Before N - Tiburon #1

Korea-born Shark that Went Ahead of its Time


Design Inspired by the Concept Car

  • HCD-1 Concept Car

    HCD-1 Concept Car

    The birth of Tiburon dates back to the launch of Hyundai Motor’s first concept cars – HCD-1 and HCD-2. The HCD (Hyundai California Design) got its name from its place of manufacture, which was Hyundai Motor’s Design Center in the United States; HCD-1, first introduced in 1991, was the first historical result. Its resoluteness and volume reminiscent of the human body were its key features, and the detachable and re-attachable rooftop, and adjustable rear window in the TARGA format put it ahead of its time.

  • HCD-2 Concept Car

    HCD-2 Concept Car

    After the successful launch of HCD-1, HCD-2 was introduced two years later. Compared to HCD-1, HCD-2 had more volume and curves that connected from the hood to the roof and from the roof to its trunk. The unique headlamp was quite amazing. The HCD-2’s sleek roof line and curvy side character line was inherited by Tiburon, something emphasized by commercials, which dubbed HCD-2 and Tiburon “father and the son”. Added to this, was the “2+1” seat arrangement, (based on the survey results revealing that there are no more than three occupants in a Sports Coupe), the forefront carbon fiber based car body, that allowed strength and light weight, and the AWD which facilitated driving on any type of road, were all unconventional specifications for a car back then.

“Only function and quality could change the image of a car manufacturer; in the case of Hyundai Motors, Tiburon will be the one to do it” – JD Power, the U.S.’ motor market research company

Korea-born Shark that Went Ahead of its Time


In April 1996, three years after the introduction of HCD-2, Hyundai Motor showcased Tiburon, the new two door sports coupe. Initially named “RD” after the project name, a total of KRW 120 billion was invested within four years. Tiburon was first manufactured based on the 1st generation Elantra (J2) platform. The name Tiburon means “shark” in Spanish, an allusion to its aggressive design and functionality. It was also called as the “Hyundai Coupe" in some markets.

  • Tiburon

    Right after its launch, Tiburon was hard to get hold of since it sold out extremely fast. Just five days after the official launch, there were 1,700 recorded sales, surpassing its initial goal of 1,500 cars within a month. As a result, the company increased the monthly manufacturing volume to 2,000 cars. A total of 9,260 cars had been sold by October 1996, leading the sales growth at Hyundai Motor. Furthermore, it was selected as the most admired car among university students; all in all, the Tiburon strengthened HM’s positioning for a strong sports car line-up, which started with the Scoupe.

  • Tiburon

    The response to Tiburon was also very positive. JD Power, the representative automotive research agency in the U.S., was quoted as saying, “Only function and quality could change the image of a car manufacturer; in the case of Hyundai Motors, Tiburon will be the one to do it”. In the Paris Motor Show in 1996, Tiburon was awarded the accolade of “car most admired by female audiences”. After its hot debut, HM succeeded in exporting a total of 18,600 Tiburons as of November 1996, and it still had 7,000 more cars on the export contract.

Masculine Design with Curvy Muscles

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The old philosopher’s saying “Dynamic even in stillness, still even in movement” is the key principle that the Tiburon team adhered to during the design. To this end, the team made over 20,000 design sketches. It took about a year for the team to finalize the Tiburon design after much discussion, agreement and revision among the team members.

As a result, a masculine design of a wedge-shaped car body was born; it its curvy muscles took into consideration air dynamics. These visuals, which linked the shark with its name, received praise from the European trade magazines, which called it “a totally new, unprecedented car that you had never expected from Korea.”

  • Frameless Door

    Frameless Door

    Having only glass without a frame was a new design element at that time. The frameless door applied in Tiburon made the car look even more sophisticated and gave it a sense of openness. This frameless look then became the family look of the Hyundai Motor’s sports car line up, which includes Tuscani and Genesis Coupe.

  • Interior Design

    Driver-Centric Interior Design

    The interior design of a Tiburon includes a neat layout that is driver-centric. The dashboard, center fascia and the door trim are surrounded by an elegant outline that seems to connect them all. The center fascia that faces the driver enables convenient operation during the drive.

  • Steering Wheel

    Steering Wheel

    The steering wheel surrounded by sophisticated leather is the core of the interior design, satisfying both the tactile and visual senses. A 4 spoke-type steering wheel is the best part of the design and the stiches are applied at the inner part of the wheel to emphasize the sophisticated style. In addition, the klaxon is aligned at the sides of the wheel so that the driver could easily press it without having to take his/her hands off the wheel.

A Leap Forward Towards the Creation of a Genuine Sports Car

Beta (ß) Engine

Beta (ß) Engine Installed

Hyundai Motor’s independently developed 2.0 liter Beta (ß) engine was installed in Tiburon. It is a multi-point injection (MPI) type engine with the 4-cylnder DOHC format, and it has reached 150 ps of the maximum output, which was a huge improvement from the 1.5 liter alpha turbo engine used in the previous Scoupe (applied for Tiburon SRX). In addition, the 1.8 liter engine model was added so that the users had many models to choose from among the Tiburon models. Afterwards, the Beta (ß) engine improved even further through interior alignment changes and ECU tuning.

