A Hongqi CA7220 EL1 stetched limousine, seen in Beijing in 2012. It is based on the Hongqi CA7220 sedan which in turn was based on the C3 Audi 100. The latter was made in China by the FAW-Volkswagen joint venture from 1988 to 1999, alongside the more luxurious Audi 200.
FAW, or First Auto Works, is also the owner of the Hongqi (Red Flag) brand. Under a deal with Volkswagen the Chinese manufactured various Hongqi-branded sedans based on the Audi 100 and 200. Production started in 1996 and ended all the way up in 2005.
However, they didn’t do just sedans. Hongqi also came up with a wild range of station cars, pickup trucks, parade cars, and stretched limousines. Lots of stretched limousines. A massive 24 different kinds to be precise, most were based on the Audi 100 and some on the 200.
Hongqi used engines from FAW, Audi, Chrysler, and Nissan. It got the Audi units via the joint venture, the Chrysler unit via an earlier deal, and the Nissan units were sourced directly from a Nissan engine-making factory in China. Engines:
Audi 2.4 liter V6: 147hp (Chinese designation: BFK).
Audi 2.5 liter V6: 127hp.
Audi 2.6 liter V6: 137hp.
Audi 2.2 liter L5: 130hp.
Chrysler 2.2 liter four: : 100 to 111hp. (Chinese designation CA488).
FAW 1.8 liter four (CA4GE (Audi designed)): 94hp.
FAW 2.0 liter four (CA4GE): 96hp.
FAW 2.2 liter four (CA4GE): 99hp.
Nissan 2.0 V6 (VG20): 123hp.
Nissan 3.0 V6 (VG30S): 141hp.
In the early days, until about 2000, most of the limousines were sold the government. In later years private buyers became more important, and the very last Audi based limousines were mainly sold to the private market.
Production numbers were small, especially in the beginning, when the limousines were essentially hand-built. Slow sales however didn’t stop Hongqi from developing endless variations of variations, with different grilles, badges, wheels, and you name it.
There were three basic variants for the extensions: stretched at the B-pillar, stretched behind the B-pillar and, more uncommon, stretched behind the C-pillar. Within these variants Hongqi built vehicles of varying length. The longest was 5313 millimeter and the shortest 5025. The length of the base Hongqi sedan was 4793 mm and wheelbase was 2687.
There is another catch: Hongqi debuted two limousine variants before it launched the first sedan. So technically the limousines came first!
In some years Hongqi would launch two or even more entirely different limousines while in other years they would launch none at all. There didn’t seem to be much planning or scheduling, everything just kinda happened, and that makes researching these cars maddening frustrating and extremely rewarding. Enough intro, here we go with the cars:
The 1989 CA7225LH was the very first Audi-based Hongqi limousine. It was launched just one year after the start of the production of the FAW-Volkswagen Audi 100, and a full seven year before the launch of the first Audi-based Hongqi sedan.
The CA7225LH debuted on October 1, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. None other than then-president Jiang Zemin and then-premier Li Peng sat in the car during a special exhibition in Beijing.
It was extended by 680 millimeters behind the C-pillar, creating a three-row car. The second row consisted of two folding chairs. Power came from the Audi 2.2 liter L5. The CA7225LH was manufactured from CKD kits that were shipped in from Germany.
Audi was responsible for the limousine conversion. The interior was ungraded too; with leather seats, wool carpets, and walnut wood inlays on dash and doors.
This red beauty is the 1993 CA7221L, the second Audi-based Hongqi limousine that debuted before the debut of the first Audi-based Hongqi-sedan. Name-wise, the CA7221L was based on the 1993 CA7221 sedan, but that was only a prototype with a completely different grille.
The L came with a unique FAW badge on the grille, this badge never returned on any other Hongqi. It was extended with 232 millimeter to 5025 mm. The closed B-pillar sired another Hongqi badge; this badge would come come back on future limousines.
The sporty five-spoke wheels where factory standard on the top-trim level cars. Power came from the 130hp Audi 2.2 liter L5. The vast majority of the cars produced were black but Hongqi, in a crazy mood of some sort, also offered it in red and light blue.
CA5020XJB police command car
The year 1996 was a busy year for Hongqi. Production of the Audi-based sedan started and the brand launched three new limousines. First up was the totally unique CA5020XJB police command car, based on the same platform as the CA7221L and extended by the same 232 millimeter. The engine however was completely different; power came from the 2.2 liter Chrysler unit.
The CA5020XJB looked the police-business with a black-white color scheme and fiery red warning lights on the roof. It had the standard FAW badge on the grille and beautiful basic gray wheel covers. The CA5020XJB was intended for chiefs-of-police and was equipped with a communications suite.
The second new limousine in 1996 was the CA7228L. It was the first Hongqi limousine based on the Audi-based Hongqi sedan. The previous three limousines, it should be remembered, were based directly on the FAW-Volkswagen Audi 100. So from now on there was an extra ‘step’ in the process: Audi 100 > Hongqi sedan > Hongqi limousine.
