Cars manufactured all over the world have graced the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. One can expect to see great automobiles produced in the United States and European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Spain and England, plus a few more. What has never been seen at Pebble Beach are vintage automobiles produced in China. In fact most people have never seen a vintage Chinese car outside of China ever. This year thousands be able to see a part of automotive history unknown to most enthusiasts when two rare Hongqi limousines are exhibited at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Hongqui, who’s name translates to “Red Flag” produced their first car in 1958, becoming the first new domestically produced automobile in China in the post-1949 era. Hongqui automobiles were not offered for sale to the general public. These very special cars were made in limited numbers by Hongqui , built expressly for use by the Chinese government and are considered the Rolls-Royce of Chinese automobiles. Hougqui luxury limousines carried government officials, diplomats, and heads of state, including President Richard Nixon on his famous trip to China in 1972.
There will be two Hongqui limousines at Pebble Beach this year, one from the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, CA, and another car shipped in especially for the Concours from China by the Sanhe Classic Car Museum located in Chengdu, Sichuan Provence, China.
The first car is a 1974 Hougqi “Red Flag” CA770 that is normally displayed at the Blackhawk Museum. The CA770 Model was produced from 1963 to 1981. It features three rows of seats and is referred to as the “Big Honqui”. It is powered by a 215 HP, 5.6 liter V-8 shifted through an automatic transmission. It has a 146 inch wheelbase and weighs in at just over 6,000 pounds. The three red flags on adorning the car represent Socialist Construction, Great Leap Forward and Peoples Commune. This car was used for military parades, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, Foreign Minister Chen Yi and other State leaders. It was all in service during President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Later it was used in Central Government as a reception vehicle before being retired and put into storage for a decade before being acquired by the Sanhe Classic Car Museum and restored to its original splendor. Don Williams, President of the Blackhawk Museum, worked tirelessly to negotiate with the Chinese government to allow the car’s legal entry into the United States in 1988. This was the first Chinese car legally brought into this country from China and was celebrated in a ceremony with representatives from both museums in attendance.
The second car is a 1965 CA72, as with the later 770CA model, it also features a V-8 with automatic transmission, but it is slightly smaller, with a wheelbase of just over 133 inches, and is still a heavy car at 6,173 pounds. The CA72 displays a five flag emblem, representing five important social components symbolizing workers, peasants, businessmen, students and soldiers. Notable styling features include taillights inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns and a grill that resembles a Chinese fan. The luxurious interior is accented by a dashboard trimmed in scented mahogany, a famous Chinese timber. This CA72 was in service to the Central Government until the 1970’s, then also put into storage for two decades before being acquired by the Sanhe Classic Car Museum and treated to a full restoration.
Having both these rare and very special vintage cars from China on the lawn at Pebble Beach at the same time could be a once in a lifetime occurrence, one that the world has never seen before outside of China.
Written by Steve Natale
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