Each automobile model has an origin story, though some are extra glamorous than others. Till lately, Hyundai appeared to have little regard for its early historical past. The corporate most popular, understandably, to focus on the rising success of its current and future. That’s some success: Hyundai Motor Group was the world’s fourth greatest automaker by quantity final 12 months, producing extra automobiles than Stellantis or Common Motors.
However now Hyundai is taking extra pleasure in its humble origins. Design boss Sangyup Lee cited the corporate’s first automobile, the 1974 Pony, because the inspiration for most of the themes of the Ioniq 5 EV. He has additionally acknowledged the same debt that the spectacular fuel-cell ‘know-how demonstrator’ N Imaginative and prescient 74 owes to the idea model of the the identical Pony that Giorgetto Giugiaro, then working for Italdesign, created in 1974.
However past images, nearly nothing of the unique Pony Coupe idea survived. The unique present automobile is misplaced and presumed lengthy scrapped, there weren’t any detailed engineering drawings to be discovered within the archive. If Hyundai wished a Pony Coupe idea it must construct one.
Now, that’s precisely what is going on. Giugiaro, now 84 years previous however nonetheless working laborious, will supervise the creation of a precise recreation, as shut as attainable to the mislaid unique. We are going to see it subsequent 12 months.
Hyundai Motor Firm was based in 1968, however began out making anyone else’s automobile. Its first product was a Korean model of the Ford Cortina, a compact sedan from the British market. The bigger and barely grander German-market Ford 20M was later added to the portfolio, and Hyundai continued to construct Fords below license into the Nineteen Eighties.
However Hyundai was decided to change into an automaker in its personal proper. In 1973 it recruited George Turnbull, a former British Leyland government, to steer a staff that will create an all-new automobile. He introduced a gaggle of engineers from the U.Okay. to assist create each a brand new manufacturing unit and the mannequin for it to construct. The prospect of beneficiant tax-free salaries meant there was no scarcity of proficient candidates, and this staff included well-known race automobile designer John Crossthwaite.
At this level the official story diverges from the one from interval experiences. Hyundai is eager to focus on the novelty of the rear-wheel-drive Pony, together with its exterior design that had been contracted to Giugiaro’s Italdesign in Turin. The truth of South Korea’s fledgling provide infrastructure meant a lot of the Pony truly got here from elsewhere. Beneath it was intently associated to the modern Mitsubishi Lancer, sharing its engine, gearbox, and rear axle. Many different elements, together with the brakes, the instrument cluster, and the steering rack, got here from Britain.
Hyundai wished a conventional design for its first automobile, which Giugiaro duly delivered. The boxy Pony had a utilitarian honesty and the modest pleasure of a fastback rear. However no a part of it may very well be referred to as radical or thrilling, which is why Hyundai quickly determined it wished a extra glamourous mannequin to show subsequent to the four-door at auto exhibits to assist elevate curiosity.
Fortuitously, Italdesign had already used the Pony floorpan as the idea for a sublime coupe that Giugiaro had created to focus on each his and his firm’s abilities. This was referred to as the Asso Di Fiori—that means Ace of Golf equipment in Italian—and was set to be proven on the Italdesign stand on the 1974 Turin Auto Present. On the final second Hyundai determined to formally undertake it and name it the Pony Coupe. (Italdesign then recycled the Asso Di Fiori identify for a later coupe idea which grew to become the Isuzu Impulse.)
Beneath its unexpectedly utilized Hyundai branding, the Pony Coupe was glossy and trendy however bore few apparent similarities to its four-door sibling. The mid-Seventies had been Giugiaro’s busiest and best years, and the coupe was a part of a run of spectacular two-doors that included the Maserati Merak and Boomerang idea, Lotus Esprit, Volkswagen Scirocco and the Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV. Parts from all of these are seen within the Hyundai, nevertheless it additionally featured loads of innovation together with a glazed top-hinged trunk lid which technically made it a hatchback. The cabin additionally featured the zany mixture of a single spoke steering wheel, up-and-down linear devices—with pink markers shifting towards fastened scales—and a small, raised gear shifter.
Whereas the Pony Coupe idea appeared nice, it was clearly a way from manufacturing actuality—particularly for a corporation that had solely simply began constructing its first mannequin. Sangyup Lee, who has frolicked tracing Hyundai’s early historical past by means of the company archives, mentioned that the corporate quickly realized, as he delicately put it, that “the Pony engine and chassis would wrestle to present a reputable degree of efficiency.” The Coupe idea appeared at numerous auto exhibits and gained totally different wheels and a partial repaint over time. Then it disappeared, probably scrapped however presumably nonetheless sitting misplaced in a storage facility someplace in Korea.
But Hyundai was clearly eager to show it right into a purchasable automobile. Whereas researching the historical past of the idea, Hyundai found a single picture of a unique automobile sitting on a storage pallet. This gave the impression to be a manufacturing model of the Coupe that mixed an identical roofline and aspect graphic with a extra typical quad-headlight entrance finish. Past flatter sides, and the shortage of gullwing doorways, it beared an unmistakeable similarity to a different of Italdesign’s extra well-known designs from barely later, the DeLorean DMC-12. Like an environment friendly craftsman, Giugiaro would clearly recycle good concepts relatively than threat shedding them.
Almost 50 years after his first go to to what was then Hyundai’s model new plant in Ulsan, Giorgetto Giugiaro returns for the official announcement of the brand new Coupe idea. This will probably be constructed by the GFG Type firm in Turin that Giugiaro owns along with his son, Fabrizio. Work has already begun, regardless of the shortage of unique documentation, and we are able to anticipate to see the completed automobile subsequent 12 months. It represents a substantial quantity of each price and energy to recreate a automobile that solely automotive historians bear in mind, however one the corporate clearly thinks is essential.
“Giugiaro was Hyundai’s first designer,” Hyundai President Luc Donckerwolke advised C/D on the announcement ceremony in Korea. “That may be a connection to be celebrated. However [the Coupe concept] additionally proves that Hyundai was at all times interested by making extra attention-grabbing and extra fascinating vehicles.”
Donckerwolke is a vastly skilled automobile designer himself, previously Hyundai’s chief inventive officer, who labored intently with Giugiaro throughout his time at Lamborghini. He additionally admitted that future collaborations stay attainable, particularly as among the different Giugiaro-designed Hyundai fashions from the Seventies and 80s might properly function inspiration for different future merchandise and ideas.
Giugiaro himself is clearly completely happy that one in all his lesser recognized items of labor is being reborn, however can be eager to emphasise that the Pony Coupe wasn’t only a precursor to the extra well-known DeLorean.
“It does have lots of similarities with the DMC-12,” he advised C/D, talking by means of an interpreter, “however simply because it is similar doesn’t make it the identical—what was essential was to strike a steadiness.”
“Making proportions in a well-balanced method is at all times essential, so some points is perhaps repetitive,” he mentioned, “however even when we have now comparable faces after we create a product, there are many variations and similarity isn’t the identical factor as being equal.”
Maybe it’s inevitable that with as many highlights in his portfolio, the Maestro himself will at all times want to speak about distinctions relatively than likenesses.
He did reveal one other fascinating element from the interval, that Volkswagen was planning to make use of the Pony identify for the hatchback that he was styling for them on the identical time he was engaged on Hyundai’s first automobile. However the Korean mannequin made it to market first, and stole the identify, so the Volkswagen needed to quickly be rechristened because the Golf.
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