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Hindustan Contessa: The Very First Indian Muscle Car

Hindustan Contessa

Hindustan Contessa is a popular model from Hindustan Motors that is often referred to as India’s first muscle car. It was first produced in 1984 and continued until 2002. Even after all these years, the Contessa retains her allure. It’s so rare to come across one that you should consider yourself fortunate if you (or your parents) have one.

The Hindustan Contessa was many people’s dream car at the time, and it still has a cult following today. It, like its elder sister, the Ambassador, has a cult following. In fact, the contessa has starred in a number of films, the most recent of which is Thalapathy Vijay’s Tamil film “Master.” Nowadays, there are a variety of Contessa models that have been modified.


Hindustan Motors wanted to introduce a more modern car in the Indian market after producing the Ambassador for three decades. Then they successfully acquired Vauxhall VX Series production tooling and technology. The production took place in Uttarpara, a small town near Kolkata. It was created in tandem with the Ambassador. The Contessa’s boxy design gives it a more iconic, muscle-car-like appearance. On the rear trunk lid of the CLASSIC version, there is a distinctive ‘CLASSIC’ and ‘1.8GL’ badging. It was never given a new-generation model.


There are two iterations of the car, despite the fact that there was never a new-generation model. The first model, the Contessa, is powered by a 1.5-litre BMC B-Series engine (the same engine that powers the Ambassador) that produces 50 horsepower and is mated to a Hindustan Four-Speed Gearbox. Its top speed was 125 mph. A 54-horsepower version was also available.

Hindustan Motors began putting the 1.8 L 4ZB1 petrol engine with a five-speed gearbox in Contessa after forming a partnership with Isuzu of Japan. 

Hindustan Contessa CLASSIC is the name of the new car. Due to the popularity of the new model, the old model was phased out. The 2.0 L Isuzu 4FC1 Diesel engine was available in the 1990s.The top speed was increased to 160 kilometers per hour. A turbo-diesel version was introduced after a few years.

The Hindustan Contessa Classic had 1.8 GLX (Petrol), 2.0 DLX (Diesel), and 2.0 TD (Turbo Diesel) engines by the time it was discontinued.


Even by 1984 standards, the interior of Contessa is quite nice, despite the fact that it is based on a 1970s design. It’s very quiet, and the seats are very comfortable. There were also some minor improvements over previous versions. Fuel injection, power windows, power steering, and air conditioning are just a few examples. The majority of these features are now standard on cars, but the 1990s were a different era. The ‘Premium’ features were added to appeal to higher-end customers.


The Contessa’s roomy interior and excellent ride quality were praised by the press at the time, but the engine was criticized for being underpowered. The 1.8-litre Hindustan Contessa CLASSIC (also known as the Contessa CLASSIC 1.8 GL) was an instant hit. In the Indian automotive market, it set the standard for power, luxury, and refinement. Following in its footsteps were the diesel and turbo diesel models, which proved to be a profitable product for HM.


The reason why it was discontinued is that HM never provided Contessa with an update. That’s because their venerable Ambassador was still flying off the shelves. The price was also higher due to the fact that the cars were mostly hand-built. It cost around Rs. 84,000 plus Rs. 15,000 in advance, to be precise.

With mechanized factories and better and more value-for-money cars, the competitors had the upper hand. Contessa’s demand began to dwindle soon after GM, Ford, Tata, Fiat, and other automakers entered the fray. The constant rise in gasoline prices signaled that HM’s production should be halted. So, in 2002, HM ended the Contessa model’s 18-year production cycle, which lasted from 1984 to 2002.

Final Verdict

The Contessa from Hindustan Motors was a fantastic car that was (kind of) ahead of its time. Many car enthusiasts are disappointed by its cancellation. Because the car has become a cult classic, the people who are restoring it are keeping it for themselves. So good luck looking for one on the market. Now, we’re not saying there aren’t any models for sale; however, the cheap ones are usually in poor condition or have been modified, while the good ones are expensive.

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