When you find out that a company started out as "Sunrise Automotive Industries" in the seventies, you know that this story is going to land in Asia. But not in China, the birthplace of the Great Wall Coolbear, nor in South Korea, where the Lotus Elan was once sold as a Kia. Instead, for this race car, the rally stages were set in the south-eastern corner of India, Bangalore.
Sunrise Automotive Industries Ltd., known as SAIL to its friends, was founded in 1975. The fiberglass warriors of south-east India started out with a four-door three-wheeler called the Badal. Our buddy about that wonder extensively, but the company's fine work didn't stop there.
Since the king of fiberglass cars was England's Reliant, and India had close ties to the former empire, the company now known as Sipani Automobiles Ltd. looked nowhere else for inspiration. Sipani first made a four-wheeled version of the Badal called the Sail, then went on to produce a copy of the Reliant Kitten.
If you don't remember the British Kitten, don't blame yourself. Only 4074 were made in its seven-year run. However, its Indian copycat known as the Sipani Dolphin was even rarer. As well as light. And as we all know, lightness equals sportiness. Just ask anybody driving a Kia Elan!
1987 may have been the year of the Ferrari F40, but it was also the year of the rabbit, and the Sipani Dolphin at the South India Rally, sponsored by MRF Tyres, driven by Vicky Chandok and co-driver Manoj Dalal.
Yet despite all the Dolphin's motorsport heritage, Sipani's sales hit a brick wall because of the arrival of the brand new Suzuki Maruti 800.
Sipani's somewhat desperate answer was the five-door Montana, which was powered by a 3-cylinder diesel originally developed by Mitsubishi-Shakti to be used in mini tractors. The Montana also looked like a twisted plastic version of the Daihatsu Charade.
Less than 300 were made, probably due to the reasons listed by Kinja-commenter :
Sipani Automobiles then went on to make some of the most horrible cars ever made! I remember my neighbor having the Montana, which had a 3-cylinder diesel motor that made the whole car rock at idle....I still remember how it got all the neighborhood kids together since it needed a push every time. And, it had 6 different keys, one for each front door, one for the glove box, one for the fuel door, one for the rear hatch and one, incredibly, for the hood, which had a keyhole at the center of it. What a piece of crap it was!
But if you think its sad state in the late eighties meant Sipani was out of the automotive game by the nineties, remember that it was once part of a company called the Rover Group, formerly known as British Leyland. They believed it would be a great deal if Sipani could build Rover Montegos from CKD-kits for the Indian market. You know, the sedans that started out as Austins.
283 badly made Montagos later, Sipani was done. For good.