By on February 11, 2012

Would you believe that the first-generation Hyundai Excel is now one of the rarest of Junkyard Finds? It’s true! The 1985-1989 Excel was so incredibly terrible— in my opinion, even worse than the Yugo— that just about every example in North America was dead and crushed by about 1995. In fact, in recent years I’ve seen more Crusher-bound Mitsubishi Cordias than early Excels. The closest I’ve come was this ’91 Hyundai Scoupe, based on the second-gen Excel and nowhere near as wretched as its predecessor.
With just over 100,000 miles on the clock, this car proved to be one of the most reliable first-gen Excels ever built.
Lesson to struggling automakers: If Hyundai can go from building excrementally bad cars to building very good ones in a mere 20 years, there’s hope for you!

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72 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Hyundai Excel...”


  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    I owned one of these, a three door – completely miserable car.

    It was also the car that I first autocrossed in. Didn’t do to well there either.

    At the time I worked for a national tire chain. We had a mechanic that had bought one on one of those $99 down, $99/month for the rest of the year (after which the payment really jumped.) Only he had missed the part where the payments jumped.

    Well we figured out that with interest he was going to pay close to $16K, this for a car that was advertised for $4999. Well this example may have been someone similar. That mechanic owned the Excel for almost 10 years and kept it in perfect condition. He had to, couldn’t afford to buy another car.

  • avatar
    geo

    Having gone over 200,000 trouble-free kilometers in a Pony (thus was actually not uncommon with the Pony), a buddy invested in a used Excel. It lasted about six months. The last straw was when a front wheel fell off as he was crossing the Mission bridge, due to a CV failure.

    To this day, he says that the Excel was the most comfortable car he’s ever had.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      I think that’s the only time I’ve ever seen “(I) had one of those, but the front wheel fell off and (I) had to get rid of it” used in a completely serious fashion rather than as a non-sequitur.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    With only 2 or 3 models to focus on and starting from the bottom, Hyundai had nowhere to go but UP. When you have a totally captive home market to provide the capital while you continue assaulting foreign markets until you get it right, you’re bound to hit the target sooner or later.
    What amazes me is the degree to which the media cheers them on. In another thread, the first vehicle offered up as the worst badge engineered car of all time was the Cimarron. This was so entirely predictable I couldn’t even laugh. (Like the ES300 is any less egregious than the Cimarron!)
    Detroit never took crap to the level that Hyundai did, yet the media trips all over itself to heap accolade after accolade on each new generation of mediocrity coming out of Korea.
    If I had a choice between driving a new Hyundai or taking the bus, it would be bus for me.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      An iron duke Firebird may be a better car than an Excel, but the Pontiac was a much bigger slap in the face.

      Same thing with the Cimarron. Cadillac went from building the greatest cars in the world to rebadging Chevy compacts over a period of 40 years. When the ES300 came out, Lexus had only existed for two years. No one had any passion for the Lexus brand but they knew Cadillac was capable of more.

    • 0 avatar
      rockit

      Well said carbiz.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      No part of this post makes any sense.

      An ES is essentially a Camry with a different body and some luxury gubbins thrown in to make it suitable for its $15k price hike. The Cimarron was a freaking J-body Cavalier with leather seats and a trebled price. Not at all comparable.

      The Excel was Hyundai’s first export to the US, and it was a piece of crap. But the second gen was better, and the third better still, until we got to Hyundai’s current lineup today. For decades, GM owned over 50% of the enormous US market (a much larger and wealthier market than Hyundai ever enjoyed in South Korea), and preceded to sit on their hands while the foreign makes blew past them with better vehicles. Detroit had no excuse to make crap vehicles, but they did anyway, and paid for it in market share.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      The ES300 analogy would work if the ES300 were a rebadged Corolla. But a V6 Camry is a decently cushy car to begin with, and when you put unique parts pretty much everywhere the non-enthusiast will ever see or touch, the owner ends up feeling like they got a luxury vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @carbiz: You’ve apparently not driven a Hyundai or Kia lately. One man’s ‘mediocrity’ is another man’s ‘value’, but these days H/K is offering both value and quality.

      You know, they’re quite profitable selling those ‘mediocre’ cars with 10/100 warranties. It’s not the media who’s enriching Hyundai and Kia; it’s their customers.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        +1 I tried a Hyundai not because of the media, but because it seemed like a well-built car at a great price. Today I have two Hyundais, and remain very happy with both. Why some people are so threatened by this is a mystery to me.

