Rebirth of a 1999 MM550 XDB
I recently acquired an 1999 MM550 XDB civilian version jeep. It was born a stallion and has not had the family jewels tampered with (still has factory fitted 4x4). The jeep was at my mother's village house and has seen a lot of use. It was used to take my folks to and from the house to the fields and orchard.
Since agriculture is a pretty hands-on job it probably made the trip every day of its life. The 4x4 too had seen a lot of, albeit strictly functional, use. Getting to the fields post monsoon means a drive through some pretty sticky mud with 4X4 engaged, many times at low ratio. The jeep served faithfully and lived up to its tough as nails reputation and then some.
Since my folks wanted a new vehicle and with a new village road was constructed (4x4 not necessary anymore) it meant that old faithful was on the block. A couple of team BHPians (AVR and Ramky) also took a look at it during this period but Ramky bought another. Probably because my folks couldn't manage without a vehicle and the Bolero delivery date was quite a long period away.
So when the new vehicle arrived I was offered the jeep. To use if I wanted or to knock of to a buyer in the city. I did look out for buyers initially as the days went by, I realized that it wasn't going to go anywhere. I was going to keep it. Not for lack of buyers but I was in love with it.
I have always been fascinated by bare-metal functional vehicles. My only other vehicle is a 1996 Bullet deluxe. So plain iron horses hold a great attraction for me.
I had also been on one OTR Examm & AKC 2010 with AVR. Arka, Tejas, Samurai may remember me as the newbie who stuck his leg out of AVR's
black MM540 and was duly reprimanded for it. So while I was wrestling with the practicality of an 8-seater, bare bones non AC, non-PS vehicle in the city, I was also gloating at the fact that I had a very good stock MM550 4x4 with XD3P engine, Borg-Warner TC and BA10 gearbox.
I was looking at buying a city car (i10 or a secondhand fiesta) earlier, but I guess that will have to wait until I am done bringing back the jeep to top condition. I plan on keeping it pretty much stock except for stuff that makes it a bit easier to use in the city and on longer drives. Lower NVH, better top speed etc. I am open to whatever mods you can suggest but remember this will be the usage. I do not need extreme offroad capabilities, just enough to manage some rural bad terrain once in a while. I intend to use it as a bit of a tourer.
The body was in pretty bad shape. The village is about 20 km from the coast so I'm guessing the saline air had a lot to do with the terrible condition of the body. The engine and mechanicals have been very lovingly looked after but the body was just about falling to pieces. That had been taken care of immediately. I began enquiring about a new body tub but Mahindra *** were not very helpful. When I asked around I found that the scrap dealer in the city was offering a 'new' tub for 22k. MASS were offering one for 70K! I asked around more and found that the duplicate tub -- made by some manufacturer in Mumbai -- could not be trusted. Apparently another jeep owner had gone in for one and had it had rusted out badly in 2 years.
The body worker blacksmith told me that I should keep the company fitted body. He had a vested interest, since he would get the restoration but I believed him and went for it. I told him to get it back to as near the original condition as possible. He's a bit of a dhuni guy who's most times in his own world but is apparently known for his good work. Another mechanic I had used earlier recommended him and when I went to his place he was hard at work on an old Mercedes which someone was restoring. So I guess he has something of a good reputation.
So far I have done.
1. New Battery - Bosch 80amph Rs. 6,200
2. New glow plugs - Bosch Rs 1000. The old ones were taking an age to give me the 'click'. And sometimes even after heating twice in a row it would not start. Now the battery and glowplugs make her roar in half a crank.
3. Body work was given to old blacksmith dude. He quoted 20K and 2 weeks for the work. Gave it back in about 3 weeks. New bushes etc were installed.
4. Painting: 10K for a metallic shade, 8K non-metallic. This includes Chassis black, and rubber coating the underbody. Went in for a metallic kinetic blue shade. The jeep is currently in paint.
5. New front bumper, indicators and tail lamp assemblies
Things to be done:
1. Radiator, engine, gearbox flushing. Any recommendations?
2. Suspension has to be re-done. The Patta (leafsprings) guy has told me that recambering will suffice and new pattas are not required.
3. Front propshaft is making a bit of a noise are certain rpms. I have been told that the front prop-joint is shot. Will replace the joint. Am probably going to go in for freewheeling hubs.
4. I am looking to upgrade tyres from the really ancient set of crossplies right now. I am on the stock 16 inch 4.5inch wide rims. I need advice on the rims. Where to source from and what types. I am aware that gypsy or FC rims are a straight fit but I really want 16 inchers. Any way out other than changing the hubs?
5. I plan on going in for Yokohama Geolandars AT or similar. What is the maximum width installable without limiting the turning radius?
Also since budgeting is half the battle prices woud be a great help.
6. Lastly since I am going to be driving this mostly around the city I need to soundproof and heat proof the vehicle, as much as is possible. Was also thinking bucket seats but the body guy says that will mean sacrificing the lockable metal toolbox under the driver's seat. Should I go in for that?
Please do suggest things that I should do to make this a nice reliable vehicle to be used in the city 80% rural, offroad 20%.
Following pictures are from the blacksmiths shop and painters. The last one is just with surfacer. Final colour is going to be a bit darker.