Online communities bond over the Contessa. They periodically organise rallies and exchange restoration notes

When he is at the wheel, R. Gunasekar senses admiring glances coming his way. Delusions of grandeur? No, he drives around in a Contessa, a car that is getting scarcer and is beginning to strike most people as a curiosity.

As this machine was rolling off the Hindustan Motors’ assembly line as recently as 2002, this is rather surprising, and saddening. As any automobile enthusiast following the Contessa would tell you, many of these cars have gone to the scrapyard.

On the positive side, there are online communities that bond over the Contessa. They periodically organise rallies and exchange restoration notes. As these groups connect on popular social networking sites such as Facebook and on reputed automobile forums such as Team-BHP.com, they are capable of drawing other Contessa owners into their fold.

“These online groups are a hope for the Contessa: they may keep the remaining cars from going to the scrapyard,” says Gunasekar, who is not very active in any of these forums, but is in touch with those who are.

Among the prominent ones is CCI-Conty Club India (on Facebook), which organised a meet-up for Contessa owners from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu at Nilgiris in 2013. The event saw a turnout of around 20 cars; the Club is reported to be planning another meet-up shortly, this time in Bangalore.

“Most of the people in the various Contessa clubs are in their early-20s to mid-40s age group. These are people who have experienced the car as children or as young adults: having seen it driven or driven it themselves. Their passion for the Contessa is incredible,” says Gunasekar, 34.

A good number of them have a grip on the character of the car and seem fully capable of spearheading restoration projects – a healthy sign, considering a last-ditch effort is required to save this Indian car.

Gunasekar, who is assistant manager at Popular Motor Corporation and a car freak from the cradle, is similarly hands-on about his 1997 Contessa that has a 2.0-litre, inline-four diesel engine and twin-lamp headlights.

“My father runs a garage and I have seen Contessa cars being serviced there,” he says. “Ambassador and Contessa have a good number of interchangeable parts, especially engine parts. To service the engine in my car, I can use the parts of a corresponding Ambassador diesel engine. It is the same with the gear-box. Front brake pads, brake booster and a few suspension bushes are among other interchangeable parts. For those that are not, I go to the second hand market at Pudupet.”

If he still does not find what he is looking for, he knows where to turn to.

Says Gunasekar, “I just have to go to any of the online forums. They are certain to be helpful.”

(Prince Frederick is a staff writer for MetroPlus and MetroPlus Melange)