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 and 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.