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Closeup of six colorful early-model Hyundai Ponys parked tightly and neatly in two rows at a car terminal.
Heritage story

Hyundai Heritage: Retracing Hyundai’s iconic Pony

9 minute read

“A desire for better” was the driving force behind Hyundai Motor Founding Chairman Ju-yung Chung’s vision for Korea’s first home-grown automaker. In the aftermath of the devastating war, Chung reached his goal of improving the lives of the nation’s people by pouring his heart and soul into rebuilding Korea’s economy. The iconic Pony, to which we dedicate this inaugural heritage story, embodies Chung’s passion and vision. Furthermore, Chung’s efforts ultimately helped Korea join the estimable ranks of automaking nations. In the 55 years since Hyundai’s inception, the vision of a better tomorrow for humanity continues to mark Hyundai’s past, present, and future.

After the Korean War (1950-1953), Founding Chairman Ju-yung Chung played a crucial role in the industrialization of Korea. Chung contributed to the prosperity of the nation by building roads to connect cities and by manufacturing the cars to run on them. In pursuit of creating a better country through the automotive industry, Hyundai’s founding spirit of humanism and the drive for innovation led to the birth of the Pony in 1975—the nation’s first original model as well as a timeless Hyundai icon. The Pony came to symbolize the country’s rapid growth and household prosperity of that time, which is why millions of people today still feel a connection with and fondness Hyundai’s Pony.

Hyundai's Heritage project traces Hyundai’s past and present efforts to show how its focus on humanity has always been the basis for the company’s success, and why it continues to be the backbone of its philosophy—even to this day. Read on to learn more about Hyundai’s Heritage project, including the 'PONY, the timeless' exhibition at Hyundai Motorstudio Seoul and the RETRACE Series, that traces Hyundai’s legacy.

Grainy, black and white side-view image of Hyundai Motor Founding Chairman Ju-yung Chung standing in front of an early-model Pony with a model Hyundai cargo ship in the foreground.

A desire for better. Hyundai Motor Founding Chairman
Ju-yung Chung

Exhibition: 'PONY, the timeless'

Experience Pony, Korea’s first independently developed model at the 'PONY, the timeless' exhibition being held at Hyundai Motorstudio Seoul. This exhibition offers an experience that examines Pony’s journey from multiple perspectives, which intersect with the present and the future, and allows one to feel Hyundai’s timeless core value of “humanity.”

'PONY, the timeless' is Hyundai’s first Heritage initiative held in Korea, following the inaugural Hyundai Reunion event held on Italy’s Lake Como in May. Hyundai approached the Pony exhibition from a humane perspective to form a story that allows visitors to retrace Pony’s history. Chung’s human-centered innovation and the company’s brand vision of "Progress for Humanity” resonates throughout all five floors.

Side view of a four-door early-Movel Hyundai Pony with technical drawings for the front half and a picture of a red car for the rear half.

The Pony Coupe Concept restoration model that was unveiled at the first ever Hyundai Reunion held in Italy will be on display for the first time in Korea at 'PONY, the timeless'. Detailed stories about the Pony and the Pony Coupe, and their contributions to Hyundai’s Heritage project, can be found at the exhibition. The exhibition goes beyond listing Pony’s past, present, and future—it is designed to allow visitors to view the “Pony era” from various perspectives in terms of the iconic car’s historical background, archives, design, and the company philosophy.

Starting on the 5th floor, Pony's story unfolds at the visitor’s feet and guides them along an exciting journey outlining the vehicle's history. First, one is transported back to the 1970s and 1980s—the Pony era—through videos, music, and images that depict contemporary culture and society. On the 4th floor, Pony’s first designs and other archival material are on display. This floor tells the story of how Pony was developed and ultimately made it to markets worldwide.

The 3rd floor is a retrospective of the restored model of the Pony Coupe Concept from the 1974 Turin Motor Show. Here we introduce the world-renowned automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s designs and initial drawings. The N Vision 74 concept, a hydrogen-hybrid “Rolling Lab” development vehicle that was inspired by the Pony Coupe Concept, is up next in the journey. These two vehicles represent a shared lineage connecting the company’s past and future, illustrating the continuation of Hyundai’s ambition to be innovative and daring. On the 2nd floor, the exhibition concludes by sharing the personal memories of Pony owners and aficionados. This connection with people is the spirit of Hyundai Motor Founding Chairman Ju-yung Chung, who regarded people as the most important aspect.

By the time the visitors make their way to the ground floor, they complete a journey through time that explores Hyundai’s past, present, and future. This demonstrates how Hyundai's core value of 'humanity' keeps the brand relevant and timeless.

Front view of a red, a yellow, and a blue early-model Hyundai Pony driving in a single file on a gravel road lined with trees.

When  June 9th-October 8th
Where  Hyundai Motorstudio Seoul

Side view of a red two-door Hyundai Pony with its hatchback up along the ocean. Behind it, there is a table, chairs, sun umbrella, bottled drinks, and surf and scuba diving gear set up on the sand.

