Junkyard Find: 1986 Hyundai Excel GL

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1986 hyundai excel gl

I find more Porsche 928s, Alfa Romeo Alfettas, Buick Reattas, and Datsun 810s than I do first-gen Hyundai Excel s 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.

This is the second first-gen Excel I’ve found this year, after this ’87. That’s something of a record; I don’t think I’ve found two of these cars in the same year since Bill Clinton was in the White House.

47,932 miles. This car probably clanked to a halt in a cloud of smoke in about 1990 and then spent the next 22 years forgotten under a tarp in a driveway.

With the world to choose from when shopping for engines, Hyundai went with Mitsubishi as its supplier. The 4G15 wasn’t in the same reliability league as its Toyota, Honda, and Nissan counterparts, but the Excel had many other weak points.

I keep hoping to see an early Excel in a 24 Hours of LeMons race, but so far the teams choosing Korean cars have gone with Kia Sephias, Hyundai Accents, and Ford Festivas.

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  • Carfriend313 Carfriend313 on Sep 15, 2012

    Narrowly beaten to the title of 'most ironically named car' by the Mitsubishi Carisma.

  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on Feb 18, 2016

    What a crock. This was not the worst car sold in the 1980's! The Yugo was far worse - the Chevette was horrific and a slug. Hyundai to this point was a really limited production company and was very late to the automobile market with North American sales pretty much being limited to Canada. Those models were subpar. With the Excel there was a fair amount of cross pollination with Mitsubishi through license - essentially a reworked Dodge Colt. Engine was made by Hyundai under license from Mitsubishi. While these vehicles were indeed budget oriented, they weren't awful for the time period - it is so easy to judge by today's standards, but this website has a distinct bias (and is not truthful) about these products. It would be one thing to sell them for $2k more and you'd expect much out of it, but at that price point, there was no comparison with a Yugo - to suggest a Yugo, which was a Fiat under license, was better is to show how dishonest this site is. I'm a Ford guy, but what has been said about Hyundai is not truthful - my Mom bought her first new car without my Dad's name on the financing as a Hyundai Excel and she never had any problems with it - and because I helped with the negotiations, she got a great deal and she basically paid interest on the loan and lost $500 additional off her new car purchase price. She got back less than $500 off her original sticker price - I detailed it and it looked brand new and drove like it. And I know first hand about the Chevette - it took nearly 20 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standing start with two people in it. I know - I timed it from a toll booth standing stop. So don't make false statements on the worst product.

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.