It was the 1980s. The only two cars that were popular were the HM Ambassador and the Premier Padmini. Maruti 800 was a legend in the making and it had just made its way into the Indian market. Something was needed in the luxury market to please the rich, who had to try to import luxury cars from brands like Mercedes or Range Rover because India was not a globalized economy and there was little to no foreign competition. And the competition consisted of Indian brands that reverse engineer cars from other foreign car companies, as I mentioned in the 800 blog post. Also, it was the only option HM had as the 800 turned the Indian auto industry upside down. It was so practical, economical, light and decades ahead of other cars, that people saw no point in buying a gas guzzler like the HM Ambassador. HM was feeling the heat, quite literally! So, what did they do?
Thankfully, HM understood the plight of the rich and high-ranking civil servants and already had a project underway. In 1984, this beautiful car, HM Contessa, was introduced in our country. It was meant to be a premium option for the rich, not an affordable one. Unlike the nearly three-decade-old Ambassador, the Contessa was only less than a decade old! So, it was actually more advanced! Boomer jokes aside, the Contessa is still a legend. It still lives on in the hearts of Indian fans. What makes it so special is that its design and its lines show that it was, and still is, India’s first and only true muscle car, and by the way, it was rear-wheel drive! Yes, you heard me right! Not “American muscle”, “Indian muscle”! Vin Diesel would be proud!
But what do I not like about it? What could be better than that? Firstly, the low build quality from HM as they didn’t give the car the love it deserved. Second, the engine. Instead of giving this true muscle car an American Chevy big-block V-8, they gave it a mediocre, agricultural diesel (though the Isuzu petrol was good). But still, at least we have bragging rights for having our own muscle car. Sadly it is no longer there. It lies lazily on the second-hand market, a sign of untapped potential, which could reach new heights if adopted. You can still buy one used, and modify it, and slap a big-block V-8 in there to make it the true muscle car it’s meant to be. So, if you have something cool, something reddy, will you unleash its spirit, and let it run wild? The choice, my friend, is yours. You have some good money burning a hole in your pocket from killing at work. Second Hand Contessa-Muscle Car, or WagonR? Your turn!