This fine Chinese vehicle is a Shuanghuan SHJZH213. It looks a lot like a Jeep Cherokee XJ but it is not. It is however not totally-not a Jeep Cherokee XJ. Here is why:
The Jeep Cherokee was manufactured in China from 1985 until 2009 by the Beijing-Jeep Corporation (BJC), a joint venture between American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Beijing Automobile Works (BAW). AMC’s part of the joint venture became Chrysler after the latter took over AMC in 1987.
The joint venture made two cars: the Beijing-Jeep Cherokee XJ and the Beijing-Jeep BJ212, later renamed BJ2020. This car was based on the iconic body-on-frame BAW 212 and added to the lineup to allow the joint venture to earn some extra cash.
They needed money because the Cherokee XJ didn’t sell very well in the beginning, as it was too expensive for Chinese standards.
Beijing-Jeep developed several updated variants of the BJ212, including some with the Cherokee 2.466 four-cylinder petrol engine instead of the BAW engine, which was based on a Russian design.
At the same time production of the original, not updated, BAW 212 continued at BAW, competing directly with the updated Beijing-Jeep BJ212.
Both companies, BAW and Beijing-Jeep, were based in the same factory area and shared many facilities. But legally they were two completely different entities, and many old-timers at BAW resisted the American influences. Just read this brilliant book for an idea of how hard life could be for an early American expat at the joint venture.
BAW not only sold the BJ212 under its own name. They had long sold the BJ212 to basically any Chinese automaker who wanted to pay for it. Some bought the whole car and just changed the badges and sold it on under their own name.
Others just bought the platform and build new bodies on it; wagons, sedans, pickup trucks. Others again bought the whole car but shoved their own engines under the bonnet. This lead to all sorts of wild and wilder variations, made by too many automakers to count. I will write a lot more on these BJ212 derivatives in later posts.
Sales of the Cherokee XJ started to go up slowly in the early 1990’s and it therefore aroused interest of China’s copycat automakers. Yes, they already had these in those days. BAW immediately saw a business and a way to annoy the Americans, and started supplying BAW 212 platforms to those copycat car makers, and one of those was Shuanghuan.
So here you have it: a company copies a car of a joint venture, and one of the partners of that very same joint venture sells them the platform for their copy-cat.
You don’t need enemies with friends like that! On a side note: AMC/Chrysler wasn’t exactly the perfect partner either. More on that, perhaps, in a later post.
Shuanghuan wasn’t the only car maker who made Cherokee copies on the BJ212 platform. There were many, and some even developed highly original crew-cab pickup truck versions. The bodies of all their Cherokee-copies looked very similar, so I strongly suspect they all got the bodies at the same supplier. Sadly I haven’t been able to find out more about that.
I picked Shuanghuan because it was a relatively large company for its day, making hundreds of cars a year instead of only dozens like many of the other companies. Shuanghuan was founded in 1988, and based in the great city of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province.
Shanghuan survived until the beginning of this very year (2017), unlike most of the other companies which died much earlier. I also choose them because Shuanghuan never really gave up on copying; the became very famous in in early 2000’s for cloning the Honda CR-V, the Smart, and the BMW X5.
Shanghuan used the BJ212 platform to create their take on the Cherokee XJ, and that car became the SHJZH213. The BJ212 was a body-on-frame whereas the Cherokee was a unibody, and the size of the vehicles differed considerably. Still, they somehow managed to make the SHJZH213 look a lot like the Cherokee XJ!
Beijing-Jeep Cherokee XJ: 4342/1790/1760, wheelbase 2678.
BAW 212: 4080/1840/1870, wheelbase 2300.
So the 212 was shorter, wider, taller, and had a much shorter wheelbase.
The engine of the Shuanghuan SHZH213 was the BAW 492Q, an upgraded variant of the BAW 492 engine, which was largely based on a Soviet design by the Zavolzhye Motorni Zavod (ZMZ, Zavolzhye Engine Factory).
The basic shape of the dashboard is very similar to the Cherokee XJ, but the details don’t match, so this too must have been made especially for the copy. Quite a bit of effort indeed. Production started in 1994 and lasted until 1997. How many SHJZH213 made is unclear, but they must have produced at least a few thousand.
These days the SHJZH213 is an ultra rare car. Most have been scrapped or simply left to road by the shed-side. Too bad, because even though it was a copied Jeep the Shanghuan SHJZH213 is still a strange and interesting chapter in China’s automobile history.
And who, in the end, had the last laugh? Has to be BAW. The Beijing Jeep Corporation was disbanded in 2009, but BAW continued to make its own versions of the Cherokee until 2012. Chrysler never sued Shuanghuan or BAW. Shuanghuan ceased operations on January 1, 2017. And the BAW212, you might not believe it but it is true, is still in production today!
A SHZH213 in the snow.
Stickers again, all part of various official Beijing-Jeep Cherokee variants, neatly copy-pasted on the Shuanghuan. Note Shuanghuan badge on the left under the Mopar sticker.
All Jeeps should look muddy, even the copied ones.
Shuanghuan badge above the license plate.
Shuanghuan means ‘Double Ring’, hence the double-ring logo.
Even the bonnet is a proper copy.
Leaf springs on a Cherokee! And Shuanghuan even put their logo on the wheels, five times! They must have been very proud of their SHJZH213.