Until then, the South Korean carmaker did little more than produce a licensed version of the European Ford Cortina. But the Pony Coupe Concept signaled Hyundai’s plan to start building vehicles of its own. Sadly, the production version of the Pony launched in 1975 was a far more conventional five-door hatchback with only vague hints of the original prototype.
In the nearly half-century since its debut, the Pony Coupe Concept has vanished, Hyundai later acknowledging it destroyed the show car. But now, as the 50th anniversary approaches, the automaker wants to bring the prototype back to life. And it’s turning to Italy’s GFG design studio to make it happen.
An outsized influence
While the Pony Coupe Concept may not have gone into production, it has an outsized influence at Hyundai, most recently in the form of the N Vision 74 concept the automaker unveiled at the LA Auto Show earlier this month.
“The original Pony and Pony Coupe Concept were one of those rare creations that influenced the designs of not just one but multiple production and concept vehicles, including our award-winning Ioniq 5 and attention-grabbing N Vision 74,” said SangYup Lee, the Hyundai executive vice president who oversees design.
“Since the original concept car no longer exists, we’ve commissioned Giorgetto Giugiaro to rebuild it based on our design philosophy, ‘Shaping the future with legacy.’”
Turning to the Giugiaros, father and son Giorgetto and Fabrizio, should be no surprise. Back in the early 1970s, Hyundai had no in-house design capabilities. It had to reach outside for help. The original concept was designed by Giorgetto, one of five prototypes he penned to help create a look for the automaker as Hyundai began to step out on the global stage.
The start of a long career
It was a significant project both for Hyundai and for the legendary Italian designer who recalled, “I designed the Hyundai Pony when I was still a young designer at the start of my career.
“I felt very proud that I was in charge of creating a vehicle for a company and country that was about to take on a fiercely competitive global market. Now, I’m deeply honored that Hyundai has asked me to rebuild it for posterity and as a celebration of the brand’s heritage.”
The Pony Coupe Concept was a standout that continues to catch the eye, with a distinctive wedge-like nose, circular headlamps, sweeping roofline, large rear glass panels and what Hyundai refers to as “origami-like geometric lines.”
To help recreate the show car, Hyundai is shipping one of its original Pony hatchbacks to Turin, where GFG is based. The reproduction is expected to be ready for the 50th anniversary of the Pony Coupe Concept in 2024.
Paving the way
“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,” said Hyundai Motor Group Chief Creative Officer Luc Donckerwolke.
Over the decade, in fact, Hyundai continued to collaborate with Pere Giugiaro on vehicles including the Stellar, its first premium model, as well as the original Sonata.
For his part, Giorgetto also gets credit for a range of notable products, including the original Volkswagen Golf Mk1 that was originally going to be named the Pony. His most familiar project, however, was the DeLorean DMC-12 made famous in the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Ironically, the the stainless steel-bodied sports car borrowed some of the Pony Coupe Concept’s more recognizable features, including the wedge nose and sweeping roofline.