Junkyard Find: 1987 Hyundai Excel

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Lokki Lokki on Feb 16, 2012

    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.

  • Jozh_86 Jozh_86 on Nov 21, 2013

    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

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.