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.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans Sedan

Since starting doing this goofy car-writing-online gig 13 years ago last month, I have documented the demise of 2,073 discarded vehicles in excruciating detail. During that time, I have walked right past thousands and thousands of allegedly interesting cars and trucks (sorry, BMW 3 Series fans, but I’ve been trying to make it up to you in recent years) in order to obsess over my very favorite kind of junkyard machines: littleknown examples of puzzling badge engineering. That means that when I see the South Korean Pontiac LeMans in a junkyard, I photograph it.

Here’s a low-mile, first-model-year LeMans sedan, found in a Denver car graveyard last spring.

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Junkyard Find: 2000 Daewoo Leganza SE

Daewoo wasn’t a well-known name in North America in the late 1990s, though quite a few Daewoo-built Pontiac Lemans cars were sold here during the 1988-1993 period. For the 1999 model year, a trio of Daewoo-badged cars appeared on these shores: the Lanos, the Nubira, and the Leganza.

The Leganza was the most luxurious of the Daewoo triumvirate (the bloodline of the Lanos lived on here after Daewoo departed the continent in 2002, as the Chevrolet Aveo and then the Sonic), and I photographed this crashed ’00 in a California self-service wrecking yard.

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Junkyard Find: 2001 Hyundai XG300

I admit I’ve got a sick fascination with luxury cars sold by companies not (at the time, in this market) known for luxury. There’s the Mitsubishi Diamante, of course, and the Mazda 929, and even the Volvo 262C Bertone (I’m still looking for a junked Daewoo Leganza, but either they don’t exist or— more likely— they fade into the junkyard background so perfectly that I never notice them). The Hyundai XG, well, that’s a perfect example of the “who’s laughing now?” phenomenon; just a decade ago, we all chortled at the idea of a Korean luxury sedan selling in the United States. Today, German and Japanese car-industry execs wake up screaming from Hyundai-themed nightmares. So, that makes today’s Junkyard Find of great historical significance (to me and maybe a dozen others).

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Hyundai Generation Why Intramural League, First Place: 2013 Elantra GT

I may occassionally mock the enthusiast infatuation with wagons and hatchbacks, it’s only because they’re not such a big deal to me. Two-box compact and midsize cars (not crossovers or SUVs) are everywhere in my locale, to the point where they go unnoticed. But this is one worth getting excited about.

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Hyundai Generation Why Intramural League, Second Place: 2013 Veloster Turbo

“If you want a Veloster Turbo, you can buy one right now – it’s called the Genesis Coupe.”

That’s what Hyundai CEO John Krafcik told us at the launch of the Veloster last year, when asked about the possibility of a performance version of Hyundai’s distinctive-looking hatchback. Less than a year later, we have a boosted Veloster and a Genesis Coupe that’s better than ever.

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Hyundai Gen Why Intramural League, Third Place: 2012 Elantra Coupe

This is the first installment of a three-part series on Hyundai’s three newest offerings, the Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo.

As I casually sauntered over to the gunmetal Elantra GT, I my mind began to ponder Jack’s piece on the Lamborghini and the politics of masculinity, until a Hyundai PR rep stopped me in mid-daydream. “Oh, you guys are driving the Elantra Coupe this morning.”

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Capsule Review: 2012 Hyundai Equus Ultimate

At $66,900 the 2012 Hyundai Equus is the most expensive Korean car I’ve ever driven.

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