Ten old cars that look great modified

The thing about cars from the recent past is that before attaining their classic status, they go through a phase of being abused and ignored. The ones which survive this transitional phase could go on to become classics in future, but there’s another route that a lot of owners and enthusiasts take, and that is modifying the said cars. More often than not, this is a low cost affair, hence there are quite a few examples of such cars. Let us have a look.

Maruti Zen

SpeedSport's Maruti Zen Carbon 1


A tuner favourite, the Maruti Zen has come a long way from just being a premium alternative to the 800. It’s low slung, drives well, and if you don’t find the 1-litre unit powerful enough, can accomodate a 1.3 or a 1.6-litre engine in its engine bay. Modifications go beyond that, of course, but are mostly mechanical. Largely because the jelly bean shape was a classic right from the day it was out, so to make the Zen look better, all you need is a pair of good looking alloys. Other modifications include two-door conversions (if not working on a Zen Carbon or Steel), use of wide fenders, removal of excess weight, etc.

Mahindra MM540

Mahindra MM540 DP


Before the Mahindra Thar made its way to a lot of enthusiasts’ garages, it was the MM540 DP and the MM550 ruling enthusiasts’ hearts. The MM540 is more common, still easier to acquire, and can be a real looker. In fact, it can go on to look as good if not better than the Thar, if modified right.

MM540 DP modified


Hindustan Contessa

HM Contessa Modified


Based on the Vauxhall Victor, the Contessa isn’t just the muscle car that Indians couldn’t get, it’s got a wider appeal than that. And while Hindustan Motors couldn’t tap the opportunity, the car slowly seems to be getting in safer hands. A lot of modifiers are after the whole muscle car look and going forth with that, while connoisseurs are trying to bring back the glory by restoring their examples to stock state.

Hindustan Motors Contessa



Premier 118NE modified


Based on the Fiat 124, and powered by a Nissan engine, the 118NE was a successful –  if not as successful as the Premier Padmini – product in the line-up. Restored examples can make anyone go weak in the knees, but there’s a huge potential for the car in the modified market as well. The fairly simple design allows for easy mods – period alloys, big fog lamps, wider fenders… You know where this is headed.

Honda City VTEC

Honda City VTEC


It wasn’t until the VTEC came along that the City started to look so good. With a boot spoiler, ‘twin’ exhausts, and wheels that still (one and a half decades later) look among the best, the City VTEC was as desirable as it could get. Tuners still love it, and finding a well-kept example won’t be a problem, either. Modifications range from aesthetic upgrades to out and out performance makeovers – the latter includes engine swaps as well.

Mitsubishi Lancer

Mitsubishi Lancer modified India


The City and the Lancer were two cars instrumental in making us crave for JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) products in India. While there’s no Mitsubishi saloon on sale in India, but the last one that the brand sold – the Cedia – went unnoticed, almost. But it’s a totally opposite story if we talk about the modified versions. While the current day midsize saloons might struggle in terms of looks when modified, the Lancer pulls it off cleanly.

Maruti Suzuki Baleno


Maruti Baleno modified


Not as celebrated as the City, but the Baleno was a very potent product back in the day. It sat right on top of Maruti’s line up (where the Ciaz is currently), and was loved by the enthusiasts. Like the other cars from its segment mentioned above, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno managed to look better in its modified avatar. It also spawned an estate version (called Baleno Altura), which a lot of fans still long for.

Maruti Gypsy

Maruti Suzuki Gypsy


The armed forces might continue to use the Gypsy, and the same goes for the off-road enthusiasts, but sadly the market had rejected the vehicle long ago. The reason was simple – on the road, the Gypsy was far from flawless, while the only people it really catered to were far fewer in number.

It has an aura that modern day off-roaders might not get, but add some personal touches to the Gypsy, and it becomes one of the coolest vehicles around. Finding one, thankfully, isn’t too difficult, yet.

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia modified


A looker in its heyday, the Octavia has been on the radar right from the day the company decided to cease its production in India. The first generation (in India) car had a demeanour that cars today aren’t able to match, especially once you’re behind the wheel. What ensure it a place on this list is the extent to which it can be modified without harming its internals. Pete’s has shown it in the past, and that’s a testament to what the car is capable of.

Mercedes Benz W124

Mercedes Benz AMG W124 Hammer

Said to be over-engineered for its time, the W124 marked the change in the Mercedes Benz’s design direction. Although it remains pretty much stock in India, with a few examples being subjected to distasteful alloy wheel and light conversion mods, but it’s just a huge opportunity for modifiers and modern classic owners. The factory-spec ‘Hammer’ in the picture above shows the true potential of the car.