Hyundai has rebuilt its first car: meet the new-old Pony Coupe Concept | Top Gear
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Tuesday 3rd October

Hyundai has rebuilt its first car: meet the new-old Pony Coupe Concept

Seventies one-off concept car has been painstakingly recreated nearly 50 years later

Published: 18 May 2023

This isn’t the very first Hyundai. For that, you can look to the then-fledgling carmaker’s collaboration with Ford back in 1967 assembling the Cortina at its Ulsan factory in South Korea.

But it is the very first Hyundai, because it is the concept that inspired the first production car built by the South Korean giant. Everything you see today – legions of i10s, i20s, i30s, Ioniqs, Santa Fes, Tucsons and more – stems from this humble little two-door hatchback.

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Well, sorta. The one-off Pony Coupe Concept unveiled at the 1974 Turin Motor show was lost to the sands of time, so Hyundai has rebuilt it from scratch, to its exact 1974 spec, using 1974 materials, with the help of the man who originally designed it. An Italian artist who goes by the name ‘Giorgetto Giugiaro’.

“I was sceptical at first because I didn’t know Hyundai Motor at the time,” GG said about his initial correspondence with Hyundai back in the early Seventies. “We were all impressed by the passion and commitment of the Hyundai engineers. They were sharp, curious, open and extremely eager to learn.”

Sharp. Could use that to describe a large chunk of Giugiaro’s sensational output, the original 1974 Pony Coupe Concept – and now this rebirth – following his then design maxims. There’s a classic wedge-shaped silhouette, clean, unburnished and confident lines, that ‘cut-off’ hatchback rear treatment. Very minimalist. Very Giugiaro.

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Same story on the inside, too. There’s a quite wonderful driver-orientated floating dashboard arrangement featuring a single-spoke steering wheel and a properly retro analogue display.

If you’re struggling to size it, it broadly mirrors a modern Ford Fiesta’s length, but is a tad slimmer and lower than that car. So it’s basically tiny. Ditto the powertrain. Unlike Hyundai’s restomodded ‘Heritage Series Pony’ from a couple of years ago – a car that wore the Pony’s lines but featured an updated digital interior and electric drivetrain – this one’s as per 1974.

Which means it gets 1974 mainstream car levels of oomph. There’s a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine up front, delivering a heady 81bhp (at 6,000rpm) to the rear wheels. There is no 0-62mph time given, because… why.

“The restoration of this unique vehicle is a milestone in Hyundai’s history,” said creative boss Luc Donckerwolke (yes, he who designed the Audi A2, Lambo Murcielago and Gallardo). “It serves as a legacy for generations to come.”

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A sentiment mirrored by Hyundai’s executive chair Euisun Chung, who bears a personal connection to this car. “Despite the poor industrial environment in the 1970s, my grandfather and Hyundai’s founding chairman Ju-young Chung poured his heart and soul into rebuilding Korea’s economy and improving the lives of its people after the devastating Korean War.

“He finally realised his vision of making Korea a country capable of developing its own vehicles with perfection,” he added.

This reborn Pony – unveiled in Lake Como at the 2023 Villa d’Este concours – is part of the company’s global heritage project named ‘Hyundai Reunion’. And Hyundai wants to ‘expand’ this platform, so watch this space…

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