    • 0 avatar
      ppxhbqt

      In addition to what genuineleather said, let it be noted that almost every company started with just a model or two and in addition to the US market, Europe’s and Japan’s manufacturers also started with pretty much a captive market. Hyundai started making cars in 1968 and this wasn’t imported into the US until 1985. By this time, there were a total of five Hyundai models on sale in S. Korea. Let’s also not forget that Hyundai did have competition at home from other companies such as GM Korea/Daewoo and Kia.

      Another source of capital for these Korean companies cannot be ignored: Japanese and American companies arrogantly sending money and know-how to get cheap production, seemingly never considering that these companies might one day build their own cars with the money they made and become competitors (as the Japanese had done with American companies).

      As for has Detroit ever produced anything worse, DEFINITELY! The FWD GM X-cars and Chrysler’s F-bodies. The Excel was a cheap car so buyers knew they weren’t getting the absolute best quality, but the X-cars were supposed to be the NEW STANDARD in family sedans, yet while the Excel showed up at least reasonably well assembled, GM’s new sedans came from the factory with all kinds of leaks and rattles and stuff not fitted properly. No better from Chrysler; hell, some cars showed up a Volare’ on one side and an Aspen on the other. In the first year of ownership, X owners got 7 recall notices and 2 more within 4 years. F owners got 3 the first year, 4 more the next and another the year after that, in addition to the FTC rust settlement notice. Excel owners got one the first year, one the second year, one the fourth, and then again in the sixth and eighth year. Let’s not forget that the Excel generally ran and performed as you’d expect in its early years whereas the two Detroit products routinely sputtered, sagged, and stalled during their first year. The Excel was a reasonably well assembled car that performed OK when new that was built with less than robust parts. Owners got decent service out of them until stuff wore out early. Indeed, the Excel had an average reliability rating from Consumer Reports for its first two years, unlike these cars that came out of the gate well below average, meaning owners spent a lot of time at the dealership.

      You didn’t mention Yugo, but I don’t want to post twice, so let me say the idea this was worse is preposterous. The Excel was a reasonably modern car when it showed up and as noted above was reasonably well assembled; it performed decently. The Yugo was dated, cramped, and slow out of the gate. Worse, it was sloppily assembled in a cramped, poorly lit factory by workers who had been drinking wine from the start of their shift. Cars showed up dented and things went wrong from day one, unlike the Excel. Consumer Reports couldn’t get their ’86 above 45 MPH many times because the brakes dragged so badly. It leaked oil even after the factory had looked at it. The hood became loose. There were other defects. Their ’88 was better, but an ’88 model broke down on Motor Trend. Neither CR’s first Excel nor their ’88 Precis were perfect, but there weren’t any defects like their Yugo had. And the Yugo’s reliability record was horrible from the first year, with many major trouble spots. Buyers had problems right from the start, not later when things wore out like with the Excel (although there was only one recall, an assembly issue with the seat belts; no big surprise perhaps considering how long ago the car had been designed). Many Excel owners got a few years use out of their cars whereas Yugo owners rarely did, in addition to having a crappier design to begin with. It pretty well sums up that CR noted with their first Excel test that there were better Japanese used models whereas with the Yugo they recommended finding a used car. Their ’88 test still said that there were better cars than the Precis, including the Korean-built Festiva whereas the Yugo’s summation was that it was among the worst they’d ever tested.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      “Detroit never took crap to the level that Hyundai did”

      Chevrolet Vega
      GM X-cars, particularly the first 800,000 built
      Chevrolet Monza and other Vega derivatives
      Early Pontiac Fieros
      Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen
      At least our particular Dodge Lancer ES Turbo, bought new and retired without ever reaching the promised 5 years or 50,000 miles of its then-industry-leading warranty
      Early Escorts and Lynxs from Ford

      Buyers of the above cars were no better off than buyers of early Excels, and many of them were worse off.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      The ES300 is no less egregious than the Cimarron? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

      Are you even capable of making a post that doesn’t contain a “Japan Inc” conspiracy theory?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Yeah, b/c carbiz and rockit know so much more than all the automotive writers and engineers who do this for a living. lol

      Gee, I guess the engineers and industry insiders who awarded the Hyundai i40 the prestigious Golden Award at the EuroCarBody Conference don’t know what they are talking about – Hyundai being the 1st Asian automaker to win this award.

