Hindustan Contessa

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Not to be confused with Hino Contessa.
Hindustan Contessa
Hindustan Contessa Diesel (Goa, 1994).jpg
1990s Hindustan Contessa Diesel (facelift model with locally redesigned bumpers)
Manufacturer Hindustan Motors
Production 1984–2002
Body and chassis
Class Large family car
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Related Vauxhall VX Series
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 which was manufactured by Hindustan Motors (HM) of India from 1984 to 2002. It was based on the Vauxhall VX Series of 1976 to 1978, itself a development of the Vauxhall Victor FE. 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.


By the late 1970s, HM was ready to introduce a more modern car in the Indian market after having produced the ageing Ambassador for three decades. They were successful in acquiring the production tooling and technology of the Vauxhall VX Series, a car that was phased out in the UK in 1978.[1] 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.[2]

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.[2] 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).[2]

Isuzu-engined era[edit]

Rear of a Contessa Classic 1.8 GL

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 design, 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 specifications of the petrol engined Contessa are as follows:

Engine (1800 Isuzu)[edit]

  • Type - Inline-four, SOHC with MPFI
  • Fuel - petrol
  • Capacity - 1,817 cc
  • Bore / Stroke - 84 / 82 mm
  • Compression Ratio - 8.5 : 1
  • Max. Power - 85 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


  1. ^ Vauxhall V72 Platform - 94000 FE VX Series aka Hindustan Contessa, vauxpedianet.uk2sitebuilder.com Retrieved 5 May 2016
  2. ^ a b c Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (5 March 1987). Automobil Revue 1987 (in German and French). 82. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag AG. p. 312. ISBN 3-444-00458-3.