Hyundai got off to a galloping start

Having viewed the Hyundai Genesis sedan and coupe at the Vancouver International Auto Show last week (two cars that could find a home in my garage) I thought I would look into Hyundai’s history in Canada.

The Korean automaker entered the Canadian market 30 years ago offering a cheap runabout, or second family car, known as the Pony. The projected figure for 1984 was to sell 5,000 cars. They surpassed that figure in just a few months and by the end of the year they had sold 10 times the projected figure, making the Hyundai Pony the top selling car in Canada for that year.

The Pony was first introduced in Korean in 1975, and the first exports were shipped overseas in 1976 to Ecuador and later to Europe.

The Canadian models had slight differences and were fitted with a single square-sealed-beam headlight, side-marker lights and impact absorbing bumpers. The Pony was not sold in the United States because it could not meet the rigid emission standards.

The man responsible for this popular car was George Turnbull. Having endured the great upheaval of the British car industry as the managing director of Austin Morris at British Leyland, Turnbull decided it was time to move on. The company offered him any vehicle in their model range as a parting gift. His request for two Morris Marinas (a coupe and sedan) was granted, probably because it was a lot cheaper than a top-of-the-line Jaguar, Daimler or Range Rover.

Needless to say, the strange request puzzled the folks at British Leyland. They soon had their answer when Turnbull and two Marinas set sail for South Korea. Turnbull had been headhunted by an up-and-coming car manufacturer called Hyundai.

The Pony was built using a Marina-styled platform, rear-wheel drive with leaf-spring suspension, McPherson front-strut suspension, a Mitsubishi drivetrain and a body designed by Italy’s Italdesign Giugiaro.

Today the Hyundai Pony is virtually extinct. When was the last time you saw a pristine Hyundai Pony?

Nigel Matthews is the director of sales and marketing for Hagerty Canada, LLC — Hagerty is the world’s largest specialist provider of collector car insurance and provides many resources that support the classic car lifestyle. Contact him at [email protected] or visit

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