Whatever happened to the Hyundai Stellar

For many years, a Stella has been the central factor to a Friday or Saturday night out on town. A few too many and then it is off for a kebab before stumbling into a taxi to be sick. Classy. Before the advent of Skoda cabs in the 90s, there was a fair chance that the car to be sick in was the Hyundai Stellar. So for a few lucky fellows, a good night started with a Stella and ended in a Stellar. Excellent naming strategy by the boys in Korea there.

But when was the last time you say a Stellar? Indeed, when was the last time you even thought about the Stellar? Probably a long time ago and that’s because they appear to have been wiped clean from the UK streets. Kind of ironic seeing as most Stellar cab owners would have spent the best part of Sunday morning cleaning the rear seats. But enough about sick.

Hyundai Stellar
Reassuringly extinct

The Hyundai Stellar could so easily have been called the Hyundai Mongrel. Based on the chassis of the MKV Ford Cortina, with engine and transmission from a Mitsubishi and a body designed by Giorgetto Giugaro. Now Mr Giugaro has a habit of turning up in this section of PetrolBlog, already credited for the Hyundai Pony and Isuzu Piazza. Fair to say that the Stellar probably doesn’t rank as one of his greatest achievements, but maybe he was concentrating on the Saab 9000 and Fiat Uno at the time? Who knows?

The Stellar was the forerunner to the modern day Sonata and therefore competed in the same sector as the Cortina/Sierra and Cavalier. Launched in 1983, the car pretty much underpinned the direction of the Hyundai brand with a focus on reliability and value for money. For this reason, it became the first choice for inner city taxi drivers who found the rear legroom and size of boot perfect for the airport run and post-pub dash across town. Many Stellars were run into the ground by cab drivers, many clocking up over 200,000 miles in the process. But there was another often missed party trick up the Stella’s sleeves. It was rear wheel drive!

This made it an ideal choice for the banger racing fraternity. Straight from the taxi rank and onto the grid. So the reason why you’re unlikely to see a Stellar today is that most were crushed to within an inch of their lives on the banger track. If you were writing a biography on the Stella, it would have to be called ‘Drifting into bangers and cabs‘. Maybe.

Hyundai Stellar
Reassuringly drifting

I’ll leave you with some ‘classic’ TV ads from the early 80s, clearly inspired by a mixture of Doctor Who, Flash Gordon and Look & Read.

This second video is a real treat. Some three and a half minutes of Stellar footage. The guy doing the narration was clearly being paid by the number of times he could mention the car’s name. But the video also contains delights such as Stellar in a sheep dip, Stellar in the stream and Stella on the golf course. Also look out for rare footage of the Elite video game being tested in Korea, a full year before being released in the west. Enjoy.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia. Videos courtesy of http://www.youtube.com/user/m35a2

Update 12th October 2010 – just received these images from Ray who commented on the article below. Amazing condition Stellar Gold Medal Edition which has survived the passage of time remarkably well. Thanks Ray.

Hyundai Stellar


Hyundai Stellar again

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. August 9, 2010
    Ray Pound

    Back in 1986 when family finances precluded much thought on owning a new car, I saw an advert for the Hyundai Stellar at a dealer in Biggleswade. It looked much better than a Lada or an FSO or indeed a grubby 2nd hand Ford Escort. The garage proprietor had a remarkable resemblance to Kenneth Williams, including the voice. A test drive was arranged and this straightforward, sturdy rear drive saloon impressed me enough to throw financial caution to the wind and I placed an order for a Stellar 1.6 SL (£5068). My Renault 20 was not considered worthy of part exchange but I had anticipated that one. The Stellar proved to be ultra reliable over the 110,000 miles of ownership and was a remarkably stable tow car for the family caravan. After about 6 years my parents died and some funds from their estate allowed me to part exchange the Stellar for a nearly new Sonata, however, this car ate fuel pumps and did not like towing the caravan so eventually I traded it (the Sonata) for a Citroen CX Turbo 2 (Incredible car, but that’s another story). Back to the Stellar theme: I agree with your Stellar life cycle except that the front drive, transverse engined early Sonata with rear suspension totally unlike that of the Stellar did not appear to have inherited any design or equipment features from the Stellar. A couple of months ago I was surprised to see a Stellar on ebay and, on a whim, decided that I would like one again. It is a 1988 Gold Medal edition of the GSL in retro sandy bronze metallic with similar shades of brown velour inside. Overall condition of this 32000 miles from new survivor is remarkable – wheel arches, floor, sills, door bottoms and front wings are almost as new and are made of metal, not filler! I love driving it as it does everything adequately and with a good dose of naustalgia. It also provides a nice contrast to my other two vehicles (Mitsubishi i and a 1961 Reliant Regal!!). Hyundai dealers, rather like Skoda dealers, try to divorce themselves from the past and do not carry any spares or any reference to the non-electronic models of earlier times so, if anyone has a Hyundai Stellar 1.6 Workshop Manual for sale (1988 or later edition), please give me a shout.

