A beautiful blue Jilin Jiangbei Meilu JJ7090 Opel Corsa B, Spotted in China in the far east of Beijing. The vehicle was in a remarkable good condition for its age. I met the owner and he said it was still running. He also told me there is at least one more Meilu JJ7090 in the capital, owned by a friend of him.
The Jilin Jiangbei Meilu JJ7090 Opel Corsa B was assembled in CKD (complete knock-down) form from 1993 until 1996.
Jilin Jiangbei was the factory name, Meilu the brand name, and JJ7090 the type name. Meilu is best translated as Beautiful Deer.
In Germany, the Corsa N was manufactured from 1993 until 2000. The German production line was then shipped to Shanghai where it was used by the Shanghai-GM joint venture for the Buick Sail sedan and wagon, which were made from 2001 until 2005 , and after 2005 under the Chevrolet Sail name. There was and is no relation between Jilin Jiangbei and Shanghai-GM, they were separate ventures.
The 1990’s were a wild time in China auto land. For a while the rules on Chinese-foreign joint ventures were unusually loose while import taxes were still very high.
This led to many misty joint ventures where foreign companies (not just car companies but also trade companies looking for a quick buck )would ship in a whole car in a CDK kit to China, minus a few parts like the wheels or bumpers, which they would ship separately. It all would end up in a ‘factory’ where the car would be put together. That would qualify the vehicle as ‘China-made’ and it was therefore exempted from import taxes.
The practice was most common in Guangdong Province, which had the most easy rules, and which welcomed any foreign investment with open arms. In the late 1990’s the central government ended the party and from then on strictly enforced its 50-50% joint venture system with all its limitations and regulations.
The contract to assemble the Opel Corsa in China was signed in 1992, one year before production started in Europe. This indicates close cooperation with either Opel Germany or with General Motors.
In China there were three parties involved: the Jilin Jiangbei Machinery Plant, the Jiangmen Guangdong Industry and Trade Company, and Hong Kong-based Guangdong Holdings Limited.
Only the latter still exists. The first company was responsible for putting the cars together, the second for the import and trade side, and the third to finance the venture. For the location of the factory the partners choose Jiangmen City in Guangdong Province.
Thei Meilu badge on the front fender.
Original GM-stamped Saint-Gobain Sekurit windows, a clear sign of a CDK-assembled car. Vehicles that are actually produced in China are fitted (99.999% of the time) with China-made and China-stamped windows.
The Chinese Corsa was powered by a 1.2 liter 8-valve four-cylinder petrol engine with an output of 45hp and 98nm, mated to a five-speed manual ‘box. This 1.2 engine was also used in the German Corsa but there it delivered 5 horses more.
The Meilu JJ7090 badge. The shiny ‘A’ is a later after-market addition.
The original Opel Corsa name stayed on the car, next to the Chinese badges.
The interior was in very good shape and completely original, without ugly wheel covers or shiny stereo systems. There was only one trim level available in China, which appears to be very similar to the the top-end Corsa GT trim level in Europe.
This old Opel has already run 345.919 kilometers!
The original seat covers are still in the car. Got to love those funky punky 1990’s.
The rear bench was covered by a purple sheet, protecting the original covers.
The owner works in a small car-repair shop. He knew the car was special and very rare. At most a few thousand examples were assembled, and most of them were sold in Guangdong Province. They rarely moved all the way north to the capital. But the owner told me a friend of his had another Meilu Corsa, located in Beijing as well!
But this one happily did, and I check on it regularly; the repair shop is only a few kilometers from my home.
Jiangbei Meilu also CKD-assembled other interesting cars in the 1990’s, including the Kia Sephia and the Nissan Sunny. More on those cars in a later post.
The Meilu name would live on for a long time. In the early 2000’s Jilin Jiangbei licensed the name to Shanghai-based company JM Star, which used it for their Maple brand automobiles. This brand was sold on to Geely in 2003 and became Geely Shanghai Maple. That outfit also makes the Chinese variant of the TX4 London Taxi.