By on April 12, 2021

While automotive enthusiasts have mixed opinions on the cultural clout of electric vehicles, there’s one aspect of electrification that’s undeniably cool — the resto-mod potential. Despite the historic appeal of driving around in vintage automobiles, they’re often painfully slow with ridiculously long braking distances and a lack of standard features many people living today would deem unacceptable. If you don’t believe me, select a random friend and ask them to parallel park a car without power steering or automatic transmission. Chuck in maintenance costs that are often well above average and it’s little wonder why so many Baby Boomers have been spending their retirement years outfitting the classic-era (or older) cars they grew up with with modern conveniences and components.

But we’ve also started seeing manufacturers (and even some intrepid entrepreneurs) taking the foundational concepts of resto-modding and adding electric propulsion. Some executions even seem to be pushing the boundaries of what we could effectively call automotive restoration, like Hyundai’s Pony Heritage EV. 

Based on a first-generation Hyundai Pony hatchback (which the United States never saw), the Heritage utilizes a mystery electric powertrain and some new hardware without mucking up the Giorgetto Giugiaro/Italdesign bodywork. The car itself is supposed to be a tribute to Mr. Giugiaro and the brand’s first official product as much as it is a chance to show off what the current Hyundai design department can do — and it appears to be successful on all fronts.

Sadly, this makes it more of an art car (technically from the “Reflections in Motion” collection) than a conceptual design the manufacturer is mulling over for future production. The car has been completely gutted to make way for modern embellishments, with the interior getting a nearly complete overhaul. Rather than the traditional dashboard, Hyundai lead designer Hak Soo Ha directed staffers to install nixie tubes. While impractical, cathode displays could have made into production vehicles from the 1970s, assuming the manufacturer was unhinged enough to ignore their delicate nature.

Other upgrades include revamped upholstery and trim pieces, LED tail and headlamps, fender-mounted cameras (instead of mirrors), and some new bumpers, door pulls, and wheels.

According to Car & Driver, the Heritage EV has been serving as a focal point at one of Hyundai’s new design facilities in Busan, South Korea, and does double duty as a promotional tool for the Ioniq 5 — which was heavily inspired by the original Pony design that debuted at the 1974 Turin Motor Show. Despite the heavily doctored nature of the photographs, it’s a physical vehicle that can allegedly move under its own power.

Hyundai has made it clear that there’s no plan to put this thing into production, noting that the Ioniq 5 is already filling the space that a modern, regulations-compliant Pony EV would occupy. But we hope it serves to inform future automobiles, as this seems like the natural evolution of the modern-retro aesthetic that’s been catering to baby boomers (and those with an affinity for the classics) for over two decades.

While malaise era remakes don’t sound all that appetizing on paper, there’s a growing number of shoppers who grew up with (and now fetishize) digital displays or Speak & Spell vehicle notifications that are nearing their peak buying power. This old-meets-new, cyber vintage vehicle aesthetic could turn out to be wildly lucrative once more manufacturers realize there’s already a market for it.

[Image: Hyundai]

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29 Comments on “Hyundai Pony Heritage Becomes Design Studio Centerpiece...”

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      I want similarly treated Lada 2108 Zubilo – my first car. What do you think Slavuta? Or you prefer Zapor? It would be a perfect EV. And yes, it did not have power steering or AT (and I liked it) and was handling well (for Russian car). Yet I was able to parallel park it and did it every day – there were no parking lots in Russia.

      • 0 avatar

        “In Russia…” well nevermind, see for yourself:

      • 0 avatar

        Let me cover all your points…
        I thought you hate LADA…
        Zubilo was a precursor of Acura
        I prefer VAZ2106 or 2103 – I like the classic upscale LADA

        So… I never owned a car in Ru… Ukraine, although I did a lot of driving in Russia as well. I drove a lot of different cars and trucks – Vaz2101, 2102, 21011, Niva, UAZ 469, Zapor cheburashka, GAZ 66/51/53, ZIL 131, And Moskvitch 408

        Out of all these, I would say Zapor is a total disaster. Everything else – acceptable cars and trucks. They would definitely lose the horsepower and comfort war of contemporary US counterparts, but if you remember, those were poorly handling boats themselves. In this sense, Japanese were definitely the way to go. I remember those Datsuns and Toyotas, there were beautiful.
        Again, at that time driving nearly any of these felt good.

        If I want one treated nicely – GAZ 2402 Volga Universal. How can you not like it?

        • 0 avatar

          Top 19 reasons you should get a Lada:

          “stick is not just western ant-theft device”

        • 0 avatar

          “I thought you hate LADA…”

          It was love-hate relationship. I hated that it had developed the habit to stall in the middle of the freeway (usually on ring freeway around Moscow). So I always carried in the trunk: fuel pump, timing belt, accessory belt, carb cleaner, set of tools and so on.

          You forgot to mention Tavria and Oka.

          • 0 avatar

            I did not drive ZAZ-1102 Tavria. And I was in US before ZAZ-1103 Slavuta came out.
            And I never driven Oka

            But I had driven Dniepro, hahaha Riga, IZh, Minsk… and Jawa – Jawa ….