Retrace the journey toward humanity

Humanity is the desire that drives us, uniting us to constantly do better, to endlessly reinvent ourselves and evolve. Humanity runs deep in our veins. With the passing of time in the pursuit of a better life for the people, our journey is discovered and the footprints that we create become our legacy.

In the first and foremost “Pony” chapter of our Heritage project, we explore the impact Hyundai Motor has had on humanity by retracing our heritage in a variety of ways. At 'PONY, the timeless' visitors can not only personally trace the history of Pony, but they can also find the RETRACE Magazine to get their own overview of Korea’s home-grown automaker’s heritage. The magazine shares not only the legacy of Hyundai and Pony, but most importantly, the memories and stories of the liberating impact that Pony ownership had on the people and the nation as a whole.

Multiple RETRACE magazines from the Hyundai Heritage Project laid out on a white table with the  edition titled “forever yours” in the center.

In addition to bringing economic growth into Korean homes by vitalizing the domestic automotive industry, Pony notably improved the daily lives of people in Korea. Car ownership extended daily travel distances which ultimately improved the quality of people’s lives by enabling greater access to special activities such as traveling, shopping, dining, outdoor activities, etc. Therefore, to the generation of people who played a central role in driving social and economic development in 1970s and 1980s Korea, the Pony held a special place in their hearts as their first “my car.”

Three early-model four-door Hyundai Ponys on a grassy field with the red one in the front, the blue one behind it to the left and the silver one in the back facing right.

Why is Pony so meaningful?

Pony holds such a meaningful position in Korea’s collective memory because its creation provided the country with more than just a transportation device; it provided the country with its very own independently developed vehicle. Pony came at a time when there were very few cars on the road—all of which were imported—and for many nationals it was their first chance to participate in the new world that Korea was building. For some, it was their very first possession.

If one thinks about what Pony represented, one will see it is more than just an inanimate object or method of transportation, it was the beginning of a new era, and that is why this car holds so much meaning for the people of Korea. The car gave the freedom to move and embodied the pleasure to own. In 1976, Pony’s domestic passenger car share was 44%, and was the first “my car” to many Korean households at that time. That is why we have dedicated an entire section of our RETRACE Magazine to the stories that connect people with Pony. Objects that withstand the test of time often gain the power of heritage, and that is the case with Pony.

The contest-winning picture of a little boy in blue shorts and shoes wearing over-sized sunglasses while standing and waving in front of a blue Hyundai Pony from the 1970s.

The cover photo of the RETRACE Magazine, Ho-Hyung Kim from New Entry Mechanism Design Team

An interview with the boy in the cover photo

The RETRACE Magazine’s cover photo is a perfect example of what Pony means to people. While designing the RETRACE Magazine, Hyundai Motor asked employees to submit a photo of their very own Pony memories for the cover image. Upon hearing about the contest, Hyundai Motor New Entry Mechanism Design Team Research Engineer Ho-Hyung Kim immediately thought of the many pictures from family trips with the Pony in his childhood photo albums, and submitted a few of them.

The winning photo is one of Kim’s most cherished pictures. “I am waving my hand and standing in front of my parents’ Pony wearing my father’s sunglasses,” recalls Kim, smiling. “After the photo was taken, I sat on my father’s lap and imitated him driving, holding the steering wheel tightly.” That memory is from one of the many trips Kim’s family went on with the Pony.

The influence that Pony had on Kim held strong. He wanted to share the childhood joy that he experienced with Pony by actually contributing to the making of a vehicle. Today he is living his dream and developing a module as well as locking mechanism at Hyundai Motor.

Rear view of a white four-door Hyundai Pony station wagon in a parking lot with its hatchback up. Nine suitcases of various sizes and colors lined up and ready to go in the trunk.
Mother and father holding their daughter and standing behind a blue early-model four-door Hyundai Pony parked in front of a blue hut.

Ready for the future Hyundai has envisioned?

The founding chairman’s desire to provide a better life through mobility is deeply rooted in the “humanity value” inherent to Hyundai. With the transition from the internal combustion engine to electric cars, Hyundai is expanding its future mobility business by focusing on sustainability. Hyundai continues to strive to maintain its distinctive position by presenting the Heritage project: Pony, IONIQ 5, and the N Vision 74 which draws on the Pony Coupe concept car. All of these aforementioned vehicles are the inheritors of the Pony, the icon that pointed to Hyundai’s future from the past.

Automobiles are shifting from a means of transportation that enhances our lifestyle to an eco-friendly mobility platform. Hyundai Motor is at the center of this massive transformation and is preparing to undertake the great challenge of providing smart mobility solutions—like Advanced Air Mobility, robotics, etc. In the founding chairman’s spirit, Hyundai has had their eyes on bigger dreams ever since they designed the Pony. That is why we are celebrating Pony, as we steer into the future.

Hyundai Motor Company is driven by the pursuit of humanity.
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