      Yes, early Hyundais were shoddy in quality, but that was in large part b/c they used cheap, crappy Mitsubishi components.

      Funny how once Hyundai started using their own components that their quality/reliability went up (otoh, Mitsu still isn’t that great in the quality dept.).

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    20 years ago I ate a bad taco and got sick and puked everywhere. To this day I can’t eat Mexican food let alone smell it. This generation of Hyundai is the automotive equivalent of that bad taco and why I hate Korean products.

    • 0 avatar
      underachieva

      Now the Koreans are leading the industry, and the variety of fresh mexican food available has never been better.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      You’ve described what most people do: They let one bad car experience sour them forever. I’ll admit to feeling that way about Volkswagen and Honda, but at least I actually owned an example of each. I’m not sure you actually drove a Hyundai.

      On the other hand, ‘hating’ Korean products has a racist undertone to it that I find troubling. I assume you also don’t buy Samsung or LG products, either, because they’re “Korean”.

      • 0 avatar
        Speed Spaniel

        Me prejudiced toward Koreans? Hardly. How can you not appreciate a culture that eats fermented bean curd and gaegogi? Additional they have such beautiful green cities with clean air and a wonderful quality of life that any American or European would envy. And if you’re doing business with a Korean business person you know you’re dealing with an ethical, fair and honest person. You don’t have to get them to sign on the dotted line, their word is their honor. I’m sure the rental Genesis 4.6 that left me stranded in central Georgia was just an anomaly, just like my friend’s Samsung flat screen and another friends LG refrigerator, both lasted 6 months. But hey, 6 months is a long time and why should anyone complain and expect better? So my apologies for giving an opinion without any knowledge or fact to back it. Shame. On. Me.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Kluttz

        And Samsung makes the best phone, hands down.

    • 0 avatar
      AMPKinase

      Pity that you can’t appreciate development. Ten years ago, my dial up kept losing the internet connection and I wasted countless hours constantly frustrated. Today, with the joy of DSL and cable internet, I log onto the internet to experience the joys of websites such as TTAC. Were I to have given up on the web ten years ago based on that one bad experience, I would be currently living in the stone age.

      I suggest the following. 1. Go enjoy the bounty of freshly made Mexican food that is currently available. 2. Drive a new Hyundai. 3. Address the racial undertones of your comment from “hating Korean products” to “hating Hyundai products.” A car made in Korea that left a bad taste in your mouth should not denigrate anything else ever made by Koreans(including bulgogi).

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      25 years ago I was assaulted by 2 black people who tried to steal my watch. I kicked their asses, but ever since then I’ve been a racist.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      @Speed Spaniel,

      Well, you’ve certainly convinced this Hyundai fanboy. No more Taco Bell from now on.

    • 0 avatar
      jtaylor25655

      nvm

    • 0 avatar
      jtaylor25655

      hmm

    • 0 avatar
      jtaylor25655

      I’d be more than happy to take a nice 2 X 4 and smack your face with it.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I recall all the insurance industry/media raucous of the day, about this Excel doing poorly in crash tests compared to anything else. You truly were better off going domestic than Korean then.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    Worse than a Yugo? Not hardly.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I have to disagree with the Cimarron/ES300 comparison.

    The Cimarron was a Cavalier with different badges and a Cadillac grille. The ES 300 shares a platform with the Camry, but has a completely different body/interior.

    The other reason is that while the Camry platform is well-engineered, the Cavalier’s J-Body platform, while acceptable in an entry-level Chevrolet, was woefully inadequate as the underpinnings for a Cadillac. It was an insult to the Cadillac name.

    Like it not, the ES-Series is a fine automobile. Not my cup of tea, but an extremely well-engineered, reliable car.

  • avatar

    If Hyundai can do it…so can GM!

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    A college buddy had one of these, a three door to be exact. It broke down countless times during college, but I always chalked it up to his abusive ownership style.

    One day it ran out of gas, and we pushed it to his frat house. He decided the car wasn’t worth another tank of gas and we pushed it into the woods behind the house.

