This is the Dongfeng EQ7240BP, a sporty two-door coupe with daring looks. In early 2009 it was completely ready for production, set to compete with the Geely Meirenbao, yet it never made it to the market.
The story starts at the 2006 Beijing Auto Show show where Dongfeng showed a massive 15 new cars that were in various stages of development. Some were concepts, some near-production ready, and some where somewhere in the middle.
One of the latter was a sporty small yellow coupe. It had three names: its type name was D120, its designation was EQ7240BP, and in brochures it was simply called the ‘Dongfeng New Sportcar’.
I was at that very show and found the D120 somewhat odd, if not to say ugly. Chinese visitors were laughing at the poor car and took fuzzy pics with the car and their kids. Interestingly, the car stood unguarded on the floor, rather unique for a brand new vehicle, and it was not a media day. It also looked a tad too much like the first generation Hyundai Tiburion, especially from the side.
Text on the plate says Dongfeng New Sportscar’. It had a two-kidney grille, an hood with a rounded end, large headlights that were round on one side and very straight on the other, a low bumper with two lights on each side, strange bulbs on each side of the hood near the windshield, a manic crease over the front fender from the small fog light in the bumper to the door.
Daring, and a little mad. But the real craziness was at the back:
Beat that Pininfarina! Where to start..? The rear fenders morphed into the rear, with more creases, and ended up on each side of the license plate area. The rear bodywork had a distinctive line running from the shoulder to, again, the license plate area. There are two big and shiny exhaust pipes low in the lower body. There there are the fiery red lights, huge and with eyes in them. And now the most interesting part: the badges. On the left the characters Dongfeng, in the middle the Dongfeng badge, and on the right the EQ7240BP badge.
And then there was the rear hatch rear spoiler combination shaped like a giant accordion! Absolutely crazy and absolutely brilliant. Look at the rear window, it lies basically flat, like an extension of the roof. The lines of the harmonics start at the top of the D-pillar on the edge of the window and roof, and spread out to the rear deck, hugged by a piece of body work that is the high end of a crease that started on the doors.
I remember Dongfeng having some P.R. story about their new idea to streamline sportscars. The idea was that the roof would fold in at high speeds to reduce down force, and fold out at low speeds to increase down force. They system as seen on the show was fixed, it didn’t seem to be able to fold and Dongfeng didn’t give any demonstration, nor did they show images of the car with the rear hatch folded in, so I assume they never really developed it. Still, an interesting idea. Would it have worked? Sure!
It still so crazy after all those years. The wheels were almost too normal for the car, small and narrow with simple five-spoke alloys.
Note reflectors on the front fender in front of the wheel.
Sadly, the New Sportcar wasn’t well received. Besides laughing visitors the Chinese press just murdered it, and that says something, because the press wasn’t very critical about local automakers in those days.
They all called our yellow coupe ugly and horrible and stupid and unpractical and will-never-happen and whatnot more bad. And indeed it seemed as if Dongfeng had learned a painful little lesson. After the show ended the EQ7240BP simply disappeared, vanished, it was never shown on any auto show again. So we all thought that was the last of it.
But it wasn’t.
Just one year later pictures appeared of a red EQ7240BP on the road, with temporarily test-license plates behind the windows. It was a huge surprise. Was Dongfeng truly mad, and were they going to build it..?
The surprise was even greater because the accordion construction at the back was still there, although it appeared to be fixed again. The harmonica was the one thing one would expect to die at the road from concept to production. But Dongfeng thought otherwise, apparently.
The red test car looked largely the same as the show car, but the hood was even more sculpted, the bulbs on the hood were bigger, and the headlights had a different layout.
Look at the size of that windshield wiper!
Sadly, it soon became quiet again. Until early 2009 when new spy shots appeared:
The photos showed two cars, one yellow and one white, and the biggest news was that the accordion rear-end had been deleted. The bulbs were gone from the bonnet and the fenders appeared to be less pronounced.
There was also the first photo of the dashboard.
The rear end of the yellow car, without the accordion.
The rumor mill was running fast. It was now believed that Dongfeng was indeed going to make the EQ7240BP, and that it would launch on the Chinese car market shortly. But there were many questions; what was under the hood? Dongfeng had never said anything about the engine. Where was it made? How about price?
But the most important question was about the accordion. Did the spy shots really show a new design without the accordion, or had Dongfeng’s engineers found a way to make it work, and was it just folded down?
The first answers came via the January 2009 database of the Chinese Ministry of Industry, where all automakers have to report their new vehicles. The database only lists cars that are production-ready, it does not include concept cars and the like. One of the entries was for none other than the Dongfeng EQ7240BP, and this confirmed that production was imminent. The entry came with two images and a lot of information:
The vehicle looked the same as the yellow car on the spy shots, and a lot less wilder than the 2006 show car. Fenders weren’t as wide, the bumpers were resembling something normal, and the bulbs were indeed gone off the hood. Happily, the three reflectors on the front fender remained.
