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India at 75: Iconic cars made in India after independence [1973 – 1992]

Continuing with our ongoing series, we now introduce you to some of the marquee brands that made a splash between 1973- 1992. This was the period that saw the resurgence of some of the older heroes and emergence of new players.

India at 75: Iconic cars made in India after Independence [1973-1992]
India at 75: Iconic cars made in India after Independence [1973-1992]

On the occasion of India celebrating her 75th independence year, we rewind the clock and take a look at vehicles that were launched from 1973 to 1992. While the first decade was all about updating the models from the 60s like the Ambassador, Premier, Standard Herald and Willy’s clone from Mahindra, it was the 80s that witnessed the launch of new cars entering the market. 

The 1980s saw Maruti Suzuki set up shop in India and become the leader in the automotive field by launching an array of affordable and reliable cars. This period also saw India’s muscle car from Hindustan Motors and also both Tata and Mahindra took the path less travelled and introduced SUVs.

As part of our ‘India at 75’ iconic car series and you can read the first part and the rest of the stories by clicking HERE.

India at 75: Iconic cars made in India after independence [1973 – 1992]

Hindustan Contessa (1976)

The Hindustan Contessa was manufactured by Hindustan Motors. It was developed from Vauxhall Victor FE, which had been developed from the 1976-78 Vauxhall VX Series.  As a luxury car manufactured in India, it was a rarity when introduced in 1983.

When it was launched in 1984, the car cost just Rs 83,000 but it boasted a powerful engine, killer looks, spacious interiors, and a commanding presence on the road. The car comes equipped with a 49 bhp engine that was also shared in the Ambassador. Additionally, it was a popular choice amongst government officials.

Also Read: India at 75: Iconic cars made in India after Independence [2013 – 2022]

Maruti 800 (1983)

This hatchback truly changed the picture of the automotive market in India. Launched in 1983, the 800, not only let the masses dare to dream of owning a car but also reassured them that owning a vehicle is an affordable and trouble-free experience. Based on the Suzuki Fronte, the 800 was powered by a light, fuel-efficient and trouble-free 796cc three-cylinder petrol engine. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the 800 soon became the lifeline of India and continued to be in production till 2004.

Maruti Suzuki Omni Van (1984)

The Van was a brilliant stroke of genius from Maruti only a year after the launch of the 800. It was powered by the same 796cc engine, but it was an instant hit as it offered more seating space and luggage space. This is also the reason why this microvan did very well in the commercial sector. The Van was later renamed the Omni in 1988. The Omni was so popular that Maruti finally decided to retire it as recent as 2019.

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Maruti Suzuki Gypsy (1985)

Maruti decided to move out of its comfort zone and decided to explore the off-road segment with Gypsy. Based on the long wheelbase Suzuki Jimny SJ40/410 series, this brand new vehicle offered a four-wheel-drive system and was powered by a brand new 970cc four-cylinder petrol engine. With a 1-litre moniker, the new powertrain churned out 45bhp and was mated to a four-speed manual transmission. With its tough character and never-say-die spirit, the Gypsy become very popular among the Indian Armed Forces, Police and other law enforcement agencies and also rallyists.

Tata Sierra (1991)

Based on the Tata Telcoline (pick-up launched in 1988), the Tata Sierra was the first off-road Sport Utility vehicle produced by the Indian company and was launched in 1991. It shares mechanical components with the Telcoline, the naturally aspirated, 2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine as well as the front facia and internal dashboard. This mid-size SUV was one of the first cars for private transport in India. It was capable of handling all kinds of roads, especially uneven ones, as it was built on the Tata ”X2 platform”. 

Also Read: India at 75: Iconic cars made in India after Independence [2002-2012] 

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