Can an Ambassador become a Peugeot 208 GTI? | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Thursday 5th October

Can an Ambassador become a Peugeot 208 GTI?

Inspired by this 206 from 'The Sculptor' ad, we’re planning our maddest build to date

Published: 02 Nov 2017

You’re probably staring at this beaten up, tatty old Peugeot 206 and wondering why it’s tweaking a memory somewhere in the back of your brain. Try imagine it with a stirring Indian soundtrack. Still no? It is the star of quite possibly the greatest TV advert ever, and today we’re driving it.

But first, a refresher. The advert in question, ‘The Sculptor’, filmed in Jaipur, India and released in 2003, stars a gentleman who sees a 206 ad in the paper and falls in love. But without sufficient funds to buy one, he sets about driving his Hindustan Ambassador into a wall, getting an elephant to sit on it and welding through the night to produce his very own approximation of the 206, which he proceeds to parade around in feeling mighty pleased with himself indeed.

Advertisement - Page continues below

That car is the one you see before you. Not a modified Ambassador of course, but a 206 that was pulled from the production line, stripped and beaten to within an inch of its life – let’s call it artistic license. It might look ready for the scrapheap, but in fact it has little over 100km on the clock and drives exactly how you’d expect a low-mileage diesel 206 to drive… albeit with a few NVH issues.

In a moment of pure poetry, earlier this year Peugeot actually purchased the ailing Ambassador brand, which got our cogs turning. To celebrate this acquisition, could we do what the advert’s producers didn’t dare and turn an actual Ambassador into the 206’s modern equivalent, the 208? For added excitement we then upped the ante and decided to make it a 208 GTI, allowing us to deploy a dodgy two-tone Coupe Franche paint job.

Sounds easy, right? Replace the wheels, weld a new roof on, stick on a 208 grille and some lights. Well, no actually, this has turned into a proper engineering challenge. You’ll notice that the Ambassador’s three-box shape doesn’t really tally with the 208’s modern supermini silhouette. This means the whole back end needs chopping off, then there’s the windscreen, which is far too upright, and the front end which is far too bluff, and the arches which are far too square.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Fortunately some extremely clever chaps in Pune, India have taken on the challenge. Armed only with actual 208 GTI headlights, wheels, taillights, a grille and badges we’ve sourced from France and sent out there, they are going to convert an Ambassador into a modern hot hatch… in appearance at least.

So here’s the deal: we’ll be documenting the build as it happens, then heading out there early in the new year to help put the finishing touches to the car, meet the team and take it for its first road test. Excited? We can’t wait.

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

See more on Peugeot

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5