Hyundai’s charge into becoming a full-line auto manufacturer began when the South Koreans contacted Italian designer Giorgetto Giugaro about creating a car that would be the first mass-produced original offering from Korea. Giugaro designed and built five prototypes that would establish the Hyundai Pony lineup, one of them the Pony Coupe Concept that Hyundai showed at the 1974 Turin Auto Show. Hyundai began selling the five-door Pony hatchback in 1975, but not only did the Coupe Concept never make production, Hyundai destroyed it. Memories of the coupe have seen a revival in the past few years as inspiration for the 45 Concept that became the Ioniq 5, for the Pony EV restomod, and for the N Vision 74 Concept. To pay proper homage to origins, the automaker has announced it will work with GFG, the Turin design house run by father-and-son designers Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugaro, to re-create the Pony Coupe Concept show car.
Hyundai is shipping a first-generation five-door Pony hatchback to Turin for GFG to rework into a Pony Coupe down to every original detail, from the powertrain to the four round headlights. Hyundai will show the final product next May, and it’s possible more will come. Hyundai Group Chief Creative Officer Luc Donckerwolke said, “Not only does this project hold historical value, but it also represents a cross-cultural exchange that could pave the way for more collaborations down the road,” and Hyundai lead designer SangYup Lee hinted that a Pony Coupe EV restomod could be follow-up as a limited edition retail model like the Hyundai Heritage Series Grandeur EV.
The Pony’s influence runs well beyond the shores of the Korean peninsula. When the 1981 economic recession ended the chances of Pony Coupe production, Giugaro injected plenty of that car’s DNA into another one of his projects, the DeLorean DMC-12. Hyundai locking up the Pony name first also derailed some plans being worked up in Germany. Giugaro said the original name of the small hatchback he’d designed for Volkswagen was the Pony, admitting “I still have the Volkswagen Pony badges.” That car would come to market instead as the Volkswagen Golf.
Giugaro talked about the challenges of creating the Pony, all of which he surmounted well enough to continue to design for Hyundai into the 1980s. He penned the first premium Korean sedan called the Stellar; the Excel compact hatchback and sedan for America that was known as the Pony, Presto, or GLS in other markets; and the first Sonata.