Shabbeer Ahamed’s Hindustan Landmaster does a job usually reserved for an all-terrain vehicle
B. Shabbeer Ahamed rebuilds powerful engines for heavy-duty generators and humungous tipper lorries. Since he finds his clients in hard-to-access mountain-hugging estates and outlying factories of Kerala, he certainly needs a vehicle that is as rugged as the engines he works on.
A latest 4WD pick-up truck? His idea of a hardy machine seems way different from most others '— Shabbeer swears by a 1956 Hindustan Landmaster.
Besides serving as a long-distance car with a back-friendly suspension, modern air-conditioning and music systems and a reliable engine that can chunter up any steep hill road, the Landmaster feeds Shabbeer's hunger for antique vehicles. In his house at Namakkal, two bikes — a sturdy 1955 Matchless and a diminutive 1932 Fichtel & Sachs — shows he embraces automobile history in any form and shape it may show up.
While the restoration of these two bikes has been stretching his resources, readying the Landmaster for the road took only a little effort. “When I picked it up in Pollachi five years ago, the car was in great condition. Aside from a tinkering job, there was nothing to be done. Most importantly, it came with all the distinguishing features of a Landmaster,” gushes Shabbeer. But for these features, the Landmaster — the mirror image of the Morris Oxford II — may not appear very different from its successor, the Hindustan Ambassador, which was based on the Morris Oxford III.
Shabbeer's Landmaster has its emblematic flat two-spoke steering wheel (a three-spoke wheel was used in the Amby) and the dashboard is studded with the original round meters. The Landmaster's rear is round in contrast to an Ambassador's which sports tail fins. Another mark of differentiation is the excess curves that had been sculpted into the Landmaster's hood.
As his car is faithful to original design parameters of the Landmaster, Shabbeer flaunts it at antique car shows. With its efficient engine, it is also subjected to challenging drives.
Recently, the Landmaster cruised from Chennai to Puducherry along with a pick of cars from the Madras Heritage Motoring Club.