The extra step gave Hongqi more freedom to experiment with different limousine body styles. The CA7228L was rather extreme; lengthened by a massive 520 millimeter to 5312 mm. It was equipped with goodies such as a 14 inch television, a VCR player, a CD player, a sub-woofer, a telephone, a refrigerator, wool carpets, and leather seats. Power came from the Audi 2.2 liter L5.
The third new limousine for 1996 was the CA7226L. It was the successor of the CA7221L. It had the same ‘closed’ B-pillar with the same Hongqi badge, but with a standard FAW logo on the grille. Engines: 137 hp Audi 2.6 V6 and 100 hp Chrysler 2.2.
Same car as the on the first picture above this article: the year 1997 brought the beautiful CA7220EL1. It was basically an updated version of the CA7226L. It got a new shiny grille, coupled with ultra cheap plastic wheel covers. The CA7220 was available with the Audi 1.8 and with the Chrysler 2.2. This particular car was seen in Shanghai in 2014.
The other 1997 car was very special too. The CA7220L1 was design-wise based on the Type 4C Audi V8 LWB. In 1993 FAW-Volkswagen CKD-assembled a small series of the V8 LWB, a mere 33 units in total, all of which went to the government.
FAW got the blueprints and used them for the CA7220L1 and various other limousines. It was extended with 316 millimeter to 5109 mm. The extension was located behind the C-pillar. There was no V8 in the Hongqi, but at least it was an Audi engine, in this case the 127 hp 2.5 liter V6.
The beautiful black car on the photo has Audi wheels and a flag pole on the right front fender.
The Hongqi CA7240L debuted in 1998, based on the same platform as the 1996 CA7228L. It was modernized with a new nose, a new grille, and new wheels. Interestingly, the other 1998 limousines did not get this update. The CA7240L was extended by the full 520 millimeter. Power came from the 137hp 2.6 liter Audi V6 engine.
The great year of 1998 brought two new limousines: the base CA7200E3L and the more luxurious CA7247L (see next car below). Both cars had the same body style as the CA7220L1, with the extension behind the C-pillar.
The CA7200E3L came with sporty five-spoke wheels of a new design. Power came from the 123 hp Nissan 2.0 V6.
The CA7247L, the luxurious sister model of the CA7200E3L, fitted with Audi wheels. Engine was Audi too, in this case the 127hp 2.5 liter V6.
CA7202E3L Century Star
This is the 2000 CA7202E3L Century Star, based on the Century Star sedan. The Century Star was a big thing for Hongqi because for the first time they made some real changes to the original Audi design. The Century Star got an entirely new front, a new bonnet, a new rear, and a new rear deck. The Century Star was positioned as the top-end Audi-based model.
Hongqi was so pleased with the result that they launched no less then four different limousine versions of it. The first one was this CA7202E3L, a massive car with a length of 5206 mm and a wheelbase of 3003 mm. It was heavy too, ticking the scales at 1430 kilo. Power came from the Nissan 2.0 V6, which propelled the limo to a decent 172 km/h top speed.
Back in 2002 I met one of these great cars near my home in Beijing.
The 2001 CA7180A2EL1 likely has the best name of all the limousines. Just say it slowly… CA7180A2EL1. Almost poetic indeed. The limousine was based on the CA7180A2E sedan, which came in two variants; the base Mingshi and the luxury Shiba. These two variants simply continued on the limo version, so there was a base limo and a luxurious one. It was extended by exactly 231 millimeter on the B-pillar, with an extra window. The engine was the 94hp FAW 1.8 liter four. Back in 2011 I met one in the wild in Beijing. Today they have all but disappeared.
CA7202E3L1 Century Star
The 2001 CA7202E3L1 was the second limousine based on the Century Star. It was slightly shorter than the CA7202E3L with a length of 5122 mm and a wheelbase of 2919. The extension was located behind the B-pillar. Power came from the Nissan 2.0 V6. This limousine version is very rare, and I sadly have never seen one in the wild.
CA7242E6L1 Century Star
A variant of the CA7202E3L1, but with a brand new engine: The 2001 CA7242E6L1 was the first Hongqi to use the Audi 2.4 liter V6, manufactured by FAW under the Chinese designation ‘BFK’. The engine produced 147 hp, 24 horses more than the Nissan engine.
CA7242E6L Century Star
The 2002 CA7242E6L Century Star was an updated version of the CA7202E3L Century Star, powered by the same Audi 2.4 V6 as the CA7242E6L1. Otherwise there weren’t any changes.
And with that good car we sadly reach the end of this story. The CA7242E6L was the very last of the Audi-based Hongqi limousines. Production continued until 2005 when FAW stopped selling all Audi-based Hongqi cars.
However. This is not the end of the Audi Hongqi stories. Hongqi made many more variants, including wagons, stretched wagons, parade cars, open-top parade cars, and half-open top parade cars. I will come back on all that beauty in future posts. For now, thanks for reading.