    • August 9, 2010

      What a great story! Thanks for getting in touch.

      Would love to see some pics of your great Stellar survivor, so please get in touch and we’ll feature them here.

      As for the workshop manual – if anyone has one, please get in touch with PetrolBlog and we’ll put you in touch with Ray.

    • October 10, 2010
      Ray Pound

      I have acquired a workshop manual but fortunately have not needed it yet. Still very pleased with my purchase and delight in cruising around with Queen blasting from the surprisingly good standard cassette audio system. The Stellar sailed through its MOT a few weeks ago. I’ll get some photos shortly.

      • October 10, 2010

        Good man! Look forward to seeing the photos and fingers crossed you’ll never need the workshop manual!

    • July 25, 2014
      cecil karawita

      Mr. Pound
      Please let me know whether you got a copy of Manual for the Hyindai stellar 1986 model.
      Can you tell me the fuel tank capacity and the mileage per gallon of petrol.
      cecil Karawita
      Sri Lanka

  2. September 15, 2010

    Nice History!!! 😀

    I have a Hyundai Stellar 1989 GSL 1.6, the car has 200,000 miles traveled recently, is a very good car for years and never has left me a launched so far.

    Here are some pictures of the vehicle:




    More Pics: (Required Facebook)


    Greetings from Chile!

    • September 15, 2010

      Thanks for getting in touch. Suitably impressed with the Chilean flag on the rear wing! Nice!

  3. June 14, 2011

    I’ve got a 1987 2 liter here in Canada, got it for free with 118,000 Kilometers on it. 4 spd auto CXL (GLS) with all the fixings save aircon – I even installed a rear fog light!

    I’ve got it now at 193k, with a 2.4L 12 valve Sonata head, rebuilt carb, electric fuel pump, new starter, MSD ignition (SCI with blaster2 coil, Tach adapter), I must have done the front bearings and brakes at least 3 times though… 7 speaker system with amplified sub- It’s in great shape (rot is just now starting to form on the inside of the door lips) save for the driver’s rear wheel arch – After repairing it several times, I backed into a BMW and destroyed it again… The biggest issue I am facing now is a hole in the filler neck and a cracked windshield, as well as a low oil PSI problem at idle after warm up – I’m thinking of letting it go naturally and replace the block with a 2.4L

    It has not been as reliable as my Pony (I’ve had 11 – one left that I use to race under heavy mods), and I fear this is the last overhaul I am going to give to it – It has served a harsh life under my “care”, used as an engine hauler, many, many trips to NYC (from Toronto) and all sorts of severe-duty use, as well as 4 years of Canadian winters. I hope to get 230k out of it, we’ll see though!

    • June 14, 2011

      A free car that goes on to deliver 75k kms can’t be bad! Sounds like a perfect candidate for a Real World Review!

      Would also be worth knowing how the BMW faired after you reversed into it?!

      You’ve had ELEVEN Ponies? I’m impressed. Almost as much as I am by your heavily modified Pony race car. Any more information on it?

  4. October 4, 2011

    well i still have the 1987 stellar with 2.0 engine.currently it’s not in its best condition as i’ve been neglecting it for several years. there were rusts all over and stuff. but the engine still works and it’s drivable though. just not looking very presentable at the moment. was thinking of restoring the car as i quite fancied it since it was my first ride. anyway, i was wondering does anyone know what’s the bolt pattern for the 87 stellar? i can’t seem to fit the usual aftermarket wheels on it.

    • October 4, 2011

      I’m not sure myself, but hopefully somebody can advise…

      Good luck with the restoration. Good to see the car being kept alive…

  5. September 10, 2013

    Hi guys,
    I have one Stellar and needed to put a new Magwheel on it. Difficulties in the right size mags. Any help.

    • September 10, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Comment approved in the hope you receive some help!

