Foreign Affairs: Chinkara Roadster S, India

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
foreign affairs chinkara roadster s india

The Indian auto industry is … unusual. Most personal transport is via motorcycle or scooter, but there is a history of car production spanning seven decades. As the country was one of Britain’s largest colonies, it’s not surprising that most of these cars are derived from English ancestors.

Enter the Chinkara Roadster S: an Indian interpretation of the iconic Lotus Seven, built with rough roads and ease of servicing in mind.

The Hindustan Ambassador was an adapted Morris Oxford from the ’50s, and was a top-selling model until recently. Standard Motor built old Triumphs. Tata, while homegrown, now owns Jaguar Land Rover. Fittingly, the first large non-English firm to make a significant impact in the country was Maruti Suzuki, best known as a motorcycle manufacturer.

But, sports cars have not been particularly important in this market, as the road network is relatively undeveloped. I can only find one such enthusiast car, again inspired by the UK — the Chinkara Roadster S.

Lotus built their cars by raiding parts bins, reasoning that developing minor bits was a waste when the big firms had already done so. Chinkara has done the same, by sourcing suspension from Maruti Suzuki, and a 114-horsepower 1.8-liter four cylinder from Isuzu. These are apparently readily available and easily repaired throughout the subcontinent.

Styling is a bit funky, as the ride height, long-travel suspension and corresponding high front fenders betray the Seven-esque styling. The website notes a great deal of customization is available for the Lotus clone, and that the company is an expert in fiberglass manufacturing.

The interior looks a bit tight. The above video shows a road test of the Roadster S from several years ago, where the seemingly-average sized tester had to remove a shoe to work the clutch. The steering wheel location looks worrying as well, leaving the right knee hanging out of the cockpit.

I can’t quite tell if this manufacturer remains in business, as there are no listings of dealers or any recent road tests that I can find. It looks like the Chinkara would have cost around $11,000 USD when new, which looks like a bargain compared to $40,000 for a new Caterham.

I’m afraid, however, that the build quality appears to be worse than what is found on most backyard-built Locost Sevens, built from scraps and junkyard bits. In that context, the Chinkara Roadster S is no bargain.

[Images: Chinkara]

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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2 of 9 comments
  • TonyJZX TonyJZX on Mar 14, 2016

    They have an aviation dept. for those of you who truly have a deathwish. Otherwise I dont have a problem with the jacked up Lotus 7 clone. Unless you think $30k is a fine price for a Caterham 160. Looking at the interior its clear its made up of Ebay china bits and pieces but you werent actually expecting quality for your $11k were you?

  • Bunter1 Bunter1 on Mar 15, 2016

    Makes me think of the old British trials cars. It just needs a set of "fiddle" brake levers next to the driver and it would be ready to go. Cheerio, Bunter

  • Jeff S I don't believe gm will die but that it will continue to shrink in product and market share and it will probably be acquired by a foreign manufacturer. I doubt gm lacks funds as it did in 2008 and that they have more than enough cash at hand but gm will not expand as it did in the past and the emphasis is more on profitability and cutting costs to the bone. Making gm a more attractive takeover target and cut costs at the expense of more desirable and reliable products. At the time of Farago's article I was in favor of the Government bailout more to save jobs and suppliers but today I would not be in favor of the bailout. My opinions on gm have changed since 2008 and 2009 and now I really don't care if gm survives or not.
  • Kwik_Shift I was a GM fan boy until it ended in 2013 when I traded in my Avalanche to go over to Nissan.
  • Stuart de Baker I didn't bother to read this article. I'll wait until a definitive headline comes out, and I'll be surprised if Tesla actually produces the Cybertruck. It certainly looks impractical for both snowy and hot sunny weather.
  • Stuart de Baker This is very interesting information. I was in no danger of buying a Tesla. I love my '08 Civic (stick), and it feels just as responsive as when I bought it 11 years ago with 35k on the clock (now 151k), and barring mishaps, I plan to keep it for the next 25 years or so, which would put me into my mid-90s, assuming I live that long. On your information, I will avoid renting Teslas.
  • RHD The only people who would buy this would be those convinced by a website that they are great, and order one sight-unseen. They would have to have be completely out of touch with every form of media for the last year. There might actually be a few of these people, but not very many. They would also have to be completely ignorant of the Hyundai Excel. (Vinfast seems to make the original Excel look like a Camry in comparison.)