All of you who were born in the late 80s or the early 90s would probably remember the really small number of cars that were on sale in the last two decades of the previous millennium. While things did start improving in the final years of the previous millennium, most of the millennials would remember the really less choice car buyers had back then. Today, we give you a look at the cars that were sold between 1985 to 1995.
The Hindustan Ambassador was launched in 1958 and was on sale till 2014. As an 80s or a 90s kid, you would have seen a lot of these on the road. The Ambassador had British roots. It was based on the Morris Oxford Series III, which was made by Morris Motors Limited at Cowley, Oxford in the United Kingdom. The Ambassador is probably the most recognized car of our country.
The Hindustan Contessa was launched in 1984 and was on sale till as recently as 2002. The Contessa is among the most iconic cars to have ever been on sale in India. The Contessa was considered as a car for the ‘VVIPs’. It offered a powerful Isuzu petrol engine and features like power windows, power steering, and air-conditioning.
Fiat Premier Padmini
The Fiat Premier Padmini was on sale in India from 1970 to 1998. It was sold in India by Premier Automobiles Limited under license from Fiat. Initially marketed as the Fiat 1100 Delight, it was renamed as the Premier Padmini in the early 1970s. For a long time, the Fiat Premier Padmini was the only alternative to the Hindustan Ambassador. The Premier Padmini was a stronger performer than the Ambassador and people even used it in car rallying and racing.
Fiat Premier 118NE
Premier launched the Fiat 124 in India in 1985 as the Premier 118NE. For India, Premier used a Nissan-sourced petrol engine and transmission. The Premier 118NE was more stylish and comfortable than the Padmini. Even a diesel engine was launched towards the end of its lifecycle.
The Maruti 800 was launched in 1983 and was on sale till 2014. The original 800 was based on the Suzuki Fronte. It continued to come with a 796cc engine throughout its lifecycle. The 800 was quick to become the people’s car of India and impressed everyone with its peppiness, high fuel efficiency, and easy of maintenance. Maruti Suzuki sold 2.66 million copies of the 800 in India.
The Maruti Omni was lauched in 1984 and is still in production. Akin to the 800, the Omni was quick to find wide acceptance in the country. This vehicle was sold simply as the ‘Maruti Van’ till 1988, after which it was renamed to ‘Maruti Omni’. Someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s would have seen a lot of these dotting our city streets. While the Omni isn’t popular among private car buyers anymore, it’s still a popular model in the commercial vehicle market.
A rather handsome car that most of you would have seen during your childhood is the Maruti Gypsy. Launched in India in 1985, the Gypsy is still available on order. It’s a favourite among the rallyists and has even served various defence forces of the country. The Gypsy is based on the long wheelbase Suzuki Jimny SJ40/410 series.
The Maruti 1000 was launched in 1990. Basically, it was the sedan version of the then-Suzuki Swift. There was a huge waiting period for this car and the cars were allotted through a computerized lottery. The 1000 was considered as the car for the ‘elite’ as it had a sticker price of Rs 3,81,000, which was rather high for that time period. It’s said that the 1000 was simply out of reach for more than 99.5% of the country’s population.
For many of the 90s kids, the Maruti Zen was probably the coolest car around. Launched in 1993, the Zen was based on the Suzuki Vervo Mode, which was also sold as the Suzuki Alto in many parts of the world. However, the Zen was 10 centimeters longer and 10 centimeters wider than the donor car. The word “ZEN” stand for Zero Engine Noise. The Zen got many updates throughout its lifespan. Even today, many car enthusiasts have restored their Zen hatchbacks and use them pretty regularly.
In 1994, the 1000 gave birth to the Esteem. The Esteem came with a more powerful 1.3-litre motor. It looked a lot like the 1000 but a facelift version that came a few years later made the Esteem more stylish. It also received an MPFI version of the 1.3-litre unit. Thanks to its light weight and powerful engine, the Esteem was quick to become a favourite among the Indian rallyists. It was also the highest-selling sedan for several years. Finally, the advent of fresher rivals resulted in the discontinuation of the Esteem in 2007. The Esteem is one sedan every 80s and 90s kid probably still remembers.
The Estate was Telco’s (now Tata Motors) first-ever passenger car. It was launched in 1992 and was much ahead of its time. Back then, it offered features like aircon, power steering, power windows, factory-fitted cassette player and a tachometer. In terms of design, it was loosely based on a Mercedes station wagon of that era. The Estate was powered by a non-turbocharged 1.9-litre diesel engine that produced only 68 PS. The Estate wasn’t too popular among the car buyers, mostly because of its high price tag and low reliability.
Another really stylish car of the 90s is the Tata Sierra. Much like the Estate, the Sierra was ahead of its time. While it looked really handsome, there were not many takers of the 3-door body format. It offered many premium features and had a sufficiently powerful engine. The Tata Sierra is one car from the 90s that we really want to be re-launched in India.
The Tata Sumo was launched in 1994 and remained the most popular MUV in India for many years to come. More than 1,00,000 units of the Sumo were sold between 1994 and 1997. The Sumo was on sale till 2004. It was replaced with the Victa. The Sumo gained a lot of popularity owing to its spacious interior, grunty engine, and ease of maintenance.
The Rover Montego was launched in India in 1991. It was available in two body variants – sedan and station wagon. Not many of you would remember seeing this car as both the body styles were big flops. These cars were brought to India by Bangalore-based Sipani Automobiles. The Rover Montego was basically a rebadged Austin Montego that was launched in its home market in 1984.
Standard 2000 was a luxury car that was launched in the late 80s by the Standard Motor Products of India. The car was a direct rival to the Hindustan Contessa and was meant to be a more affordable option to the imported sedans. The Standard 2000 was based on the Rover SD1. However, not many of these were sold, which means some of you might not remember seeing this car in your childhood.
The Mahindra Armada was launched in 1993 and stayed in production till 2001. In 1998, Mahindra also introduced the more luxurious Armada Grand. The Armada was the first-ever sufficiently refined vehicle from Mahindra and Mahindra. It may be noted here that all the earlier offerings based on the Jeep CJ-5 were highly utilitarian offerings that were meant mostly for commercial use.
Another offering based on the CJ-5 was the Mahindra Marshal. The Marshal was a bare-basic people carrier that was sufficiently rugged and troublefree. It was quite popular in the commercial vehicle market and can be still found in use in many interior parts of the country.
Image sources – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17