Rare Rides: The 1992 Lotus Excel, End of an Era
Today’s Lotus Excel hails from the end of a period of transition at the famed British brand. Built for 11 years, by the end of Excel’s run the company had chosen a new direction for its cars.
Most would say the change was for the better.
Junkyard Find: 1987 Hyundai Excel 3-Door Hatchback
Until the appearance of the Chrysler 200 and the current generation of Mitsubishi Mirage, the fastest average showroom-to-junkyard speed I’d ever seen with a new car took place with the first-generation Hyundai Excel. Even the wretched Yugo, its rival for the title of Cheapest New Car Available In America, seemed to hold together until at least age six or seven before going to The Crusher, but I started seeing plenty of solid-looking ’86 and ’87 Excels at Southern California U-Wrench yards by 1990 or so.
Still, some of those early Excels stayed on the road for decades, and I try to document those miraculous survivors when I find them. Here’s the cleanest first-gen Excel I’ve seen in at least 25 years, found in a Denver self-service yard last week.
Rare Rides: The 1989 Mitsubishi Precis - Discount Badge Games
Don’t let the title fool you — what we’ve got here is not a Mitsubishi at all, but rather a Hyundai. The late Eighties were confusing times at Mitsubishi, and deals with other OEMs were made left and right.
Today’s Precis is an Excel by any other name.
Junkyard Find: 1988 Mitsubishi Precis
The Hyundai Excel had a Mitsubishi engine, and so some obscure tenet of badge engineering mandated a Mitsubishi-branded Excel so it might drive on the same roads as Plymouth-branded Mitsubishis.
This was the Mitsubishi Precis, a car that was so stunningly bad and such a poor seller that this one is the first and only example I have ever seen in all my years of crawling through wrecking yards.
That makes it one of the rarest cars … in the world.
Junkyard Find: 1987 Hyundai Excel With Not-Rare-Enough Zero-Options Package
I can’t think of any vehicle manufacturer whose products improved as much and as quickly as Hyundai’s did between the ghastly first-gen Excel and the very nice Hyundais of, say, the current century.
The only new US-market car that was cheaper than the first Excel was the Yugo GV (which was, arguably, the better car), and in all my years of junkyard crawling I have never seen any vehicle that got discarded in larger quantities before reaching ten years of age (in fact, lots of Excels appeared at U-Wrench-It before their fifth birthdays).
This means that 1985-89 Excels are exceedingly rare in junkyards today, so I always photograph them when I find them. So far in this series, we have seen this ’86, this ’87, this ’88, and now today’s depressingly un-loaded ’87, which is as far advanced from today’s nice Hyundais as is a cargo-cult wicker plane from a Boeing 787.
If You Drive A Smart Today, You Can Drive An Exotic Later
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math.
And did he ever.
Junkyard Find: 1993 Hyundai Excel
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.
Junkyard Find: 1988 Hyundai Excel
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.
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.
Vellum Venom: 1986 Hyundai Excel
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.
Junkyard Find: 1987 Hyundai Excel
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.