THE GENIUS OF KARI
evo India|May 2021
A beautiful balance of power vs grip marks out the McDowell 1000, the last indigenous sports car to be raced in India and a reminder of the engineering genius that was S Karivardhan. We drive one of only two still in existence
SIRISH CHANDRAN

THE FISSME MIGHT BE S KARIVARDHAN’S most important and longest lasting legacy but his body of work was vast, spanning not just racing but rallying, engineering and had he not passed away in a microlight accident in 1995, his kit cars might also have hit the road. Speaking to people in the know what’s clear is that the widely acclaimed father of Indian motorsport had a vision unlike anybody else. He realised that Indian motorsport needed reliable, economical and safe race cars — all built to the same standards so as to let driver skill shine through — and that led to the creation of the FISSME which every notable racer of the ’90s and 2000s cut their teeth on. And then he realised that if sponsors were to remain in the sport they needed more space to flout their logos and thus came about this race car, the McDowell 1000.

Active from 1991 till 1995, this two-seater was a throwback to the Formula Indian that was cheered on by the 60,000 plus crowd that thronged the Sholavaram air strip. Those sports cars, as they were then called, were gradually giving way to single seaters but internationally they remained popular, which inspired Kari’s follow up to the FISSME. And because it was backed by Vijay Mallya’s McDowell, right from the start he kept sponsor interest in mind while designing the car.

The expansive bodywork particularly the side pods, relative of course to the dainty FISSME, was done to ensure enough and more visibility for sponsors, and the cars themselves were called the McDowell 1000 (MCD 1000). The one you see here is version 2; the very first build had even more advertising space with covered back wheels. This series was also envisaged as a step up on the FISSME (Formula Indian Single Seater Maruti Engine) which was powered by the 800c engine from the Maruti 800. Maruti gave the 4-cylinder 1000cc engine from the Gypsy along with its 4-speed gearbox and the engine was kept, in the interests of reliability, absolutely stock save for the exhaust headers and removal of the air intake. This was of course the carburetted engine and made 42bhp — for perspective the FISSME made 37bhp but because it was lighter, the lap time was three-quarters to a second quicker than the MCD 1000 round the MMRT.

IT WAS GREAT FUN TO DRIVE, PARTICULARLY EASY TO DRIVE FAST AND LOOSE

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