Friday, 8 July 2016

Looking at a Yesteryear's Car - HM CONTESSA

In the late 70`s and early 80`s, HM was ready to launch a new premium car in Indian car market. After producing ageing old ambassador for three long decades, HM was able to procure the tooling of the Vauxhall Victor Series. The production started in spring of 1984 and continued till 2002.

The Contessa had two major rivals i.e.  Standard 2000(based on ROVER SD1) and premier 118 NE (based on Fiat 124). But they lived a short life and hence Contessa attracted Indian buyers and government officials.

Engine & Transmission

Initially, the Contessa was launched with a 1.5L Petrol engine which produced 50hp with a 4-speed transmission. The engine was borrowed from the Ambassador. The car had a mere top speed of 125km/hr. People went gaga over the ride of the car but were disappointed by the engine`s performance.

By the late eighties, HM tied up with ISUZU and started producing their 1.8L petrol engine which produced 86hp with a 5-speed transmission. This sorted out the Achilles Heel of the Contessa i.e. Performance. Due to the rising cost of petrol, HM launched a Diesel variant of the car. It was a 2.0L Isuzu diesel engine. Towards the end of the production, HM launched a Turbo Diesel variant also. Isuzu motors had a decent pickup and performance as compared to the 1.5L petrol motor.

Interior & Exterior

The interior of the Contessa was leaps and bounds better than the likes of its competitors. Initially, the car was a bare bone yet spacious but HM frequently gave updates to the interior of the Contessa like A/C, Power Windows and Privacy Glass at the rear, Power Steering, Wooden Dashboard, Better quality of seats. The front passenger seat could be folded flat which meant the boss sitting at the rear could put his feet upon just like an airline first class seat.

On the exterior, the car had a resemblance of muscle cars of the 60`s &70`s, albeit with four doors and puny wheels. Early 80`s Contessa came with flat type single unit headlight which housed the indicator and headlight, slimmer chrome bumpers etc. Later on, the car was given a minor facelift with twin barrel headlight, fatter bumpers which housed the indicators. 

The car came shod with 13-inch wheels with 175/80R13 tyres. Also, the car had a variety of colours such as White, Maroon, Grey, Black, Champagne Gold and Kielder Green etc.

Suspension & Brakes

The USP of the car was it`s comfortable ride. The car had an exceptional soft rear suspension which was far better than the likes of the 118NE and standard 2000. To some extent, the car cannibalised the sale of the ambassador. The stopping power was adequate for a car of this size as it had vacuum assisted disk brakes at the front and drum brakes at rear.

So a car so good and probably ahead of its time in Indian automotive market was phased out from the market. Why you may ask? Well due to the advent of the other companies such as Ford with its Escort, Maruti with its Esteem and Honda with its City,etc.grabbed the market. Also due to ever rising petrol prices, it was pulled out of the market due to its petrol thirsty models.

Written by Gautam V Arora
EDM lover | Tech- Freak | A foodie by soul | Vintage car lover | Believes in today’s junk is tomorrow`s gold

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