It’s no secret that the Chinese car industry is now the largest in the world and all of the worlds car manufacturers are scrambling to come out on top in China, however there is one brand which has been supplying cars to the Chinese since the 1950’s, albeit only the most wealthy and influential, and that company is Hongqi. Rumour has it, this company was forced to make its luxury vehicles by Chairman Mao himself.
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The first Hongqi prototype was completed in 1958 by First Automotive Works (FAW), a company based in Changchun for building Trucks and other commercial vehicles funded by the Soviet Union. In 1955 they set about developing a limousine for the countries leaders. Apparently in 1955 at a CPC convention Chairman Mao set this path forward as he wanted China to prove they had the might to build something without help from the Soviet Union.
In 1958 the company delivered a prototype called the Hongqi which means “red flag” to signify the countries communist government. In 1959, FAW finally began mass production of the now called Hongqi CA72 sedan, which lasted until 1965 or 1967 depending on the source. This limo was built from 1959 until 1965 when it was followed by the Hongqi CA770 which although largely identical it actually functioned unlike it’s predecessor which had brakes which often failed among it’s large list of issues. A total of 250 of the CA770 were made, at 3 tonnes each that is a lot of cars and not a sign of power steering in sight.
The Hongqi CA770 was finally everything Mr. Mao wanted and it was based on the Chrysler Imperial (like the CA72), it was powered by a 5.6 Litre V8 Chrysler engine which produced 215 horsepower, and around 1,600 were built. A few variants were built during it’s run, including three pickup truck versions, an armored three rear seat version in 1969 and a hearse was planned but never built. I assume Mao had buried the enemy it was being built for by the time it was finished. Interestingly the front grill was designed to look like a traditional Chinese fan.
The Hongqi was basically left after the CA770 and nothing more was heard from them until 1995. The name then sprang up again in an extremely odd form. Between 1995 and 2006 foreign companies began producing cars in China and selling them under the Hongqi name. I can only assume to try and turn the country facist from the inside, the first of these was ze Germans. The Audi 100 was introduced as an executive Sedan under the Hongqi brand, fitted with a variety of engines including…a 1.8 Litre 4 cylinder?
Horrible isn’t it? It wasn’t just the Germans though who decided to get in on the Red Flag action, there was also a Lincoln Town Car variant, which although horrendous, at least had a V8.
In 2006, FAW had clearly had enough and decided it was time to bring Hongqi back but for real this time, serious. However clearly it was too hard to go through the entire lark of developing a car from scratch. Instead they went across the pond to Toyota and based their car on the Crown Majesta. Between 2006 and 2008 they sold a massive, 6000 in total. It was such a market flop they even tried changing the name to the Shengshi (“Days of Prosperity”) to sell to private buyers instead of the Government and reduced the price heavily. Although to be fair, look at it, give me an E-Class instead please.
Instead of trying to start from scratch, they did the same thing in 2013, basing it once again on the same model of Toyota, this time calling it the Hongqi H7, they expected to produce 30,000 of these a year, however in the first year less that 5,000 had been sold. However the car is billed as “the official car for minister-level officials” and the People’s Liberation Army purchased at least 1,000 of the H7.
Finally, they decided in 2014, it was time to go back to their roots, put a new photo of Mao on the wall and began shipping the L5. They unveiled the above car at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2013 and it is currently the most expensive Chinese production car ever made, costing a whopping $800,000 USD. It is now the official state care of China and President Xi himself had to give Trump a lift home in his when the Beast broke down. To be fair, it is a Cadillac.
The car originally came with a 6.0 Litre V12 engine, like a Rolls. However in 2017, they started offering a 4.0 Litre V8, for the more environmentally conscious Communist Leaders , which produces a measly 381 Horses.
I reached out to the Chinese Government for performance specifications on these and I am now in a camp, that they are paying for. I’ll write when they let me. Thanks for reading/watching.