    What a piece of crap…

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    A couple of years ago, I spotted a later iteration of this first gen Excel still going strong, it was a white, upper trim 3 door hatch, I think an ’87 or so, but what I DO recall was it had the all red lenses but looked identical to the original otherwise.

    It looked OK for its age but like I said, it still ran and was being driven, perhaps daily too.

    I almost went to look at an ’87 Excel that had AC, however, if I recall the ad (in the paper no less, this WAS, after all, 1992), the AC had been fixed and I forget what all else and I think it was black too if memory serves being mentioned in that ad. Dad warned me about their wretchedness. Ended up buying a 1983 Honda Civic 3 door hatchback via Auto Trader and drove it for 6 years and about 70K miles over that time.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Park one of these next to a brand new Equus and marvel at the difference! Of course the Equus cost nearly ten times more, a price Hyundai back then wouldn’t dare to put on any of its car. How times change…

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Had an acquaintance who drives one of these, hitched a ride with her to Minneapolis, about an hour away. What a miserable ride! Hot (no A/C), loud, uncomfortable. I regret not taking my SVX instead. Would have been millions more comfortable and less tiring.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    This reminds me that about two months ago I saw a Canadian ex-pat Pony cruising the roads here in West Florida. Should’ve photographed it. Probably won’t see another. Ever.

  • avatar
    jeanpierresarti

    You are right about those first cars being worse than a Yugo. In fact my cousin bought one in 85 and I remember an uncle telling him that he bought the one car worse than a Yugo!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I had a cousin that had one of these. The front seats didn’t have lap belts! They had the sort of automatic shoulder belts that were attached to the door. The car had a “knee bar” up front. A thick area of padding on the dashboard where your knees would slam into in the event of an accident, holding you, allegedly into place.

    I was stunned. How on earth did US regulators let this fly and how did this pass as an “automatic restrain system” which was required during the era, if you didn’t equip a car with airbags. Different auto makers came up with all sorts of solutions to avoid the airbags, all of them bad. REALLY bad.

    Actually, that would make an interesting TTAC read.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      That doesn’t sound too atypical for 1987. I’m certain my 1990 Honda didn’t have airbags, don’t think they were in most cars until the mid 90′s. I remember a few other 80′s ride having those knee bars.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Hyundai actually had to settle a lawsuit over these poorly designed belts. Apparently a few people did die unnecessarily in their bargain Excel because of the belt design. All other cars of that era with passive restraints had lap belts along with the shoulder belts. I’m sure a few thought “Hey it costs more than a Yugo so it has to be better” or “Why buy a used subcompact when I can get a new Hyundai with all of these neat-o safety features”. “I had a bad experience with a Vega and this is made in Asia so it had to be good quality”

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Late VW Rabbits had this setup too.

      IIRC, driver’s airbags were required for ’92, and both sides for ’94. The various “passive” belt setups were required from ’88 and allowed until ’92. The worst of all were the motorized ones that jammed and broke constantly.

      Why we couldn’t have simply mandated seatbelt use (which eventually all but one state did anyway) is beyond me.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I went to see one of these when they first came out, to replace my god-awful X-car Buick Skylark, the big selling point for the rep was the solid thunk when he closed the door, I wanted the auto tranny, but when we went for a test drive on a very hot summer day with a full complement of passengers, I had a hard time going up the hills and the almost apologetic rep told me: “I really recommend the stick over the auto unless you’re willing to turn off the a/c.” Needless to say we left and went to get a Corolla.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    My buddy bought an Excel in ’86. That same year I bought a Yugo. At 44 months and 48k miles the Yugo spontaneously caught on fire in my driveway when I went to start it one morning. His Excel lasted 46 months and 63k miles. The oil leaks exceeded his ability to pour new oil into the crankcase at which point he seized the motor. He bought a new Honda Accord. I bought a used ’86 RX7.

    Fun fact: the insurance company was suspicious of the circumstances surrounding my Yugo’s demise. The previous year I had changed my policy to a zero dollar deductible. They made me sign an affidavit that I hadn’t torched it. I happily complied and received a check for $1200.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    RODNEY KING FTMFW!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Didn’t the LAPD say he was going 115 mph?

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      I was wondering when somebody was going to bring up the Hyundai Excel’s greatest claim to fame. Ol’ Rodney drove himself a ’89 Hyundai Excel 5 door with 5 spd and the LA Police’s claim of “115 mph” was so laughable, you knew something wasn’t right. If you lit that POS on fire with a rocket from a C-130 Hercules and dropped it from the Stratosphere, it might reach 115 mph. The Rodney King episode did nothing for the Excel’s fanbase unlike the ’95 Bronco the Juice was slaloming through LA traffic.

