This little red and white beauty is the Beijing Auto Works (BAW) Dongfanghong BJ760, a mid-size sedan launched in 1960 and manufactured until 1966. I met this BJ760 at the Beijing Classic Car Museum to the far north of the Chinese capital.
Period photo with the Dongfanghong BJ760 on Tiananmen.
The Dongfanghong BJ760 was largely based on the Soviet GAZ 21 Volga. Relations between China and the Soviet Union were still very good and the Soviets assisted China by all sorts of industrial and agricultural projects.
In the late 1950’s the Beijing municipal government decided that they wanted to manufacture a ‘Chinese’ luxury sedan. They choose their own Beijing Auto Works (BAW, today a subsidiary of BAIC) for the job. Problem was; BAW didn’t have anything close to what the city wanted.
GAZ 21 Volga, also in the Beijing Classic Car Museum.
Happily, the communist cousins from up north were there to help. In 1959 they handed over several chassis, drawings and blueprints.
BAW went to work quickly and released a first prototype in 1960, followed by two more prototypes, and production started the very same year. BAW managed to design an attractive car with a distinctive front and rear. Proportions however remained basically unchanged compared to the GAZ 21 Volga.
The engine too didn’t change: power came from a 2.445 liter four-cylinder petrol engine developed and manufactured by the Soviet Zavolzhye Motorni Zavod (ZMZ, Zavolzhye Engine Factory). The engine delivered 70 hp and 167 Nm, good for a 130 km/h top speed. The engine was mated to a four-speed manual ‘box.
Later on in the 1960’s BAW would start to manufacture this engine locally, in factories Beijing and in Tianjin, where it was designated ‘492’. The engine ended up in many other BAW products, including the iconic BJ212 off-roader.
The badge on the nose, showing the Dongfanghong name in handwriting, Tiananmen, and a red-army star.
When under development the car was called Xinghuo (Spark), but this was changed to Dongfanghong for the production version.
Dongfanghong means ‘the East is Red’ and refers to the most famous patriotic song of the Chinese Communist Party. The name has been, and still is, used by hundreds of companies for brand and product names.
Sadly BAW never managed to make the Dongfanghong BJ760 a success. There simply wasn’t much of a market for a mid-size sedan in the early 1960’s. BAW continued production until 1966, when the Cultural Revolution ended all economic activity. In total about 240 units were produced. Today there are only two known examples left alive.
Seat covers are not original, likely added to protect the original leather bench. Beautiful clock in front of the passenger, and two dials in front of the driver.
The rear, mixing Russian and American influences.
Red rear deck over white rear, with a big ‘n shiny bumper.
There should be another Dongfanghong badge in the V, but it is sadly missing here.
The beautiful Beijing Auto Works Dongfanghong BJ760.
Additional sources: GOG.