First flag-bearer of a carmaker’s global ambitions
• BLAST FROM THE PAST– 17 Lemans
|The Lemans was among the first aerodynamic Korean cars. Provided by GM Daewoo|
Not many young people know about the Lemans, a compact sedan from Daewoo Motor, but it is remembered as a revolution in the Korean automotive industry by those in their 40s. It became a major competitor to Hyundai Motor’s Pony, Excel and Presto, which then dominated the local market.
The Lemans was one of the first Korean cars created with aerodynamics in mind. At that time, most cars were boxy and designed without much thought to air resistance. When introducing the Lemans, Daewoo emphasized that the vehicle had a drag coefficient of 0.32, which was lower than that of most other cars in Korea. It was also the first to use a digital instrument panel.
Daewoo sold the Lemans for between 4.85 million won ($4,246) and 5.19 million won, which was 550,000 won more expensive than Hyundai’s Presto. Since it was the embodiment of Daewoo’s ambitions to export cars around the world, including in the United States - as it later would - the carmaker called the Lemans a “world car.”
Lemans was named after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest sports car endurance race, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France. With a name equal in ambition to Daewoo’s dreams, the car caused a sensation among car lovers in Korea.
The vehicle was originally designed by Opel, the European subsidiary of General Motors in Germany, based on the Opel Kadett. The Kadett had two versions in terms of engine displacement: 1.6 liters and 2 liters. However, a vehicle with an engine displacement of 1.6 liters or bigger was subject to heavier taxes in Korea, so Daewoo reduced the engine’s size to create a 1.5-liter engine for the Lemans.
The model was finally launched in July 1986.
At 4,394 millimeters (172.9 inches) long, 1,663 milliliters wide and 1,362 milliliters high, the Lemans was not a large vehicle. It had an engine of 1,498 cubic centimeters and 89 horsepower. Its maximum speed was 170 kilometers (105.6 miles) per hour.
The three-door versions were called the Racer, while the five-door models were referred to as the Penta-5. This car was also part of the early days of the GM-Daewoo partnership that would later lead the U.S. giant to buy the Korean company, as it was sold almost worldwide as the Pontiac LeMans, the Asuna GT or SE and the Passport Optima. The export model for the U.S. market had a 2-liter engine.
The model became one of Daewoo Motor’s greatest successes. The car was eventually exported to Eastern Europe, North America, China and the Middle East. When production of the Lemans was discontinued in February 1997, over 1 million vehicles had been made.
By Limb Jae-un [email@example.com]