Sipani Montana

Car of the Day #116: 1987 Sipani Montana

Sipani Montana
Sipani Montana • source unknown

This post started as one on the Reliant Kitten (wiki) but, well, the cat's out of the bag: the Sipani Montana is just a Kitten with two extra doors…

…and it was assembled in India, in the ’80s.

The 5-door Sipani Montana evolved from the 3-door Sipani Dolphin, which was (nearly) identical to the Reliant Kitten. Some sources say that because its competition was even more slow, the Dolphin was quite the hot hatch in its day…I think it may have had a poorly-vented cabin.

At first glance, my eyes saw it as a Subaru Justy that'd been beefed-up by Brazil's Gurgel…or something like that. In reality, Tom Karen of Ogle Design penned this hatchlet.

Introduced in 1987, it was a bit behind the times in terms of design by the late '80s, but buyers could expect a Reliant 848-cc 4-cylinder engine with 41 horsepower. An awful Mitsubishi-sourced diesel (intended for a mini tractor) was available later in its run, as detailed by Máté Petrány in Road & Track:

“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.” – Máté Petrány, Road & Track

Want it to hurt even more? Read the article or check out this old comment on Jalopnik written by the neighbour of a Montana owner.

It may seem trivial to write about a car like this, an old design that was shipped off to a different market once its useful life was over in its first.

As they say, 99% of all life that has existed on earth is now extinct, and this seems broadly true in the car world as well. If car collectors were committed to preserving rarities over cashing in on investments, finding a mint Montana in 2024 would be closer to a Holy Grail car than a low-km Pagani Zonda.

Sipani Montana rally car • Road & Track

The Montana may not have won the Mille Miglia or set a world endurance record. But the little fibreglass 5-door existed, and was even rallied in period. That we have a few thousand of them around is a pretty big achievement; if you don't think so, try setting up your own manufacturing venture.

Is it worthy of praise? By our standards, probably not. But I think it's cool it was attempted in the first place — without dreamers, the world would be a terrible place.

Sipani Dolphin • deRivas & Ives magazine

READ NEXT: The ever-lovely deRivas & Ives magazine (also hosted using Ghost just like!) have written the world's best on-the-ground stories of Sipani, including a two-part series on the Dolphin and its legacy as part of India's automotive history. Check both parts out, they're great:

The Sipani Dolphin Adventure—Part 1
The story of how Sipani Automobile’s first four-wheeled prototype car, and how the Sipani Dolphin, came by
The Sipani Dolphin Adventure—Part 2
The story of how Sipani Automobile’s first four-wheeled prototype car and the Sipani Dolphin came by


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