Hindustan Contessa: The Made-In-India Muscle Car

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Tribute To Indian Muscle Car Hindustan Contessa

Often referred to as the first muscle car of India, Hindustan Contessa is a popular model from Hindustan Motors. Its production started in 1984 and lasted till 2002. Even after so many years, the Contessa still retains its charm. It is so rare to find one that if you own (or your parents do) one; consider yourself lucky.

Dream Car for many from the era, the Hindustan Contessa is so popular that it has a cult following even today. Fans are crazy for it, just like its elder sister i.e the Ambassador. In fact, the contessa is the star in many movies with the latest being Thalapathy Vijay’s Tamil movie ‘Master’. One can find various modified models of Contessa nowadays. Let’s check out the features of this cult classic car:-

HM Contessa: Design

After producing the Ambassador for three decades, Hindustan Motors wanted to introduce a more modern car in Indian Market. Then they successfully acquired production tooling and technology of the Vauxhall VX Series. The production was set in Uttarpara near Kolkata. It was manufactured alongside the Ambassador. The boxy design gives the Contessa a more iconic, muscle-car-like look. The CLASSIC version gets a distinctive ‘CLASSIC’ and ‘1.8GL’ badging on the rear trunk lid. Unfortunately, it never got a new-gen model.

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HM Contessa: Engine

Although the car never got any new-generation model, there are two iterations of it. The First model i.e. the original Contessa comes with a 1.5-litre BMC B-Series engine (The same engine that powers the Ambassador) with 50 Horsepower with a Hindustan Four-Speed Gearbox. Its speed topped at 125 mph. There was also a version that made 54 horsepower.

After doing a tie-up with Japan-based Isuzu, Hindustan Motors started putting the 1.8 L 4ZB1 petrol engine with a five-speed gearbox in Contessa. The new car is known as Hindustan Contessa CLASSIC. The old model was phased out due to the popularity of this new model. In the 1990s, the 2.0 L Isuzu 4FC1 Diesel engine was provided. The top speed increased to 160 kmph. After a few years, a turbo-diesel version was introduced.

By the end of its production, HM was using 1.8 GLX (Petrol), 2.0 DLX (Diesel) and 2.0 TD (Turbo Diesel) engines in the Hindustan Contessa Classic.

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HM Contessa: Features

Though we consider the fact that Contessa is based on a 1970’s design, its interior is pretty great; even by 1984 standards. It is quiet and the seats are also comfortable. There were also some minor upgrades over its iterations. These include fuel injection, power windows, power steering, air conditioning, etc. We see most of these features as standard on cars now, but the 90s was a different time. The ‘Premium’ features were added to make the car appeal to premium customers.

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HM Contessa: Reception

The media back then liked the roomy interior and great ride quality of the Contessa but criticized the under-powered engine. The Hindustan Contessa CLASSIC with the 1.8-litre engine (i.e. the Contessa CLASSIC 1.8 GL) was an instant success. It set the benchmark for power, luxury and refinement in the Indian Automotive Market. The diesel and turbo diesel models followed in its footsteps, being a successful product for HM.

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HM Contessa: Discontinuation

Now one would think that, “If the car was this good, why was it discontinued?” Well, the answer is simple; Poor sales and loss of interest. The reason behind this is the fact that HM never gave Contessa an update. That’s because their age-old Ambassador was still selling like hotcakes. Also noting the fact that the cars were mostly hand-built, the price was higher. To be specific, its cost was around Rs. 84,000 plus Rs. 15,000 in advance.

The competitors had an upper hand with mechanized factories plus better and more value-for-money cars. Soon after GM, Ford, Tata, Fiat, etc. entered the competition, the demand for Contessa began to shrink. The constant rise of petrol prices meant that it was time for HM to stop production. So in 2002, HM pulled the plug off the Contessa model, ending its 18-year production cycle from 1984 to 2002.

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HM Contessa: Verdict

The Hindustan Motors Contessa was a great car that was (kind of) ahead of its time. The fact of its discontinuation makes many car enthusiasts sad. Given that the car is a cult classic now, people who are restoring the vehicle are keeping the vehicle for themselves. So good luck finding one in the market for sale. Now we aren’t saying there are no models for sale, but the cheap ones are mostly in bad shape or modified and the good ones are expensive. Even if you find and buy one, don’t make the mistake of selling the car like its last owner!!

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