By on December 14, 2012

For every Junkyard Find of, say, a Malaise Era bomb that fired several torpedoes into the already leaky hull of a once-great car company, there will be at least one reader who writes a comment that goes something like “I bought one of these cars new, and it went 300,000 trouble-free miles on logging roads in Trinity County. This car’s bad image was undeserved, folks!” Just as it’s possible to have fun with a rented Corolla (just kidding, there is no way to have fun of any sort in a rented Corolla), it’s possible for a first-gen Excel or Sterling 827 to survive like a Slant-Six Valiant sedan. (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2012

The first-gen Hyundai Excel was sold in the United States for the 1986 through 1989 model years, and it was a supremely bad automobile. So bad, in fact, that most of them were used up and crushed by the middle of the 1990s. Because of their rarity today, I always photograph early Excels when I see them (including this ’86, this ’87, and this ’88). Hyundai did a fairly extensive cosmetic facelift for the 1990 Excel, and this generation was sold though the 1994 model year. The second-gen version was much more reliable than the first— it would have been hard not to improve upon the fantastically crappy 1986-89 Excels— but by that time just about everybody knew to stay away from the model. That makes these cars even harder to find than the initially-hot-selling first-gen Excels. Here’s a ’93 that I spotted at a self-service yard in Denver. (Read More…)

By on October 26, 2012

I stand firm in my belief that the first-gen Hyundai Excel was the worst automobile available in America during the last quarter of the 20th century, and that includes the wretched Yugo GV (if the Austin Rover Group had imported the Metro to these shores, however, the Excel might have been knocked from its dubious pedestal). You don’t see these cars on the street, and they’re very rare in junkyards, but I’ve managed to find three of the things this year. (Read More…)

By on September 12, 2012

I find more Porsche 928s, Alfa Romeo Alfettas, Buick Reattas, and Datsun 810s than I do first-gen Hyundai Excels during my travels in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards, in spite of the 1985-89 Excel selling in tremendous quantities in the United States. You saw these things everywhere on the street until about 1992, at which point the import sections of American junkyards became choked with low-mile Excels that crapped out in not-worth-fixing fashion. I believe the first-gen Excel was the worst motor vehicle you could buy new in the United States in the 1980s, and maybe for the entire fourth quarter of the 20th Century. Yes, even worse than the Yugo. (Read More…)

By on July 26, 2012

Sometimes designers become super stars in the car biz: just ask that dude who made the Ford GT, or the other dude responsible for the Chrysler 300. I am sure both made other vehicles which they truly hated.  Perhaps the 300′s designer shares some amount of blame for the last Chrysler Sebring?  I am sure that Ital Design’s Giorgetto Giugiaro has the same problem, but Hyundai wrote him a check and he made it happen.  Quite honestly, the original Hyundai Excel here in the USA wasn’t a bad car at all.  Bad looking, that is.

And honestly, after walking around this example at a historically savvy Hyundai dealer (next to a Lamborghini Dealership that bored me after 20 minutes) I suggest to you, dear reader, that the Excel sold so unbelievably well on both price and design. Because this machine could look much, much worse.

(Read More…)

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. (Read More…)

By on November 20, 2010

The Korean invasion began in the late eighties with three shitboxes: the Hyundai Excel, the Pontiac LeMans, and the Ford Festiva. Korea Week CC pits them against each other to determine the outcome: the Festiva loses the contest by a large margin. Why? (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2010

Americans are a forgiving sort, and redemption from sin is just the right gesture away. Well, that applies more to politicians and celebrities than to car companies. It can be a little more challenging to overcome the damage from a poor quality car, especially if you’re the brand new kid on the block. Just ask Yugo; they quickly walked away. As did Peugeot, Alfa, Fiat and countless other imports, even though they had been around for decades.  But the Koreans are a tough and determined folk, and when they got their less-than Excellent head handed to them on a platter, they dug in their heels and figured out what it would take to be given a second chance.  (Read More…)

By on January 16, 2010

odd ball Hyundai

The visit to the yard of the Saab 99 owner was…stimulating, and…out of the ordinary. And a brief tour of his house furthered that impression; and the pirate ship in the front yard cemented it. So when I found my way to the curb, and saw two pretty ordinary looking cars sitting there (his tenants’, I assume), I felt I had returned to a more conventional plane. But then I realized: these are both oddballs too! Must be something about this neighborhood. (Read More…)

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