      I have to agree with earlier comments of the Hyundai stigma these cars created, which KIAs and god help you, Diahatsus did nothing to eleviate. Their cars were so, so bad in the beginning and through the 90s, I simply can’t forgive them. Hyundai has really got to try hard to get me to purchase one.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The ES300 was launched ahead of the generation of Camrys it shared its underpinnings with, so it was measured on its own merits by the enthusiast press before people got to see the ‘full-fat’ Camry it was somewhat loosely based on. It was far more different than people here noticed, having a unique greenhouse in addition to the distinct sheet-metal interior, and suspension tuning. On top of all that, the Camry VX10 was one of the best sedans available at any price. Base a luxury car on it and you have a winner for people who aren’t looking to autocross on weekends. Base one on a Cavalier, without making any of the material changes that distinguished an ES300 from a Camry VX10, and you have a ridiculously priced piece of Cimarron.

    Ironically, Toyota had a crummy ES. It was the ES250 of 1989 that seems to have been forgotten. The Camry it was based on wasn’t all that great and it was already a familiar sight before the ES250 showed up looking like a Camry with a Mercedes grill and a BMW hood.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      I think you mean XV10 (rather than VX10), which is the 1991-1996 Camry generation. The 1st generation ES 250 was based on the V20 Camry platform which was around 1988-1991.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      The 2nd Generation Camry and ES250 are both excellent cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Agree 100%. They showed GM how to properly build a FWD mainstream car.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Kluttz

        But GM was too arrogant to listen. They copied (stole) some features (brakes, for one…later GM cars I’ve had the displeasure to drive didn’t have that dreaded GM lag in the brake take-up), but largely carried on about their business, even with NUMMI going on. Of course, that may be the BEST example of badge engineering…putting Chevrolet labels (and later Pontiac) on Toyotas. One of my favorite car moments is when I tell someone who is driving a Prizm or a Vibe, “Nice Toyota”, and they proceed quickly to tell me “Naw, it ain’t!! This ain’t no rice burner, it’s a Chivalay!!!” Never fails with the “buy ‘Murracan” crowd. Isn’t GM a Chinese company now, anyway?
        Then they had the nerve, or arrogance, to leave Toyota holding the bag on NUMMI. When, not if, they go bankrupt again, should we be surprised? Or help them this time? Removable steering wheels and spontaneously combusting new supposedly leading-edge electric cars- oh, and let’s not forget the money-saving policy of NOT installing front brake pads in other new models where trust is supposedly being earned-is no way TO win public trust. But then, they ARE dealing with the public. And the public seems to be biting. And, unfortunately, chewing. How can they fall for this GM crap? I can assure you, there WILL be bad tastes left or even better, food poisoning. After all, it IS GM.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    My daughter had a 1st generation Excel: the biggest problem was the transmission self-destructed… and she couldn’t find a used transmission at the junkyard, because all the other Hyundai owners had scoured the lots, looked for used replacements!

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    ‘Incredibly terrible’? IDK about that. The Yugo was truely econobox, communist shit.

    Believe it or not, I still see some of these roaming the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Probably bought them new. And are always within a 10mi radius of a Hyundai dealer lol

  • avatar
    gslippy

    A coworker’s daughter bought one of these new (89, I think), and it was a very reliable and economical car.

    These were definitely not worse than a Yugo. I actually owned the Yugo’s predecessor, a 74 Fiat 128SL, and all it needed was the warm Mediterranean climate and a full-time mechanic. But as a student in western Pennsylvania, it had neither.

    Yugo flashed in the pan, while Hyundai built its future success on this car. Hyundai has demonstrated they know how to learn quickly. For contrast, consider that Hummer has come and gone since then.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      The country and the factory where The Yugo was manufactured were more than just a flash-in-the-pan. They were blown off the face of the earth. Besides being the terrible car it was, the factory ceased to be. So much for taking the Hyundai route of improvement! (Don’t give North Korea any ideas, Kevin.)

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The Toyota store I was working in the early 90′s had been a Hyundai store also, but the dealer manager decided to get out of the Korean Kar business because there were too many problems with them. I don’t know if that was true, it was just what I was told.

