Hyundai Excel rally car build, part 1

When Hyundai arrived on Australian shores in the mid 1980’s with the first Excels, the reputation of the small Korean car was not very good. Suffering with reliability and electrical troubles, it took Hyundai a few years to sort out the issues.

By the mid 90’s the Excels had been through a make-over and the then current generation (X3) three and five door hatches had a list of features, good reliability and an irresistible price tag that saw sales rocket. By the time Hyundai discontinued the Excel at the end of 2000, sales had reached some 200,000 cars!

Hyundai started out in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in the late 90’s with the front wheel drive Coupe. In late 99, Hyundai switched to a World Rally Car platform in the shape of the Accent before withdrawing from the WRC in 2003.

Whilst the factory may have overlooked the Excel as a potential competition car, many Australians had not. The Excel soon found a following in “grass roots” Australian motorsport that didn’t take long to catch on in rallying circles. With a light weight body shell, good dimensions and relatively robust engineering, the Excel was soon adopted for a one make rally series on the Eastern Seaboard. Adding to the attraction was the relative ease of finding parts and whole vehicles cheaply. With so many cars having been sold during their heyday, there are still plenty on the road even in 2013, and many have sub 200,000km on the clock.

1999 Hyundai Excel blueThis is where our involvement joins the story. In Perth, Excels have been used for many years in club level competition however have been slow to catch on as a rally car. We ourselves use Excels for Khanacross and other club level competition.

In early December 2013 we had a casual chat with some of our customers who were keen to start rallying in 2014.  We talked about about what car constituted a good base to enter rallying, the list included the Nissan Silvia, the Toyota Yaris and the Hyundai Excel.

Our customer was not fond of rear wheel drive so the Silvia was discounted which the left the Toyota and Hyundai offerings as the front runners. In Japan, Toyota has a long running one make race & rally series that utilises the Yaris. The issue was sourcing competition parts (such as the roll cage) in Australia for the Yaris which then short listed the Excel.

Demonstrating the ease of sourcing the cars, this three door 99’ Excel was bought for a few hundred dollars within a few days of the initial discussion. With the twin cam engine, 5 speed manual, power steering and even functioning air conditioning, all the right parts were on the list to build an entry level rally car.

With any rally car build, our first step was to assess the car and see what was needed. With nearly 210,000km on the clock, mechanically the car is going to need a cam belt, CV boots and a good service as a start. The clutch will also be replaced with a heavy duty unit for reliability. These items are additional to the “rally goodies” that need to be fitted.

Excel_strip_out_1With a roll cage on order and the customer still deciding on a colour scheme, the strip out of the former road car began.

Hyundai use a lot of screws and bolts to hold the interior together so stripping the interior only takes a couple of hours with


cordless tools.

Seat belts, roof lining, parts of the dash, centre console, seats and carpets all found their way to the junk pile. At this stage the driver’s seat will be saved as well as the two rear side trims and factory door trims. The trims have been retained to comply with current CAMS regulations, the drivers’ seat has been saved to bolt back in to allow us to drive the car around the workshop and yard during the build.

The next step will be to remove the sound deadening tar from the floor pan and clean the relevant seams ready for welding.

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