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.
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.
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.