This 1967 Ambassador Mark II is a mélange of new and old technologies. The Tata Sumo power steering enables Varun Kondath to manoeuvre the car through the roads of T. Nagar, gripped by the usual shopping frenzy. As he hits Anna Salai, the traffic improves considerably and when the road opens up near YMCA-Nandanam, he gets the opportunity to demonstrate the power of the Isuzu under the hood. The 1.8 litre petrol engine that is in harness was not an advantage enjoyed by buyers of the Mark II. The most powerful of all Ambassador engines, it was introduced in the early 1990s as the highlight of the new model — the Ambassador 1800 ISZ. The move gave the marque a marked edge over its Indian competitors. Varun tethered his Mark II to this anachronistic engine, gouged out of a 1996 ISZ, because he wanted the old Amby to perform the functions of a modern car. As a Super King air-conditioner was among the items imported into the Amby, a robust engine was more a necessity than a luxury. Varun went in for the latest Ambassador Avigo brake kit — front disc and rear drum — that is readily available.
If ease of driving and comfort were Varun’s goals, why did he not get in touch with an Avigo dealer? Why bother resurrecting a 1967 Mark II that has deteriorated down to its chassis cross-members.
“This car was bought by my maternal grandfather V.E. D’Cruz after a three-month waiting period. After his death, my grandmother Dr. Jesse Salome D’Cruz used the car extensively. A gynaecologist at the Stanley Hospital, she commuted to work in the car,” explains Varun. “In 1991, it was sold to Mr. Ramesh, a family friend’s cousin living in Coimbatore. We thought that as long as the car was with someone known, we could see it periodically and relive those days. Before handing over the keys, we extracted a promise from Mr. Ramesh that he would check with us when he wanted to dispose of the car. He did not want to, until 2005.”
Varun could not start the restoration work immediately after buying the car back. “Partly due to lack of funds, the Ambassador continued to be in a derelict state for the next two years. Lack of experience in restoring classic cars was another reason. Up to that point, I had only restored old motorcycles.”
A fortuitous set of events kickstarted the restoration in 2007. “My mother provided the finances and I was lucky to locate mechanic Dhandapani from Kodambakkam, a man experienced in building cars from the ground up,” says Varun. After a slow start, the project gathered pace and Varun is glad he took Dhandapani on board.
Varun considers this spruced-up Mark II the best gift he has ever given his mother Vatsala. “The car gives her a sense of connection with her childhood.”