DIA 6479 is an iconic number plate. It belonged to the first-ever Maruti 800 that was sold in India. No less than the Indian prime minister of that time, Indira Gandhi, handed over the keys of the first Maruti 800 to Mr. Harpal Singh, who owned the car for nearly decades.
His death in 2010 meant that the car ended up on the street, and in bad shape. It was last seen rusting outside Mr Singh’s family home in Green Park, Delhi.
Now, though happier times await the car. It’s being restored at a Maruti service center, and here are a few pictures of the India’s first Maruti 800, which is now being put together to factory shape, part by part. We’ll bring you more details of this restoration job once it’s complete.
The Maruti 800, also known as the SS80, was the first car that India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki (then Maruti Udyog) rolled out.
The car was meant to be a modern, affordable and fuel efficient alternative to the Hindustan Ambassadors and Premier Padminis that dominated India’s road scape in the 1980s. The Maruti 800 became an instant hit, and was in production for nearly 3 decades.
Images courtesy Team-BHP
The Maruti 800 started off with a 796cc, 3 cylinder F8D petrol engine, which to this day sees use in various Maruti cars such as the Alto 800 and the Omni. Such has been the bomb proof reliability and low maintenance nature of this engine that it has powered the maximum number of cars sold in India. On the Maruti 800, this engine was offered in multiple states of tune.
From 35 Bhp on the first generation 800 to up to 45 Bhp on the 5 speed-MPFI model, this engine gained power and torque over the years. In its present form on the Maruti Alto 800, a heavily reworked version of the F8D engine now makes 47 Bhp-69 Nm. Over the years, the petrol engine gave rise to LPG-Petrol and CNG-Petrol variants. While the engine started out with a 4 speed manual gearbox, the final years of the 800 saw it get a 5 speed manual gearbox, which was carried forward by the Maruti Alto.
Emissions didn’t kill the Maruti 800. Sibling rivalry did.
Yes, the Maruti 800 used to outsell the Alto – its replacement – for many years when both cars sold side by side. The cheaper Maruti 800 had immense brand recall and was much preferred in semi-urban and rural areas of India even though the Alto was more powerful, looked more contemporary and offered more features.
The Maruti 800’s strong sales even after the Alto’s debut prompted the automaker to cull production of the former to popularize the latter. So, in 2010, Maruti stopped producing the 800, and finally the Alto took over the status as India’s best selling car – a status that belonged to the 800 for years.
The Maruti Alto 800, in its current form will not carry on for too long as tightening safety norms mean that the car will have to be heavily modified to comply. The Future S concept shown at the 2018 Auto Expo could be the form of the bew Alto.
Maruti is working on an all-new Alto hatchback for the Indian market, which we believe will continue using the F8D petrol engine, but in Bharat Stage 6 emission norms compliant form. So, even though the Maruti 800 is long gone, some part of it – the F8D engine – promises to live until all-electric powertrains kill the internal combustion engine.