    Regardless, we had a “crap-ton” of used Excels on the lot, and people were coming in and buying them. If you had an up who wanted an Excel, unless their credit was total shyte, you were going to get your commission.

    I don’t even remember selling the car to this guy, but he bought a nicely equipped Excel 4 door with a 5 speed manual trans. We do the test drive, everything is to his satisfaction, he buys the car cash (IIRC) and drives away into the sunset. I get my $35 for the cheapo cash deal.

    The next day a tow truck shows up with this guy’s Excel on the hook and him inside, fuming. I happened upon them entirely by accident, he jumps out of the truck and attempts to attack me. Fortunately, a couple of the guys in the service department held him back and the new car manager, who also was out there by circumstance, got him to calm down. As it turns out, he’d gotten in the car the next day, and couldn’t get the trans to shift.

    The guy was stupid-crazy, accusing me of all kinds of misdeeds, swearing at me, the sales managers and Bubba (yes, really) the one mechanic who had him in a half Nelson. Upon hearing all of this disturbance, the service manager shows up, says something to one of the other mechanics standing there and brings the service manager a part.

    The service manager crawls under the Excel, and in two minutes has the tow truck driver drop the car on the ground. He motions to the client to come over and see that the car now was able to shift. There was a clip or some stupid cheap part that would either bend or break on these transmissions, enough to render the shifter useless.

    Once the service manager was done, he said, no charge! Bubba let go of him and he tried to apologize, but I just wanted to get as far away from this clown as I could.

    I never sold another Hyundai again while I worked there. But I wouldn’t mind selling them now.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    In 1986 I actually got to do the Yugo /Hyandai Excel comparo test. I was living in Denver and one of my roommates decided to buy a new car.She was always a bit-well, strange but for whatever reason and it must have been cost she was limiting herself to either a new Yugo or a new Hyandai . Because she couldn’t drive stick I went along for the test drive. Myself I preferred the Yugo crude and awful though it was it filled me with nostalgia for friends’ Fiats from back in the seventies .I thought both Yugo and Excel sucked-both dogs compared with the 1980 Rabbit I was driving at the time which with over 100k on it shifted better, sounded better, felt more solid. Further both Yugo and Hyandai were already getting a bit of a bad rep in the car magazines. I told her to get a used Jetta or Honda. Well she bought the Excel 2door hatch a total strippo with no a/c., a four speed, and nothing else . It drove poorly , things kept breaking, the clutch and transmission burned out early on. She met some guy-a prison pen pal guy- moved to the Carolinas and the Excel promptly blew its engine- she blamed the guy- when it was only 3 years old and never ran again.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Of course with KIWI ingenuity these are not rare on the streets here yet in fact a local car dealer has a one owner 157000km example@$2995 with service records from new at that price he will have it a long time good runners sell for a few hundy very few hundy usually they arent much of a car

  • avatar
    don1967

    Early Hyundai products were certainly no Toyotas, but in fairness they did not get the same owner love, either. I mean, if any car was destined to spend its entire life with a crankcase full of black sludge, it was surely a 1987 Hyundai. Ditto for being sent to crusher for trivial reasons… the resale value simple wasn’t high enough to justify many repairs.

    The few hardy souls who bought these cars and actually liked them will remind us that they used Mitsubishi mechanicals, and with reasonable maintenance were quite capable of going 100,000 miles or more. Rust was an issue, of course, but no more so than the early Hondas and Toyotas.

    Time warps all memories. In reality, the good cars are never as good as we remember them, and the bad ones are never as bad.

  • avatar
    EchoChamberJDM

    Hyundai resurrected itself with the recent launch of the new Sonata and Elantra. However…lets to way back to 1991. Thats when they really got America’s attension.

    Rodney King outruns multiple LAPD Crown Vics and helicopters in a 100MPH + high speed chase on multiple freeways and surface streets.
    In what? A 5 door Excel hatchback.

    Look at the vidoes its all over you tube (warning not for the faint of heart), you see the Excel standing proud right behind the officers as they take their frustrations out on Mr King.

    That was when Hyundai really turned it around – and finally got some needed street cred. Who new, those Excels could go over 100 mph? Outrun a Police Interceptor? Get away from “the man”? Sign me up!

