Sundaram Karivardhan was born on 20 June 1954 in Coimbatore to noted Indian freedom fighter G.K.Sundaram from the Lakshmi Mills textile family. He did his schooling in Coimbatore and after graduating in mechanical engineering from PSG College of Technology, he completed his master of science at the UCLA, Los Angeles.
From a very young age, he showed a keen interest in bikes and cars. In the United Kingdom he attended the Jim Russell racing school. His first race was 1973 Sholavaram Grand Prix meet, later he appeared every year in newly constructed formula cars from his own garage. Cars he raced ranged from Premier Padmini, Datsun 510, Sipani Dolphin, Formula Atlantic, several cars of his own design and in the final years Formula 3 cars. His last race was in a Formula Ford, in McDowell’s body shell in Chennai’s MMSC track.
One of his early complete in-house designs was the Formula Monoposto based on the Formula Atlantic Chevron B40 model nicknamed “Black Beauty”. But motorsports was only for wealthy drivers. In an effort to make racing more affordable in India and improve grassroots level racing he designed and tested a small single seater, dubbed as India’s Formula Ford, with a Maruti 800 engine, and adapting easily available parts, sometimes made in-house. His second design was a two seater car named McDowell 1000 using a Maruti Gypsy 1.0 liter engine.
He was the man behind the FISSME (Formula India Single-Seater Maruti Engine) single-seater. It was India’s first purpose-built race car in a one-make format that made the backbone of the country’s four-wheeler circuit racing.
He was interested in many areas of mechanics, and that included his interest in aviation as his family owned a Cessna airplane. In 1989 he started a small manufacturing plant near Coimbatore to manufacture Power Gilders using a Yezdi 250cc motorcycle engine& Rotax engine. He would often test his gliders flying to the Ooty. The small airstrip in Coimbatore now became the Kari Motor Speedway.
Karivardhan, who was managing director of Coimbatore-based textile major and held this key management position in several of his group companies. Also he ventured into new areas like development of aerators for prawn breeding. One of his other earliest ventures was to manufacture small farm tractors. He purchased rights from car manufacturer to build replica models of the Ford GT40, using a Ford Cosworth, Lotus 7, and AC Cobra. But before commencing production he died in an aircraft crash.
He died on 24 August 1995 while flying a Puspak trainers aircraft. The accident was widely mourned by the racing scene. His demise almost created a vacuum in Indian Motorsports
The race track in
Coimbatore is named after Karivardhan as Kari Motor Speedway, and in Karamadai in Coimbatore an Industrial Training school is named after him. Some of his former employees have their garages named in his honour. His intended Caterham based car was named Kari 65 in his honour with 65 being his racing