For a change.. review of Ambassor MAtador

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For a change a review of one of the older cars I had owned.


smiley10.gifPlus: Can be repaired anywhere,tough, passenger comfort,unique charecter
Minus: feeble brakes, useless handbrake,non syncro first gear,well for the remaining read the article.

                  I would like to share with you the experiences of one of the most
endearing cars I have owned. It was a 1962 Ambassador Mark2 with the Matador diesel engine.
Well, in those days I was starting off on my job. We had an Amby petrol which we had sold off
after being in our family for nearly 30 years.Since my job involved around 40 kms commute daily from
office I had to look for a diesel car. We brought this car from my father`s friend who had this car with him
for well.. almost 35 years....This was the perfect platform for a person who was just starting his job!

It was a 1962 model, matador diesel, column shift gearbox and luckily had airconditoning.
it had done 1 lakh kms but dad`s friend had keptit in pristine condition.
Owning and operating this car is like a window to a bygone era. Morning turn the ignition,hold the heater button for the glowplugs to light up for 1 minute(good for excercising your thumbs as the switch is very heavily spring loaded.) Once the ash tray like window on the side of the heater switch turns red, fire up the engine.
Then patience as you watch the oil pressure gauge climb to its full pressure.

Whatever you do, dont switch on the aircon until the engine reaches its operating temprature. Start up is so noisy that all my neighbours know what time I leave and what
time I come back. then you have to wrestle the column shifter to first by depressing the concrete clutch. All this will double up as
gym equipment in traffic. The airconditioning in my car was very powerful even though my car was black colour. But in traffic you
will have to keep an eye on the temprature gauge as it slowly climbs to the red(my radiator was in bad shape and the fan's one blade had mysteriously disappered.

every morning you have to check the water in the radiator and almost everyday you have to top it up( minum 0.5 litres) and also check the battery for distilled water.
Oh my god... that also 0.5 litres everyday of distilled water as the engine bay was so hot!
When i first got the car it had a dynamo for charging the battery which was horribly insufficent.
Switch on the aircon, headlights and night driving to the equation and the ammeter readily goes to -30. all this may look fun all those dancing dials
but remember to get a couple of well built  friends to jump start the car next day!
I switched to an alternator soon and atleast one problem was over. Since my drive to office and back with aircon will just result in the car touching the hot mark in the temp gauge it was ok, i didnot get the radiator fixed.

Another problem with the matador engine is in traffic. It kicks like an angry horse if you floor the throttle soon..(pneumatic governor for injection pump) which in turn is bad for the gearbox as it is standard amby stuff. In fact any complaint of a matador engined car is the gearbox failure.
Also you have to be as systematic with the gears as a professional racer, otherwise sooner or later you are looking at a gearbox overhaul.

However the worst problem by a mile, are the brakes which are pretty much useless. You have to plan in advance for breaking, If you are at around say 60 km/h and you want to brake, plan in advance as you cannot simply shift to a lower gear ( non syncro box and of course the gearbox assy will be damaged). Holding it on a steep hill in traffic is where things get really tricky.
Drum brakes( you foot muscles are the power assist), no handbarke and you cannot keep a Matador on half clutch becuase ,yup u guessed it it will wear out the gearbox.
And dont let the clutch out suddenly because it will stall.. so a definite tightrope..

But the thing is that yousoon get adjusted to these (minor!) follibies of one charismatic car. You feel part of this machine
and if you ignore it it will leave you stranded. If you care for it it will care you back. I was working for night shifts and all  and had to travel through some
deserted places but it never once let me down.

But that doesnt mean it is no maruti. Of course being a 40 year old car means it has had its fare share of problems.
Once on a drive , I noticed that the oil pressure gauge all of a sudden falling to zero. Then I looked in my rear view mirror and oil was flowing on the road.
Immidiately pulled over. The probelm was the tube connecting the sump oil to the oil pressure gauge had ruptured and splilled all the oil.
This was a common problem with all matadors because of the intense heat in the engine bay that literally melts these tubes.
But if you dont stop immidaitely and go on , you are staring at a engine rebulid.

Another time, just out of my house, the ammeter all of a sudden read -30. The engine was still running (MAtador engines dont need battery once it has started) The wiring had short circuited and smoke was poring out. I had to run put and disconnect the battery to stop the fire spreading. But fixed in that day by a complete rewiring for 2000 bucks!

The front tyre wear is phenomenal because of the weight f the engine, the steering is as light and agile as the tiatanic,it is like an angry horse in traffic, heavy and ponderous controls. But you do feel you are part of a machine.

I had it for another 20,000 kms with me in which nothing went wrong. Then I sold it off to buy the Indica which I have reviewed .

One thing- always have a look at the gauges and lights.. no other car teaches you this.Even today in any car I drive, i always have a casual look at the gauges and lights once in a while.

Maybe old experiences die hard.

To conclude... it is a gym with wheels and a window to an era where eveything  was not just start up and go...!

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Superb! Loved reading it. There used be at least 3 Matadors in our family, I can vouch for that kick from the engine. It was terrible if you were a learner. But I still loved them. Today's cars are full of electronics, they just lack soul.



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