Before N - Scoupe #1
The Dawn of the Korean Sports Car
The “My Car” Era – Listening to the Voices of Car Aficionados
The end of the 1980s heralded the start of the “my car” era, which referred to one car per household in Korea. To car aficionados, however, Korean roads seemed dull and rather boring given the absence of a sports car.
In April 1989, however, there came news that amazed Korean car maniacs. At the launch of the New Excel, Hyundai Motor officially announced that it was developing a local sports car. At that time, a sports car meant a high-powered, flat coupe, the likes of which had only been seen in foreign countries. Indeed, this news probably made car lovers, who were well aware of global car brands and the history of models, wonder: ‘A Korean domestic sports car is being launched? How is that even possible?’
Before their amazement vanished, Hyundai Motor showcased the Sports-Looking Car (SLC) at the Tokyo Motor Show held in October of the same year, thus proving that what they had said six months earlier was true.
Innovative Style: Korea’s First Two-Door Coupe
The Scoupe, Korea’s first two-door coupe, was launched twenty six years ago in February 1990. Under the project name “SLC (Sports Looking Car)”, the Scoupe was manufactured using the X2 (second generation Excel) as a base, with a total investment of KRW 52.1 billion. The name “Scoupe” is coined from the words “Sports” and “Coupe”, the latter referring to a two-door car. Unlike in Korea, where the name is quite familiar, SCOUPE was read “S-Coupe” in a number of foreign markets.
A car had previously been perceived as a mere means of transportation or a symbol of wealth. The Scoupe, however, showed that a car could be an expression of style and character. As a result, over 5,000 orders for the Scoupe were placed within a month of its launch. At that time, 32.2% of the contracted buyers were in their 20s and 50% were in their 50s, proving that the Scoupe had successfully positioned itself as a dream car for young people who were looking for something different.
Now let’s see how the Scoupe added value to its functional features and came to be crowned the “first Korean sports car” with a fascinating design.
Enhanced Functionality through Powertrain Improvement
'91. 4 Exclusively Developed Alpha (α) Engine
The first version of the Scoupe was equipped with the Mitsubishi 1.5 liter “New Orion” MPI engine. However, with 97 ps, taking 12.1 seconds to accelerate 0-100 km/h and a top speed of 174 km/h, it fell somwhat short of what people expected from a “sports car”.
However, after the Scoupe was relaunched in April 1991 with the alpha (α) engine, such notions were dispelled. The alpha (α) engine was Hyundai Motor’s first independently developed engine, which later triggered the company to complete its current engine line-up. The first alpha (α) engine installed in the Scoupe was a 1.5 liter naturally aspirated (NA) engine, with two aspirators and an SOHC 3-valve exhaust. This engine achieved 102 ps, an acceleration time of 0-100 km/h in 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 180km/h, made possible by the exclusively developed gearbox (5-speed automatic transmission and 3-speed manual transmission).
'91. 10 Alpa (α) Turbocharger Engine
The addition of a turbocharger to the independently developed alpha engine led to the completion of the Scoupe engine line-up. The Scoupe, the first Korean car to use the gasoline turbocharger engine, produced 129 ps and 18.3 kg.m torque. It was the first Korean car ever to reach 0-100 km/h acceleration within a time of 9 seconds (9.18 seconds) and a top speed of 200 km/h (205 km/h) – a record in the history of Korean cars, which satisfied the desire for functional features.
Bold Design with Sophisticated Curves
Face Lift with Added Elegance
In April 1992, two years and four months after the Scoupe was first launched, Hyundai Motor underwent a face lift and a revamped model, the “New Scoupe”, was showcased. The new model exuded sophistication, with curved lines all over, redesigned headlamps, taillights that made the rear stand out and a larger bumper. The white New Scoupe that appears in the video is the model displayed at our Namyang R&D Center’s R&D History Hall, and it conveys the stylish features seen in the sports coupe of the 1990s.
Smart Car Body with Less Aerodynamic Drag
The drag coefficient of the Scoupe was 0.30, which was similar to that of a reputable Japanese sports car at the time. This was the result of the coupe’s body and rear design, which took the drag coefficient into consideration.
