As much as I hate to admit, I am in love with this car. In fact, I am surprised the car still stands despite what it has been through in past years. Perhaps my friends shed tears when last the engine knocked and never cranked again.
A bulky front end, with a more hideously oversized square headlamp, the Hindustan Motors Contessa had muscle car features that are too old even for the 80’s, and this is a 92 model. With the square doors and ridiculously short rear overhang, it has all the elements of a flop muscle car. Sadly though, the car wont be around any longer.
Hindustan Motors (HM) introduced the Contessa in 1983 as one of the first Indian luxury cars. It borrowed the technology from General Motor’s Vauxhall Victor VX that went out of production in late 70’s. After the success of Ambassador, that ran for three decades, Hindustan Motors Contessa took over as the next favorite luxury car for VIPs and government officials. We’re talking about pre-globalization era, when you Beemers and VWs were alien terms to the Indian market. For a low introductory price, HM employed a 1.5-litre B-Series engine for the Contessa. This is the same motor powering the Ambassador, that pumps out 50 hp (Yes, 50.0 horsepower).
What appeared boxy outside was quite spacious inside. For some this is the first-ever Indian muscle car, which has a claimed top speed of 125 kmph. Towards the end of 80’s, HM collaborated with Isuzu in developing the 1.8-litre 4ZB1 petrol engine mated to a 5-speed transmission. The new Contessa was beefed up on outside with independent suspension underpinning the car, first time ever for an Indian car. But it lacked the quality interior of the Vauxhall and projected a subtle appearance.
I personally owned a 92 Contessa with the 2.0-litre Isuzu 4FC1 diesel engine. It has a claimed max output of 74 hp, which you never notice during the drive and my personal best straight-line drag being about 120 kmph. However, thanks to its McPherson strut, it can get you through thick and thin with your spines witnessing every grain on the road.
The Hindustan Motors Contessa has an offensively underpowered engine fitted into an utterly pointless oversized body, making it annoyingly slow on stretches. It does feature power steering, which nevertheless gives a horrible understeer. Sitting on McPherson at just above 1,200 kg, the car is surprisingly roomy for you, your friends, their friends, and everyone else. You become slaves to the fun you can have along the way with the refined engine noise and the oversized windows just murder your privacy. In fact, the interior never lost the shine and the seat cushions never cramped until of course it was burnt while smoking.
When it went out of production in 2002, the luxury segment was taken over by new arrivals like Ford, GM and Fiat. Hindustan Motors has not been doing so good since the advent of foreign manufacturers, moreover, it failed to provide service for the few variants it had launched. The lack of spare parts was another reason that choked the sales of Contessa in India. The 92 Contessa I own has a seized engine and still waits for the right spare part to arrive or rather the right mechanic. However, with limited models left in the market, I might as well keep it as a Classic Collectible for future.