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|Body and chassis|
|Class||Large family car|
|Body style||4-door sedan|
|Engine||1.5 L BMC B-Series OHV I4
1.8 L 4ZB1 I4
2.0 L 4FC1 diesel I4
2.0 L 4FC1-T turbodiesel I4
|Transmission||4-speed manual (BMC)
5-speed manual (Isuzu)
|Wheelbase||2,667 mm (105.0 in)|
|Length||4,591 mm (180.7 in)|
|Width||1,699 mm (66.9 in)|
|Height||1,432 mm (56.4 in)|
|Curb weight||1,200 kg (2,600 lb)|
The Hindustan Contessa was a model of car manufactured by Hindustan Motors(HM) of India. It was based on the GM Vauxhall Victor FE that was made till 1979 (called VX Series in the last years of production). When introduced in 1983, it was one of the few Indian manufactured luxury cars in the market. One of its few indigenous competitors was the short-lived Standard 2000 which was based on the Rover SD1 and the Premier 118 NE was based on Fiat 124 .The Contessa was a popular choice amongst government officials. Contessa production ended in 2002.
By the late 1970s, HM was ready to introduce a more modern car in the Indian market after having produced the age-old Ambassador for three decades. They were successful in acquiring the production tooling and technology of the Vauxhall Victor, a car that was phased out in the UK in 1979. The production line was set up alongside the Ambassador at Uttarpara near Kolkata and the first test cars were ready by 1982. Series production was under way by the spring of 1984.
To keep the costs under check, HM Contessa was introduced to the Indian market with the 50 hp (37 kW) 1.5 L BMC B-Series engine which also powered the Ambassador, in a slightly modified form along with the Hindustan four-speed gearbox. The press was upbeat about the roomy interior and plush ride, but was critical about the grossly underpowered engine and equally primitive gearbox. Top speed was only around 125 km/h (78 mph), although there was also version with higher 8.3:1 compression which offered 54 hp (40 kW).
By the late eighties, Hindustan had tied-up with Isuzu of Japan and started manufacturing their 1.8 L 4ZB1 petrol engine and matching five-speed gearbox for installation in the Contessa. The new car was called the Contessa Classic with distinctive "CLASSIC" and "1.8GL" badging on the trunk lip. The car was an instant success and set a new standard for refinement, power and luxury in the Indian market. The BMC-engined model was phased out in short order. The car can achieve an increased top speed of 160 km/h.
Even though the Contessa was based on a 1970s Vauxhall Victor, the interior was surprisingly quiet and the seats were extremely comfortable for the passengers. The basic design of Contessa has remained the same throughout its life, though HM made minor updates throughout the life of the model. Numerous features like fuel injection, power windows, power steering, fat bumpers, upgraded headlights, air conditioning, etcetera, were introduced in phases to keep the car appealing to the premium customer.
In the 1990s, Hindustan started manufacturing the 2.0 L Isuzu 4FC1 diesel engine that came to power the Contessa Diesel. It as well was an instant success. A turbodiesel version was also introduced a few years later.
However, after the advent of more modern cars from GM, Ford, Fiat, Tata etc., the demand for the Contessa began to wane. Maruti Suzuki has grabbed the lion's share of the market and the intense competition between the new auto manufacturers brought modern fuel-efficient cars to the Indian marketplace in the late 1990s. The constant rise of petrol prices was the final nail in the coffin for the now comparably thirsty Contessa, which was phased out in 2002. Towards the end of production, there were three versions of this car; 1.8 GLX (Isuzu petrol), 2.0 DLX (Isuzu diesel) and 2.0 TD (Isuzu turbodiesel).
The car is known for its rear seat comfort. There are a handful of enthusiasts that maintain Contessas in original condition. To them, only Contessa can be hailed as a true "Indian Muscle Car" owing to its rear-wheel drive platform and coke-bottle styling that could be perceived as reminiscent of American Muscle cars of the 1960s and 70s.
The specifications of the petrol engined Contessa are as follows:
Engine (1800 Isuzu)
- Type - Inline-four, SOHC with MPFI
- Fuel - petrol
- Capacity - 1,817 cc
- Bore / Stroke - 84 / 82 mm
- Compression Ratio - 8.5 : 1
- Max. Power - 75 HP at 5,000 rpm
- Max. Torque - 13.8 Kgm at 3,000 rpm
- Cooling - Water-cooled
- Clutch Type- Dry Disc;
- Diameter- 215mm;
- Gear Box- All synchromesh ; 5 speed gearbox ; including overdrive;
- Gear Ratios-
- 1st - 3.737:1
- 2nd - 1.963:1
- 3rd - 1.364:1
- 4th - 1.000:1
- 5th - 0.776:1
- Reverse - 3.402:1
Suspension was the major cause of concern in this car. The soft rear suspension, while giving a good ride, had a problem of bottoming out on sharp bumps. The multi-link set up was highly prone for misalignment and changing the suspension arms is still a headache for mechanics.
This is the first Indian made vehicle to have vacuum assisted disc brakes.
- Type - Hydraulic, dash mounted, tandem master cylinder with Servo assisted front disc 228.6 mm dia, drums on rear wheels
- Parking - Rear wheels