Hindustan Motors made its first sedan based on the GM Vauxhall Victor VX, the Contessa in 1982. It was introduced in the Indian Market in 1983 and was one of the few India-made luxury cars of its era. The only competitor was the Standard 2000, that was loosely modeled on the Rover SD1. It was a very popular car among the elite Indians. Contessa’s production ceased in 2002.
By the end of 1970s, Hindustan Motors had decided to introduce a modern car in the Indian car market. It already had its own successful contender for the Contessa, the Ambassador. Production began in the same Uttarpara plant.
Initially the Contessa was to be powered by the 1.5l engine that was already being used in the Ambassador. With changing times, a more powerful engine was needed and HM decided to introduce the 1.8l petrol engine by Isuzu. The 4 speed gearbox was also upgraded to a more modern 5 speed one. The new car was rebranded as the Contessa Classic. The Classic was destined to be an instant success, and created a new breed of luxury sedans in India.
The interiors of the Contessa was surprisingly plush and quiet. It was the second Indian made car to sport a full independent suspension after the Standard Herald. Contessa had seen minor changes throughout its lifetime and still remains an Indian classic among many enthusiast. Later versions had air conditioning, power steering, power windows.
In the 1990s HM upgraded the Contessa with a modern 2.0l diesel engine, which became an overnight success.