Eight Old Chinese Cars You've Probably Never Seen... And Never Will

China seemingly jumped straight from massed bicycles and rickshaws directly to modern cars and trucks stuck in the world's worst traffic jams. There WAS a brief but essential intermediate era, however, featuring little-known vehicles that never left China... and never will, except as recycled steel.

That's because in a bid to reduce smog in its major cities, China is aiming to “eliminate” 5.33 million older cars... sort of like Cash For Clunkers but without the cash. What's an older Chinese car look like, you ask? We found 8 examples worth a look-see before they go to the crusher.         

1) Hongqi CA72

Debuting on August 1st, 1958, the Hongqi CA72 was modeled after the 1955 Chrysler's “Forward Look” styling. Powered by a 197 hp V8 engine, this staid but sturdy vehicle was the choice of foreign dignitaries and the CCP elite – not that they had many (any, even) other choices.

If you thought Henry Ford's famous quote about having one's car painted “any color you like, as long as it's black” applied only to the Model T, think again. The Hongqi CA72 (and its similarly-styled successors) had one outstanding feature, however: a nifty red light-up hood ornament. (old Chinese car image via CarNewsChina

2) Shanghai SH760

Shanghai Automotive produced nearly 80,000 model SH760 cars between 1964 and 1991, and the Mercedes 180-based vehicle changed very little over that period.

Powered by a Benz-based 2.2 litre, 90 hp, inline six engine and a 4-speed manual transmission, the SH760 was the default ride for military and political bigwigs not quite big enough to rate a Hongqi. The SH760B above dates from 1986. (old Chinese car image via harry_nl

3) BAW BJ750

The BJ750 sedan from Beijing Auto Works was made from 1974 through 1981. Styling was in the three-box mode, as popularized by many American compacts of the 1960s such as the Rambler American and the Chevy Nova. Production BJ750's were powered by a 2.4 liter four-banger, though several prototypes packed a 2.7 liter V6. Wankel rotary engines sourced from Nissan went into two cars for testing purposes but nothing came of it.

All in all, the BJ750 deserved a better fate: restricted to the moribund domestic market, a mere 134 vehicles were made over the course of a 7-year production run. (old Chinese car image via AutoSoviet 

4) Beifang QJC7050

According to CarNewsChina.com., the Beifang QJC7050 mini car was manufactured by Qinchuan Machinery Works Automobile Sub-Factory, which was owned by North Industries (Beifang Gongye), which in turn was owned by the People's Liberation Army.

That's a lot of ownership for a little car! Often used as a taxi, just 500 were made over a two-year period in 1986-87 and few, if any, survive to the present day. The image above dates from 1989 and the boxy Yugo-wannabe already looks as if it's seconds away from a catastrophic breakdown. (old Chinese car image via CarNewsChina)

5) Haiyen SW710

The Haiyen (Sea Swallow) SW710 from Shanghai Mini-Auto Works debuted in 1966 and looks quite modern, at least when compared to some British cars of the era. Dig the crazy jet air intakes on the rear flanks!

Power, on the other hand, was anything but jet-like: beneath the hood a 1-cylinder, 298cc engine chattered away like a sewing machine on counterfeit steroids. (old Chinese car image via 52CHE News

6) Hualiu BHL6350

Blame Beijing Hualian Automobile Corporation, based in Huairou County just northeast of the Chinese capitol city, for the Hualiu BHL6350 mini MPV. Originally aimed at the taxicab market, the small but roomy minivan was more often used for non-commercial purposes.

If the Hualiu BHL6350 looks a little cheap and plasticky, there's a good reason for it: its body was made of fiberglass. Don't laugh, at least it didn't rust. The dull blue example above was snapped on the side of a Beijing street in 1996. No telling if the Napoleon Dynamite doppleganger gazing upon it with open-mouthed desire was the owner or not. (old Chinese car image via CarNewsChina)

7) Dongfeng Golden Dragon

Touted as the first Chinese designed and produced car, the Dongfeng Golden Dragon CA71 sedan was modeled after the mid-1950s Simca Vedette, a vaguely Ford-ish French mid-Fifties automobile. The first Golden Dragon – mainly hand-built to beat its rivals to the mark – was presented to Chairman Mao in August of 1958.

FAW (First Auto Works) built very few production Golden Dragons, preferring instead to focus on its proven Hongqi (Red Flag) series of luxury sedans, limos and parade cars. Powered by 55 hp four-cylinder engine cloned from that of the Soviet GAZ-69 light truck and jeep, it's believed a Chinese museum holds the sole surviving Golden Dragon. (old Chinese car image via VDI)       

8) Shanghai SH1020 SP

We'll return to the former Shanghai City Power Machinery Manufacturing Company (now SAIC Motor) for the Shanghai SH1020 SP pickup truck, a weird combination pickup/sedan in the Subaru Brat mold that actually makes the Brat (regularly voted one of the world's ugliest cars) look appealing.

If you guess this boxy brick dated from the early 1960s, you're WAY off: the Shanghai SH7221 sedan-based pseudo-ute debuted in 1991. You gotta love those red, white & blue racing stripes, gives the ol' chip off the blocky Shanghai SH7221 sedan a sporty vibe! (old Chinese car image via CarNewsChina

While Chinese cars still haven't made the jump to widespread international sales and familiarity, rapid improvement in design and engineering continues to bring them up to global standards.

As for their primitive (in more ways than one) ancestors, maybe the crusher isn't such a bad idea. We can all breathe a little easier when they're gone... at least, that's the plan. (old Chinese car images above via ChinaLuxus and at top via Softpedia)