Recreating one of the world's greatest car ads: update 4
TG's homage to Peugeot's classic 206 ad is nearly ready
Three months into the build and the finish line is in sight. Quite literally in fact, because I’m in India to witness it being crossed… and to lend a hand with the finishing touches. I’m writing this perched on a stool in a dusty workshop at Ajeenkya D Y Patil University in Pune, to my right the fruit of the team’s labours, freshly painted and pristine, to my left a tangle of wires with an angle grinder, welding machine and paint gun poking out, possibly still plugged in. Health and safety around here might be questionable, but the commitment of the men who have taken an Ambassador and turned it into a Peugeot 208 GTI tribute is not.
Before I get all gushy, a status update. The bodywork is complete – fibre glass front and rear ends have been painstakingly blended with the steel roof and the hand-rolled steel doors. Authentically chunky side sills have been welded on, holes cut and wiring for the real headlights and taillights hooked up. Oh, and it’s also been painted – no shortcuts here, a proper ‘Coupe Franche’ two-tone job using the closest to real Peugeot colours the team had lying around.
Next job is to glue in the glass windscreen and acrylic rear windows and screen (it was impossible to find a glass maker who could cut a piece in the perfect three-dimensional shape). Then it’s over to me, old Johnny-come-lately, to put the finishing touches – badges, wing mirrors, wheels back on and a final quality check using my patented fingertip technology. Glitter, basically, after all the hard work has been done. I’m the equivalent of a goal hanger. But I’m also here to take it for its maiden drive and film a remake of the advert it was built to star in.
This is the first time I’ve seen it in the metal and the overall effect is properly jaw-dropping. Having said that, get too close and it’s obvious that the stance is too high by half, some of the panel gaps aren’t up to Peugeot's exacting standards and the surfaces are a little, erm, dimpled. But, and it’s a big but, the fact that the wheels fit with no rubbing on the arches, the doors actually close and the whole thing actually drives, is nothing short of astonishing. Only when I see the lorry load of parts that have been chopped off the donor Ambassador, do you appreciate how basically every inch of this has been hand-fabricated – only the interior and drivetrain remain.
And what a group of people: Ashish Nar, Kushal Jadhav and students Parth Dodiya and Sidhnarth Rath. Warm, friendly, very little they can’t do with a welder and an ability to problem solve that puts our culture to shame. The answer is always yes, then it’s just a question of coming up with a solution. The night before we arrive they were up until 3am. The next day 4am. This was always a showcase of what they were capable of, but it became more than that – there’s passion and love in this car.
Right, got to go. We’re filming the ad, someone’s just handed me a homemade sledge hammer and a JCB has just rumbled up outside. Next you hear of this we’ll have the whole story on the finished car – pictures, videos and with any luck the finished version of Top Gear’s take on the world’s greatest car advert. Stay tuned.
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