Never heard of them?

Unusual cars with interesting histories

The Chinkara Roadster - does it remind you of the Lotus Seven?

Chinkara Roadster

Chinkara Motors was a company in Mumbai, India selling new and used cars, lorries, trailers and boats. They also assembled a car which bears more than a passing resemblance to Colin Chapman's original Lotus Seven sports car, called the Chinkara Roadster.

The Lotus was a simple, lightweight sports/racing car which cost relatively little to buy thanks to the fact that many of the parts were sourced from existing popular cars - it even utilised a 40hp Ford sidevalve engine, hardly the most exotic power unit then available, but which thanks to the light weight of the car (and a bit of Chapman's magical tuning) it could still outclass many a more powerful, and expensive, car. The rights to the design of the car was bought by Caterham Cars (named after the town of the same name in Surrey) who still produce both kits and fully assembled cars under the Caterham Seven name, although after so many alterations and improvements Colin Chapman would probably not recognise it. however they still own the rights to manufacture vehicles to the Lotus Seven specification, a right that they have been forced to defend through the courts in the past.

Whether or not Chinkara Motors (which no longer seems to be in business) was granted a licence to build their derivative is a question I cannot answer.

However; one of Chinkara's main activities was building boats so they had the expertise to produce strong, lightweight bodies for their cars. The rest of the cars came from parts from other cars, such as the Isuzu 1800 cc four-cylinder Isuzu engine, which was widely used in the popular Hindustan Ambassador, and brakes, steering and suspension from the Maruti Suzuki Alto, which was made by Suzuki for the Indian market.

The use of widely available parts like this meant that not only could the car be put together economically, and spares be readily available, but they were already tried and tested components which could be relied upon.

The basic car was a doorless two seater with a lightweight fibreglass body on top of a tubular steel chassis; typical of the Lotus Seven although the chassis was somewhat stronger and heavier than Mr Chapman would have liked; after all it had to cope with Indian roads which were not of the same sort of quality as the race tracks that he used to prepare his cars for! Chinkara added bucket seats, three-point safety belts, a wooden steering wheel, and a basic soft top; but no other modern technologies such as power steering, anti-lock brakes or traction control. After all, this was a sports/racing car, pure and simple.

Performance was very creditable thanks to their adherence to Chapman's principles of lightweight and simplicity; the Roadster was claimed to be capable of a maximum speed of 116 mph, with an acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h within 6.7 seconds.

This car was available for sale in 2011 but the company's accounts were not continued after 2013 so whether or not they are still in business is questionable - perhaps a reader of this can enlighten me.

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