Foreign Affairs: Chinkara Roadster S, India

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

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.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • 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

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