1986 Hyundai Pony
1986 Hyundai Pony. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

When the Hyundai Pony arrived in Canada in 1984, the Hyundai name was new to North America, but well known in South Korea. The company dated from 1947 when Chung Ju-Yung established the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company in Seoul, an enterprise that grew into a huge conglomerate building many products including construction equipment, ships and machinery. An automobile division was added in 1967 and their first car, the Pony, appeared in 1968.

Hyundai made rapid progress in automobiles by aligning itself with established world manufacturers. Their first Pony was based on the English Ford Cortina and by 1977 Hyundai was so successful in the car business that it captured more than half of the South Korean domestic market. The Pony was redesigned in 1982 into the model that was sent to Canada. Hyundais came from their plant in Ulsan; another one would be opened in Seoul in 1984.

The 1984 Pony, based on Mitsubishi components, was a conventional subcompact four-door, hatchback sedan. With an overall length of 4,183 mm (164.7 in.), it was about the same size as a Honda Civic sedan. Power came from a 70 horsepower 1.4-litre single overhead cam inline four sending power through a four- or five-speed speed manual transmission or optional three-speed automatic. Suspension was by independent coil springs in front and a solid axle and leaf springs at the rear, and brakes were power assisted disc front and drum rear. Although most of its competitors like Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen had front-wheel drive, the Pony was still rear-wheel.

Styling was by Giorgetto Guigiaro’s Italdesign studio in Turin, Italy, a pleasant if unexciting shape with an egg-crate grille, two rectangular headlamps and a sloping deck. Although built to be marketed at a low price, it was fitted with radial Michelin 13-inch all-season tires.

The Pony came in three series, L, GL and GLS. The L was priced under $6,000, which undercut most of the competition by hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, a strategy that Hyundai still follows to this day. It was helped in this with the Pony because the Canadian Government designated Korea as a developing country, and therefore exempt from the 11.5 per cent import duty. Also, import quotas on Japanese cars were the rallying cry of North American auto manufacturers at that time, but Hyundai was exempt from these too.

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