Car manufacturers have cautiously wheeled out in-house electric vehicle conversions of beloved classics in recent years, with the most intriguing marrying modern technology with timeless visuals; Opel’s recent ElektroMOD – essentially an electric, reimagined version of the Manta – is one such project.
In Korea however designers are getting even more creative with their time – and their electrons. To jazz up its new customer centre in Busan, South Korea, with a one-of-a-kind display piece, Hyundai tasked Hak Soo Ha, the head of interior design, to merge past and future in an unexpected one-off.
Hak Soo Ha and his team, rather than building an all-new concept car, reached into the past, choosing an obscure family hatchback from 1975 and giving the period Hyundai a tasteful, modern makeover. Perhaps Hyundai underestimated exactly how cool this restomod effort was, because the news of the car first surfaced on one of its designers’ Instagram accounts.
The Hyundai Pony was the brand’s second car, but drivers in Britain are likely to be more familiar with the car that inspired it: the Morris Marina. Hired from British Leyland in 1974, former Austin-Morris managing director Sir George Henry Turnbull brought a pair of Marinas with him to Korea, along with five British engineers and designers. Their work bore no small resemblance to the fastback Marina, though the Pony’s sharper lines came from the pen of Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Underneath it was similar too, with rear-wheel drive and leaf-sprung layout, but power came from a Mitsubishi four-cylinder engine. Following its debut at the 1974 Turin motor show, and subsequent launch in South Korea, Hyundai exported the Giugiaro-penned runabout to Ecuador and then to Europe. Despite its Marina-inspired beginnings, the Pony took a little while longer to reach the UK, only doing so in 1983 in the car’s second generation.
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For the 2021 reimagining of the Pony, Hak Soo Ha saw an opportunity to marry the brand’s heritage with its current aspirations. One lucky 1975 Pony received a thorough restoration and an entirely new driveline. Out went the Mitsubishi inline-four, and in went a battery-electric setup. (We’ve reached out to Hyundai for specifics, but haven’t heard back as of this writing.)
The dash, thanks to a total overhaul, lost its ’70s economy car vibes, gaining a dose of 21st century tech while retaining the minimalist, retro lines of the original. Hak Soo Ha and his team even added nixie tubes in the instrument panel. The same trend shows on the exterior: The wing-mounted “mirrors” house cameras rather than mirrors and the taillights riff on retro, pixellated graphics with LED backlighting – a graphic presumably inspired by the brand’s new Ioniq 5 electric car, itself gently inspired by the Pony’s boxy lines.
Hyundai’s officially calling the build a “reinterpretation,” which feels accurate to us. This isn’t a retro-inspired, ground-up build, nor is it a straight restoration of a vintage concept, like the 1981 Mazda MX-81. Hats off to Hyundai for balancing creativity with historical sensitivity.
Via Hagerty US