The car that tried to steal Maruti 800’s market and failed: Sipani Dolphin, super rare car!

Many of us have cherished memories of the Maruti 800 as our first car and India’s first compact hatchback. However, it was not the Maruti 800 but another car that pioneered the concept of small entry-level hatchbacks in India. That car was the Sipani Dolphin, which predates the Maruti 800 but was overshadowed by its immense success. Finding a well-maintained Sipani Dolphin today is as rare as finding a needle in a haystack. However, we recently came across a beautifully restored Dolphin from Kerala that has reignited memories of this iconic small car for India.

A YouTube video by “Wheels On Road” showcases this well-preserved Sipani Dolphin from Kerala, which still runs smoothly and has been diligently cared for by its current owner. For those unfamiliar, Sipani Automobiles was an Indian car manufacturer based in Bengaluru that commenced operations in 1973. While the Badal is often considered the company’s first small car, the Dolphin arrived as a more comprehensive offering for the masses.

Sipani introduced the Dolphin in 1982, primarily targeting the South Indian markets near its manufacturing facility. Essentially a rebadged version of the UK-based Reliant Kitten, the Dolphin featured fiberglass bodywork all around, which was quite unique for its time.

However, following the launch of the Maruti 800 in 1983 with its reliable Japanese engineering and metal bodywork, potential buyers became skeptical about the quality and durability of the Dolphin’s fiberglass body. The Sipani Dolphin remained on sale for the next five years, finding a limited number of buyers in the South Indian states.

Dependable four-cylinder engine

The car that tried to steal Maruti 800’s market and failed: Sipani Dolphin, super rare car!

Nevertheless, what worked in favor of the Sipani Dolphin was its powerful and dependable engine. In comparison to its direct competitor, the Maruti 800, which featured a three-cylinder 796cc engine, the Dolphin boasted a four-cylinder 848cc petrol engine.

With an additional cylinder ensuring greater refinement and a larger capacity resulting in more power, the Dolphin’s 848cc engine claimed a maximum power output of 38 bhp. Thanks to its fiberglass body, the Sipani Dolphin was a lightweight car, weighing only 505 kg. It even came equipped with an air conditioner, which was considered a luxury in those days.

After a lackluster performance in the Indian car market, the Sipani Dolphin was discontinued in 1987 and succeeded by the Sipani Montana. However, the new model was essentially a redesigned Montana, featuring a station wagon design with an extended rear overhang and a more angular appearance.