Exactly 35 years ago, to this day, the Maruti 800 was revealed in India. The then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi handed over the keys of the very first 800 to Harpal Singh who had paid a handsome sum of Rs 47,500 for the hatchback. This has proven to be one of the most iconic moments in Indian automotive history.
The 800 was a product of Maruti Udyog Limited which was the brainchild of Sanjay Gandhi. The Maruti 800 had a smooth 796cc engine with a monocoque body and space for four adults. The little Maruti was the first made-in-India car to get disc brakes, front-wheel drive, floorshift gears, bucket seats and a plastic moulded dashboard. It was a winning formula that became a hit with the Indian car buyer. The Padminis and Ambassadors of the time suddenly felt like dinosaurs amidst the nippy, light and, crucially, reliable Japanese hatchback.
The Maruti 800 (codename SS80) was launched on December 14, 1983 and was the first of a series of hits from the carmaker. Maruti followed up the 800 with the launch of the Maruti Van in 1984 and the Maruti Gypsy in 1985. The Maruti 1000 saloon was launched in 1990 and provided customers with a car that was spacious, comfortable and reliable. Such was the success of company that in 1997, 8 out of every 10 vehicles sold in India was a Maruti.
Over the course of the 30 years since its launch, the 800 received plenty of facelifts and updates to keep it in line with the more modern cars and yet provide affordable motoring to the masses. On January 18, 2013, the last Maruti 800 rolled off the production line and closed an incredible chapter in not only Maruti’s but the Indian auto industry’s history. More than 2.7 million examples were sold over its life cycle. It really was the car that put India on wheels.