          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, Jawa was good. I rode Voskhod, Minsk and Jupiter. And actually bought Voskhod when was 20 y.o.

          • 0 avatar

            Fun fact. I drove Zaporozhetz Cheburashka when I visited back in 1997. After American and Japanese cars, it was….. scary. But that what I rented from my friend to move around.

          • 0 avatar

            And you should be scared – it was deathtrap design from 60s. I think it was like ungainly child of Ford Falcon and FIAT 500.

          • 0 avatar

            At least it had 3 pedals and a shifter

  • avatar

    I like the looks of that car.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Cool. Maybe we will see more classics restored as EVs. Wouldn’t mind eventually converting my Ranger to an EV.

  • avatar

    Nixie tubes are the correct way to dress up a dash.

  • avatar

    This is neat and is making me think about a Datsun 510 electric restomod.

  • avatar

    Pony was the cheapest car in Canada at the time. They sold a lot of them, and then they rusted away so fast they were all gone in ten-years. Hyundai has come a long, long way, from a punchline like the Yugo to a credible alternative to the Japanese.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      In the late 80’s I’d see a few of them here in the states usually with Canadian plates. They were mostly based on Mitsubishi components including the 4G series of engines.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The tail looks a lot like a Chevy Citation hatchback.

  • avatar

    Another great example of what is possible. I love that the big companies even see the impact of electro restos.
    So far of the ones ive seen at here at ttac I have to say the classic k5 blazer done by Gm was the best restro.
    The one that really got me going was the jeep.
    The fact that it is possible for a Ev to have manual transmission is such a releif.
    In my future I would like to see a dealership full of cars like that.
    My question is what laws would stop me from taking that 93 civic with 350k out of junkyard and slap it with a new like warranty with electric powertrain(maybe new seats, paint tires breaks etc.) But then selling it for right under mrsp for anything class to class? Say for this one 93 civic featured yesterday, I sell it for 16,000./6year powertrain warranty plus a buy back/ trade option. Im sure some law would stop me, especially if I have a dealership with 150 of em.

    • 0 avatar

      As great as that Civic was, I’m damned thankful I never had a chance to experience the crashworthiness, or utter lack thereof, in my 1994 model! They folded like a Chinese lawn chair!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    You have to do a Delorean. It will be quicker and sound correct.

  • avatar

    This is a really cool design, and I like restomods in general, because they bring back interesting cars to the roads that would otherwise just sit in a garage somewhere unseen. My larger hope, however, is that designers will be inspired by the more cohesive designs of older cars to build similarly clean designs in new cars, devoid of fake plastic grills, wings, and excessive seams and creases, but with the modern safety of today’s brakes, crumple zones, etc.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This is a nice idea, in concept. But I see two big problems, at least for smaller cars like this: first, these cars (unlike today’s) were relatively light in construction because concerns about crash-worthiness, torsional rigidity and so on were not so great. This made them generally fun to drive and avoided the need for things like power-assisted steering or even power assisted brakes. Second problem is that being an EV comes with a very heavy battery pack, even if the engine/drivetrain is lighter than the ICE drivetrain it replaces. So, the resto-modded car is going to be substantially heavier than the donor vehicle, possibly requiring suspension upgrades and so on. So, I’m not anxious to see a resto-electro-modded MGB, TR4, Porsche 356 or Fiat 124 Spyder . . . or VW Dasher, which this car resembles.

    Maybe if one chose a full-size vintage sedan for the electro-resto-mod the extra weight would be relatively tolerable. Of course, you could go full dune buggy and ditch the heavy steel body, replacing it with a fiberglass copy. But then you wouldn’t have much of the original car left.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    “…there’s a growing number of shoppers who grew up with (and now fetishize) digital displays or Speak & Spell vehicle notifications that are nearing their peak buying power.”

    While this is true, what we really like and miss are the clean lines and clutter free designs that cars of this era offered. But point taken on the digital stuff. When I was shopping Corvettes, I had decided that the early C4 with the digital cockpit was the one I wanted even if it meant having to upgrade the drivetrain. I didn’t get one but that is mainly due to not having the time right now to make it right but with respect to appearance the clean design as well as that digital cockpit that puts me right back at my Commodore 64 playing Test Drive still makes it my favorite.

    This is also why I prefer the SC3/400 to the Mk. IV Supra.

  • avatar

    The hood on this heritage Pony isn’t even fitted straight and level. See pic three. Guess they really wanted to emulate the original Pony (rustbucket) Express. Its sales brother in Canada circa 1985 was the Hyundai Stellar, a decade old Ford Cortina underneath.

    • 0 avatar

      The hood was and is perfectly straight. The body has been twisted by the incredible torque of the EV powertrain. (True fact.)

      If you hold a polarizing filter in front of your screen and carefully study the third picture, you can see the torsional stress accumulating in the windshield glass. (Another true fact.)

  • avatar

    I just wanted to say that this is pretty neat. Thumbs up.

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