  6. September 29, 2013

    I have an 86 stellar. It’s in the middle of a turbo swap that has been going on for years but haven’t got time to finish. Bolt pattern is 4 x 108. Four bolt mustang wheels work perfect. Same pattern as the ford focus and contour/mondeo. Hope that helps you out

  7. October 15, 2013
    Mat Fenwick

    I Had a 1985 Stellar as my first car, some 15+ years ago. After clocking up 100k miles in it I was somewhat attached to it, but the original engine was tired after 186k. Given the spacious engine bay I decided to put a Rover V8 into it…


    Not finished yet, but should be a laugh once done!

    • October 15, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      That’s an insanely cool project, Mat! Good luck and good work.

      There’s plenty of room at the PetrolBlog Arms for you. Pass the salted peanuts…

      • December 5, 2013
        Mat Fenwick

        Thanks – as an update the engine is now running! I’ve even managed to recalibrate the rev counter so it reads correctly with twice as many sparks per revolution.


        Perhaps I should consider some kind of an exhaust system next?

  8. December 11, 2013

    There are now only 15 Stellars left on the road in the UK according to ‘How many left.’ Mine had a slight hiccup 18 months ago when the weld attaching the spring cradle to the offside front strut failed from corrosion. Finding a replacement strut was very difficult but a local garage saved the day and the Stellar has been strutting around happily on a new pair ever since. There is something very appealing and homely about a beige interior – beats bland greyness every time.

    • December 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Love it!

      You’re right about the stats, too. Interestingly, there’s almost an equal number of Stellars currently listed as SORN! http://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/combined/hyundai_stellar

      • January 4, 2014
        Mat Fenwick

        That’s interesting – mine appears to be one of the two oldest left, being 1985 registered. Click on the ‘engines’ link for a laugh…

        • February 3, 2017
          craig bourne

          mine must be the other one then 1st reg 25/04/1985 🙂 1.6 sl
          have you still got yours Mat Fenwick

  9. April 10, 2014
    Mike H

    Love the Olympic email edition. As I recall, there were both ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ editions of the Stellar and the Pony. I should have a Hyundai Olympic records book around somewhere.

    I think for a brief while there was also a ‘Sonata’ special edition Stellar (before the sonata became the upmarket model of its own), which featured two-tone paint.

    I also remember the Pony had both ‘ebony’ and ‘ivory’ special editions, so there was a clear musical theme running through Hyundai in the mid 80’s.

    A black GLS with a somewhat tuned engine made someone a very nice Q-car for a while, but did eat fuel.

  10. July 25, 2014
    cecil karawita

    Hi every owners,
    Can some one tell me the tank ncapacity and the lieage per gallon of petrol.
    Cecil from Colombo / SriLanka

  11. December 14, 2014

    My dad had one from 1988-98. Brilliant car. The stereo for the time was immense…the tape turned itself over!! Was very comfortable and could cruise all day!

    It was a light blue 1.6GSL. Miss it!

  12. July 20, 2015
    Kim Robson

    I have my dads Stellar 1986 it’s the red 1.6GLS still running well and in great condition the 1st addition to have electric windows.

    • July 21, 2015
      Gavin Big-Surname

      Blimey, that’s a rare thing!

      Do you have any pics?

  13. August 5, 2015
    Manuel cortez soto

    srs.me urge encontrar el manual de reparaciones del hyunday stellar 1989 .ese que fue armado en Canadá . el mestizo.

  14. August 26, 2015

    Had a Stellar in the early 90s enjoyed it, good car.

    Point is I,m having a clear out and have 2 original DEALER WORKSHOP MANUALS for the Stellar
    one dated 1983 and the other 1987 ,they are grubby, very well used but complete so far as I can see.
    I have no idea if these are as rare as the actual cars now .
    If anyone is interested in having these, as a pair or individually then get in touch.
    Nice to hear of at least a few of these motors are being looked after.
    Regards to you all Frank.

  15. December 18, 2015

    Only just come across this site by accident, brings back memories!… I bought a new Stellar in 1988, red 1.6 after driving a Lada it was like being in heaven. I was a taxi driver self employed at the time. The Lada did the job and really had no problems, just a bit heavy on the steering as no power steering. This Stellar was so reliable, it worked hard and never let me down once. I did 140,000 miles in it and still on the original clutch, I was sad to see it go, but was moving to Asia so it had to go.
    Now back in the UK, got a Dacia Sandero now, reminds me a bit of the Stellar as this is basically a redesigned Renault Clio like the Stellar was a Ford Cortina running gear with a Mitsubishi engine.
    Happy days, can’t believe been driving 50 years this year, the years fly by!…… 🙂


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