Sports Suspension

Sports Suspension Realization

Aside from the powertrain improvement, many customers requested the inclusion of a suspension befitting of a sports car. In order to respond to the higher level of consumer demand, MacPherson Strut Suspension, co-developed with Porsche in Germany, was installed in Tiburon to ensure the driving stability and R&H functionality that would really made it stand out from other Korean cars. With well-adjusted suspension and heightened car body power, the inclination on the side, which was said to be Scoupe’s shortcoming and its stability whilst driving at high speeds, were both improved. The comment, “Driving near to the road feels good” dispelled questions about the “identity of a sports car” which were prevalent before the launch of Tiburon.

TGX Model

TGX Model that Uplifted the Acceleration Function

TGX is the abbreviation of “Top Grand-prix Experience”, a sports term that promotes the joy of driving. Through the engine-related part adoption and the ECU optimization process, the car achieved 6 ps more on maximum output compared to the previous models. In addition, in case of the manual transmission, the time taken to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h was reduced by 1.2 seconds to 8.0 seconds, and the highest speed was 220km/h, 20km/h higher than the previous model. This was achieved by a final reduction gear ration change. The new additions included the sky-facing large-scaled rear spoiler, which really made it stand out from the previous model, the suspension tuning for high speed driving and the aluminum wheel that emphasized sportiness in straight-line design. The eye-catching lemon color added to the presence and originality of the car.

※ What is final reduction gear ratio?
The final reduction gear ratio presents the ratio of how many times the wheels rotate when an engine rotates once. Under the condition that the power of an engine is equivalent, the longer the final reduction gear ratio, the more advantages there are to achieving high speed. When the ratio is smaller, there would be more advantages to the acceleration functions and torque enhancement.

Tiburon Turbulence Sweeps the Industry

Tiburon Turbulence

In May 1999, three years after the launch of Tiburon, the new facelift model Tiburon Turbulence was introduced. A nose-concept hood design was applied to make the car look bigger and longer. The twin circle headlamps were installed to change the overall impression. In order to make for a more positive emotional driving experience various colored dashboards, new buttons and dials were added in the car’s interior.
The models were divided into the basic line 1,800cc, Type-S of 2,000cc and Type-R to give the customers more options. The Type-S and Type-R are classified into the rear spoiler formats, and in particular, the best trim Type-R model has added diverse options including engine tuning, aluminum wheel and racing tires, which are all equivalent to a race car specification. The more enhanced setting of a beta engine achieved the maximum output of 153 ps and the highest speed of 225km/h.

“Tiburon is just way too fast: an additional 80kg of iron plate was ordered” – Dong-a Ilbo, July 15, 1996

Tiburon Dominates the Podium Right after its Launch


In the 90s, which is said to be the initial stage of Korean motorsports, Scoupe and Kia Concord fiercely competed against each other. But, from 1996, when Tiburon was first introduced, Korean motorsports were totally changed. With a strong car body and an engine that satisfied both the functional and durability aspects – all the advantages in a sports car – the Tiburon successfully conquered the field of motorsports.

Due to Tiburon’s one sided victory, the racing game host added a regulation on the weight – they stipulated that Tiburon had to weigh 1,020kg to be able to participate in Touring A. At that time, the touring A’s weight regulation was 940kg. Despite adverse circumstance of having to gain 80kg, Tiburon won the Touring A race, the best class at that time, for two consecutive years from 1996 to 1997, proving itself to be the best Korean performance car.

Amazing Results at WRC

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WRC (World Rally Championship)

WRC, which is known to be among the world’s top three motorsports events, is the world’s representative rally. In particular, the road conditions for driving are extremely harsh, and the rally demands perfection and durability from the cars. WRC is therefore said to be the most difficult motorsports event. Unlike other circuit rallies where the arena and driving laps are already set, there are many variables, such as climate change and road conditions. As a result, the racers and the audient were very apprehensive.

  • Tiburon WRC

    Tiburon WRC boldly partook in the F2 class for cars of below 2,000cc and 2WD without a turbo charger. While maintaining its basic exterior design as far as possible, only the necessary tuning was carried out. The 150 ps was enhanced to a 2.0 beta engine with 260 ps for the maximum output, implementing amazing functions. This was the result of the cooperative development between Hyundai Motor’s R&D Center and MSD, the British Motorsports Agency. The driver line-up consisted of the two legends: Kenneth Eriksson who attended WRC for 23 years from 1980 to 2002, and Alister McRae, the brother of Colin McRae, who is a WRC legend.

  • Tiburon WRC

    Tiburon got the third prize in its debut in the New Zealand rally in April 1997. In 1999 alone, it won the Portugal Rally in March, Greece Rally in June, New Zealand Rally in July and China Rally in September, contributing to the positioning of the Hyundai Motor brand on a global scale.

In the second episode, we will hear more live stories from the Tiburon project team and the limited editions that have added value over time.

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