※ What is the drag coefficient?
The drag coefficient is the calculated value of the air at the front and rear that impacts the car’s movement forward. The lower the value the better, as acceleration is enhanced by the reduction in resistance, there is silence inside the car thanks to there being less wind sound and fuel efficiency is improved by aerodynamic functions.
Floating Roof, the Completion of a Dynamic Design
The side and rear windows of the Scoupe appear to be stretched from one window. This is because the Scoupe employed the “Floating Roof” design where the roof seems to be floating due to the dark C-pillar. Even now, the Scoupe looks very sensual and dynamic.
Rear Spoiler with Aerodynamics and Style
The rear spoiler on top of the trunk not only added to the car's sporty appearance but also enhanced the downforce of the rear power in order to achieve the necessary aerodynamics. The clever spoiler feature was the critical design element that added to the sportiness of the car.
※ What is downforce?
The downforce refers to the downward thrust created by the aerodynamic characteristics of a car. Increasing the downforce creates more vertical force, offering more stability when driving.
Interior Design with Added Sportiness
The top of the crash pad conveys a smooth line while accentuating the car’s sportiness. In particular, a cut inside the rim, the booster gauge that shows the turbocharger’s operating status and a design to enhance the grip of the steering wheel strongly emphasized the sportiness of the Scoupe.
Sports Bucket Sheet
The Scoupe was the first Korean manufactured car to use a sports bucket sheet. The thick back bolster was applied in addition to the cushion bolster that holds up the lower part of the body and minimizes the movement of the driver.
“When I turned the first corner, all I saw was the Scoupe; it was everywhere in my sight – in front of me, behind me, to the side of me. The Scoupe overwhelmed the trend of motor sports.” - Pelops Racing Team Leader Kim Han-bong -
The Scoupe and the Change of Generation in Korea’s Motorsports Industry
Local motorsports began on rough off-road tracks. Like the Dakar Rally, which is said to be the ultimate race that pushes both the car and the racing driver to their limits, off-road racing was about breathtaking competition. The scope of local motorsports later expanded, making a foray into on-road racing. On-road races were attended by cars of various different types in accordance with the CC. This soon led to speed competitions, which eventually created demand for faster and more agile cars.
The Scoupe, with its agility based on having a reduced weight and a strong turbo engine, soon took to the circuits. Quenching racing drivers’ thirst for greater horsepower, the Scoupe led the race both on- and off-road, and came to be loved by many racers. For that reason, despite the fact that it was not the only car to hit the circuits (a single-car game where 18 in 20 racing cars were a Scoupe), it marked the beginning of a new generation in local motorsports. At that time, racing drivers even said “If you want victory, drive a Scoupe”.
Victory on Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a mountainous road race held in Colorado, United States. Racers drive on a 19.87 km-long track at 2,862 m to 4,301 m above sea level. The road conditions are not good and outside the course is a steep cliff, which means that both the drivers and the cars are pushed to their limits.
“The perfect balance between the Scoupe Turbo's stability at sharp bends, highly powerful engine and excellent braking power has led me to victory.” - Rod Millen during his winning speech at the 1992 Pikes Peak Hill Climb -
The triumph of the Scoupe swept the local motorsports circuit and extended to overseas circuits. New Zealand's racer Rod Millen won the 1992 Pikes Peak Hill Climb with his Scoupe Turbo Rally car in the 2WD manufactured class. Rod Millen said, “The perfect balance between the Scoupe Turbo's stability at sharp bends, highly powerful engine and excellent braking power have led me to victory.”
It might be of interest to note that Rod Millen is the father of Rhys Millen, who won the same race in 2012 with his Genesis Coupe; the Millens are therefore living proof of the prowess of Hyundai Motor's sports cars.
The Scoupe's victory in foreign motorsports competitions meant a lot for Hyundai Motors and it acted as a stepping stone for writing the history of its sports model. The Scoupe Turbo Rally Car, which was the winner then, is displayed at in the PR room in the factory in Ulsan.
In the second episode, we will shed further light on the Scoupe through a test drive that was completed in 2016.
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