decided to go for it anyway as time was ticking.

A photograph of the car on the day of purchase, shared by the First Owner. This photograph would remain the ultimate aim for our restoration project as we wanted to get the car to this shape!

This would end up being my first full-blown restoration project!


So the deal was done. Chetan paid the owner and the car was ours to take. The owner suggested avoiding driving it to Dadar from Thane because the car had not been in traffic or travelled a fair distance for over 5 years. He was not sure if it would make the distance without breaking down or overheating. Furthermore, it was in need of new tyres and an issue with wheel alignment. So we decided to tow it down. I went to pick it up from Dadar the same evening and to my surprise, it had arrived on a flatbed! Free upgrade I was told.

The owner had sent literally everything related to the car with it. Things such as an extra carburettor, fuel pump, belts, ignition coils, and even some other stuff which was nothing but junk.

I got into the car. The driver's side door and A-pillar were both terribly rusted: eek: Rust is a game spoiler. Especially with older Maruti cars such as the 800, Zen and Esteem. But anyway, this was a restoration project so in Rust we Trust!

I barely turned the key and the car rose to life and began to idle steadily albeit a bit on the higher side. I slotted it into the reverse and released the clutch. The clutch was weak and the car moved only once I had taken my foot almost entirely off the pedal. Again expected in an old car like this. The engine was fine as hell and did not make a single whine or rattle. So that was a big win. So my first thought was that the car was honest. A what you see is what you get sort of thing. It had been maintained but neglected at the same time. Bet that's a tough one to understand.

The fuel was low in the car, so I decided to drive it to the petrol pump for a quick fill up That was when I realised what 'alignment issues' it had. The car had a very strong left pull and the tyres squealed out loud. Clearly, it needed new tyres. I had to hold the steering diagonally to keep the car straight for the most part.

Filling up

Among the original bits left behind for us was this - The original owner's manual!

Handwritten Service History helped confirm that the car was genuine. The car had very high running in its initial years. Along with this, the owner had also sent a folder full of old bills from local garages, fuel receipts and other documents such as photocopies of the Old RC book and tax receipts. He also promised to give us the original invoice of the car, if he managed to find it. I love seeing things like this!

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