There have been a very limited number of iconic cars that were produced in India. And especially iconic nameplates that handed over a complete package of power and performance to Indians behind the wheel.
Muscle cars were something that had to be imported from various countries and limited names like Mustang, Corvette or Challenger were the only ones popular. But there was an Indian nameplate that contrasted to all these scenarios, was also titled India’s very own muscle car- the Hindustan Motors Contessa or HM Contessa.
Yes, besides the exemplary Ambassador, Hindustan Motors was the one that introduces Indians to peak performance, rugged and retro styling(it’s retro to us), and minimalist impacting design.
The HM Contessa or originally the Vauxhall Victor was also India’s first luxury car. In the late 1970s when Hindustan Motors had already captured the limelight with its Ambassador, it still wanted to expand its portfolio.
The brand saw an opportunity when Vauxhall was about to seclude the VX series and this is how the Hindustan Motors Contessa was born.
The Contessa car boasted an exquisite, luxury cabin but the first engine block that was mounted was underwhelming. The Contessa car began its life with a 1.5L BMC B-series engine that cranked out 50-hp and was mated with a 4-speed gearbox. The powertrain was shared by the Ambassador. But yet, it was a great success for its class.
It has the stylish looks of a muscle car, ravishing and bold design, long hood, and sleek body style. The Hindustan Motors then tied up with Isuzu and borrowed its 1.8L 4ZB1 petrol engine meshed to a 5-speed gearbox for installation in the Contessa car.
The new Contessa Classic car was distinctive by a “Classic” and 1.8GL” badge on the trunk lid. But this wasn’t the end. The Contessa car, in the 1990s, was mounted with the Hindustan manufactured 2.0 L Isuzu 4FC1 diesel engine that came to power the Contessa Diesel, and the rest is part of history.
The Contessa car was a huge success and sold like hot cakes in India, as buyers were able to connect its taste and plush cabin, and powerful engine options. But then the Contessa car was discontinued in 2002. What started as a cult was ended as brands like Ford, Chevrolet, and more muscle car marque brought forward more brawny engines and sleeker design.
The Contessa car was not able to match their popularity and no sooner the factories were closed. It had a good run. The car was actually launched at a price of Rs.83,437 and the booking amount was Rs.15,000! But then luxury car makers like BMW, Mercedes, and muscle car proficient Ford and Chevrolet managed to kill the Contessa car.
But recently, a group of Indian designers reimagined the Contessa nameplate as a futuristic electric vehicle. Though the Contessa car was killed by mightier competitors, it had a craze in the enthusiast and it still can turn the heads of auto-geeks.
Even if Hindustan Motors decides to relaunch the nameplate with a powerful engine and the same, retro styling and exterior designs, it will surely be a popular selling car. There’s no regret as an Indian brand was able to conquer the other leading rivals by building India’s first luxury car and also a muscle car that Indians looked upon the Contessa car for its entire small life.