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      He didn’t get enough of what he deserved. AND he drove a Hyundai. Maybe that’s why he was pissed. Well, that and all the angel dust. And just being a total asshole jerk.

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Kevin
        Let me quote the great philosopher of the 20th century himself, in how own words:
        “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

        “We should all drive a Hyundai and outrun the LAPD.”

        Mr. Rodney King

        Think about what happened in the 90s. This was the spark of an uprising that lead to the LA Riots…Now, lets talk about when OJ Simpson tried the same thing a few years later (only not in a Hyundai, and didn’t get pummelled when he got out of his Bronco).

        Who was the guilty one here?

  • avatar
    JCraig

    These cars were awful but they did break all import sales records of the day. It took Hyundai well over a decade to reach that initial sales volume again. I think people thought Asian=Toyota back then, and thought they were getting a Corolla for a lot less money. What a rude awakening for hundreds of thousands of Excel owners. I remember well the garbage they produced for many years, but it didn’t stop me from buying my second Hyundai in ’08. No auto company has invested the money and effort to improve their products the way Hyundai has. GM has asked for so many second chances over the years, and chose to cash in on garbage cars after decades of making some of the best cars in the world.

    When the son of Hyundai’s founder took over the business from his uncle, the company made it clear that they knew there were problems and had a long term plan to one day surpass Toyota. Well guess what, every generation since the 90′s has been a huge step forward. I understand people not giving 3rd, 4th and 5th chances to a company (as so many did for the big 3) but you’d have to be blind to reality to think Hyundai is still making sub-par cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      I am one of the ones who gave GM a third, fourth and fifth chance. Make that 7. The 1982 Trans Am was my last straw. It was even worse than the 1979 Regal (bought in 1981 with 28000 miles…was I too unattentive to figure that out? Low miles=big problems, as I found out.) that preceded it. That T/A was total crap, and that was my first new car. Switched to Toyota (a Corolla GT-S, of all things) and have never looked back west again. Honda has my adoration at the moment, but Toyota has a permanent place in my automotive heart.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    They improved as Mitsubishi let them take their 4G engine technology to add to their knowledge base it seems. Or it was stolen according to some from Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    mealsonwheels

    I actually saw a same generation Excel hatch driving on I70 through Denver the other day. Blew my mind.

  • avatar
    30secs

    Ok, I had a blue 4-door 1988 with a 5-speed, A/C and a sunroof. Actually a nice car. Drove it until 1995, put just over 100,000 miles on it. Can still tell you what went wrong with it over that entire period. Changed oil every 3,500 miles and did the brakes myself.

    1. 5th gear went out at about 95,000 miles
    2. Battery ground cable rusted / failed about the same time

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Ever late to the party, let me me toss something in the Detroit vs. Hyundai punch bowl.

    It’s a matter of trajectory:

    Hyundai started out making slut-quality cars, but gradually reformed into nice-girl’s.

    Detroit started out making nice-girl cars and then turned them into slut-quality.

    If you want to toss Lexus/Toyota into this – they started out with good-girls and then started dressing them up in beauty queen outfits.

    Got it?

    As for the quality of the early Excels, there were two secretaries working in my office (remember those days?) who bought them. I was interested in the Korean invasion – could they out-do the Japanese in value for the dollar? – so I’d chat these secretaries up in between meetings about how they liked their cars. At first both were happy, they really didn’t have high expectations. However in the 2nd or 3rd year of ownership -both- cars had engine failures. Of course I don’t know the details as the girls, ahem, ladies didn’t either. One got stuck with a bill for an engine replacement. Hyundai tried to stick the other one with a bill too, claiming failure to regularly change the oil caused the problem. She managed to produce ALL her oil change receipts, and after a fight, got them to replace the engine. However all this took months as there weren’t any available.

    So it’s taken me a long time to rebuild faith in Hyundai, but they’ve almost done it. I would -consider- one. However GM has failed to convince me. Every new model is “the one” that shows that they’ve finally gotten it. However 3 years in the horror stories start again. Fortunately, by the 3 year mark they’ve got another “the one” really to give to the press.

  • avatar
    jozh_86

    I have a hyundai excel 4 door sedan in Guatemala with the odometer at 302.350 miles very good car daily and I do not fault anything! the problem with the American people they do not know anything even themselves to keep their cars in good condition and as they have money they buy another


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