The Maruti Zen (MH410): Jelly Bean Memories

The Maruti Zen – the original shaped (MH410) one, was a huge hit with car buyers. To us, 90’s kids, it was the canvas for our custom-car dreams.

Convertible Zen in Dapoli (Beach Life).jpeg

I’d joined the Mumbai Chapter of the Road Trippers Club on a drive to Dapoli where I chanced upon this drop-top Zen on the beach. The conversion/ mod-job was for more practical purposes, gives as the car was being used for open-top joyrides on the beach, but it was enough for the kid in me to spend the entire day smiling. You see, spotting this Zen had opened up the tap of memories. I sat there, staring at the car as I sipped my morning chai, thinking of all the crazy thoughts that came flooding through my mind.

The Jelly Bean design of the Zen, had a timeless appeal to it. The interiors were sufficiently swish as well, giving aspiring buyers, a delicious upgrade over the M800. Cute and Desirable from every angle, inside and out, it was one of the earliest ‘attainable’ dream cars for me. Part of every teenage khayaali-pulao conversations, the Zen in our minds, was the perfect mod-car platform too.

Cutting Chai on the Beach (Square crop).png

Performance oriented changes began with an engine swap. You see, that 1.0 Litre heart was low on the oomph factor. Naturally then, to consider shoehorning the large hearted 1.3 Litre motor from the Esteem into the engine bay (after some fettling, of-course). This’d be paired with a tuned, (SS) free-flow exhaust system from AutoMech. Disc-brakes on all four ends, some tasty alloys, and stickier rubber would round things up. Suspension duties would be handled by stiffer springs, a strut brace up front and beefier anti-roll bars at both ends. Oh, and if our mind-budget ever went wild, then a custom, rally-spec roll-cage + seat-belts, to complete the package.

Mind you, all that you’ve read so far, was based on our observations and dreams. The result of spending our evening post-play time staring at the Zen in the building compound, before our parents summoned us back home. We had no practical grounding barring the occasional 5-10 minutes of rallying that the TV antenna managed to capture over the air every few months.

Styling wise, the Zen was perfect. We were young though, and perfection could be tweaked. Inspired by the topless posters of imported exotics that covered our walls, a convertible/drop-top was the natural way to go with the Zen. The idea to me, – being open to the clear blue skies, – having the wind flowing over the top of our heads – being unrestrained and free, was hugely liberating.

Cars Lined up at Lunch in Kashedi, RTC Mum Dapoli.png

We grew up and got busy with life. Over the years, I did occasionally come up on a drop-top. But it was usually the imported exotics – the one’s where we’d have to do something truly spectacular to afford them. Which is why, I thanked the MotoGods, for lighting up the face after decades, and bringing back this flood of memories that you’ve read through so far.

Cheers & Happy Motoring!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. NRK says:

    Loved reading this


  2. Vineet Rajan says:

    Indeed Tanmay! There are so many memories attached to this car it’s not even funny. It came in at a time when Indians were looking for something more than a 800 but something cheap and easily driveable but premium which made them stand out. The Zen was every Delhiite’s dream and I witnessed it as it happened.

    Why Maruti would progressively make this dream look worse and worse I have no idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah man, seeing that Zen on the beach was a full nostalgia trip. Like you, even I’ve got some incredible memories for her. You’re spot on with the more than 800, premium feels but still cheap to run package that the Zen offered. The occasional well kept example still turns heads, something timeless about those lines.
      And I guess we’re going to have enough to discuss about Maruti’s ‘improvements’ when we meet 😊
      Cheers 🙌


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