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Hyundai Santa Cruz “Entirely New” Category With A Long History

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By Martha Hindes
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Maybe there's a disadvantage in having the kind of memory that can pull up a past photo of something you know you have seen before even as someone is telling you it never was invented until the one they are showing you at the moment.

That was my Saturday evening as a global announccment of the world's first sport adventure vehicle popped into my inbox from Hyundai, an “entirely new” category,” according to Hyundai Motor North America President and CEO Jose Munoz.

So of course, I started to play it. Going past a rather lengthy intro showing hints of what transportation would be morphing into in the next few years, it launched into a presentation of an all new vehicle type – the Hyundai Santa Cruz for 2022, apparently gas powered internal combustion with two engines churning out as much as190 horsepower and 280 lb. ft of torque and set to go on sale this summer.

The biggest statement – it's uniqueness being built on a unibody auto foundation with a truck bed in the rear, what Hyundai is calling “open-bed.”

Stop here. My mental rerun scanned past a number of vehicles that kind of filled that same category. Maybe some were more truck based, others were not. But I could picture the first Honda Ridgeline I ever saw and that was a couple of decades ago, not something currently in secret development. Then there was the treasured Chevy El Camino a friend had parked in his driveway, an antique but a beloved one, circa 1960 something. And the Ford Ranchero (same time frame) that a current neighbor breaks out of storage during wonderful summer weather long enough to put a few more miles on it and bask in the ability to show off his treasure.

Were those figments of my imagination? I don't think so.

Mind you I'm not disparaging the new sport adventure vehicle Hyundai is presenting globally with its video presentation as an all new category. It looks really nice and servicable for everything from sports use to city cruising, is loaded with current top ranking amenities and electronics that one likely would find on an upscale, or premium auto. It's handsome and has a neat sliding truck bed cover so items stored there can be locked down securely.

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But getting back to the claim of being the “world's first,” took away a lot of the appeal for me. I didn't think I was the only one to remember other versions of the same idea so I did some searching, and found a great piece from August 7, 2019 by Benjamin Hunting in Automobile entitled, "Caminofication: The Coolest Car-Trucks of All Time." (That El Camino obviously wasn't my imagination either.)

He lists and shows photos of some 37 versions of the auto front-truck rear concept that must have taken a lot of research to gather going back as far as a Ford Model T Utility Runabout built from 1909 to 1927.

But come on folks, maybe I'm just being picky. I'll grant you the name “sport adventure” is new – at least to me. But how about giving credit where credit is due.

Sure I'd like to test drive the Santa Cruz at some point, if Hyundai isn't so steamed at me for pointing this out that they wouldn't let me near one.

Copyright 2021, Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau, All rights reserved.