The other news: the EQ7240BP was a four-seat coupe manufactured by Dongfeng Rongcheng Automobile Corporation, a subsidiary of Dongfeng Motors based in the great city of Rongcheng in Shandong Province. This company, which operated semi-independent from the mother ship, also made the Dongfeng Little Prince sedan and hatchback.
The engine of the EQ7420BP was not a Dongfeng unit but Mitsubishi’s famous 2.4 liter Sirius four-cylinder petrol engine, here designated 4G64S4M.
This engine was made in China by the Shenyang-Mitsubishi engine-making joint venture and sold to dozens, probably hundreds, of Chinese automakers who used to engine to power everything from sedans to vans to pickup trucks, and now sportscars. The joint venture still exists today, notable customers include Landwind, Zotye, and Beijing Auto.
In the EQ7420BP the 2.4 liter Sirius engine had an output of 135 hp, good for a fuel consumption of 9,76 liter per 100 kilometer.
Size: 4350/1740/1290, wheelbase was 2485, and curb weight was 1380 kilo. The size of the wheelbase normally reveals where the car is based on.
In those days most of Dongfeng’s self-branded vehicles were based on platforms of vehicles made by their joint ventures; Peugeot-Citroen or Nissan. But 2485 doesn’t match any period vehicle, nor does it match with the Little Prince. So uniquely, the EQ7240BP appeared to be based on a unique platform.
This however is strange, especially for a small company like Dongfeng Rongcheng. Where did they get the platform? It has been noted that the EQ7240BP looked quite a lot like the first generation Hyundai Tiburon, aka Hyundai Coupe. Size wise the two cars are close. Tiburon: 4338/1730/1313, and wheelbase was 2474.
There is a connection too: Dongfeng had, and still has, a joint venture with Kia called Dongfeng-Yueda-Kia, and Hyundai became Kia’s largest stakeholder in 1998. So it could be, it could be… But I have been unable to find any source linking the EQ7240BP with the Tiburon.
The picture of the rear was interesting. The lower-bumper body panel wasn’t fitted, showing only one muffler, so the left-pipe was a fake.
But one question still remained; what about that accordion? Was it there or was it gone? Dongfeng finally answered when they released a flock of official images, which looked like they were Photoshopped in 2004. But what mattered was this:
There was the Answer! The accordion had been replaced by a simple hatch, so people could actually get things in the boot. Happily, the weird shape of the spoiler remained.
Dongfeng claimed a top speed of 190 km/h, which appears to be exaggerated by about 40 kilometers. The company also said the EQ7240BP was fitted with ABS, McPherson front suspension with transverse stabilizer rods, multi-link-type independent suspension, and a system that could lift the chassis by 80 millimeter.
Not a single other Chinese car had such a system, and in the West only low flying speedy sportscars had it, to get over speed bumps and such. But it seemed hardly necessary for the EQ7240BP which wasn’t exactly an asphalt hugger. Still, it was nice they put it on. Race car!
The set of images included a photo of the dashboard, which looked quite different than the dash on the spy shot above, steering wheel differs too. There are racy round dials and a large touch screen with a map copy-pasted on it. Dongfeng said the screen had a diameter of 8 inched and that it could play CDs and DVDs. Loads of Chinese cars of the period came with cheap-ass in-build DVD players, which could be used even when driving.
Sporty seats in faux yellow and black leather, and one of the seats in the back is visible between the two front seats.
Dongfeng also said their little sportscar was going to cost about 220,000 yuan when it launched on the market. Somewhat strangely, they didn’t say when exactly the EQ7240BP would become available for eager buyers. Dongfeng then released a single ‘real’ photo of the production car, and that was the image atop this article.
And after that the incredible happened: nothing. Absolutely nothing. The sporty Dongfeng never made it to the market. It was never officially launched. None were ever seen at dealers. There were no test drives for the media. There weren’t any further announcements or photos.
The EQ7240BP went into nothing land again, just like it did in 2006. But this time it didn’t return, and it hasn’t returned until today.
There must have been a production line, brochures printed, mechanics trained, but it all ended up in the mist.
Frustratingly we do not know why. A search for Dongfeng Rongcheng learns that there are no company records after 2010. This likely indicates the company was re-positioned, or further integrated into Dongfeng Motors. This kind of reorganizations were, and still are, very common among Chinese automakers.
That alone however does not explain why the yellow racer didn’t make it to the market. We know that the Dongfeng Rongcheng Little Prince wasn’t a sales success. Perhaps the bean counters of Dongfeng Motors were afraid the EQ7240BP would suffer a similar fate, and axed it.
Another intriguing possibility is that the EQ7240BP never really existed, that Dongfeng-Rongcheng just made a few cars based on the Hyundai Tiburon, with the aim of attracting investors. More research is needed here, and I will get back to that in another post.
In any way, it was sad end for what would have been a worthy competitor for the Geely Meirenbao, which was powered by a tiny piny 1.3 liter engine, where theEQ7240BP had a bad-ass 2.4! Even more sadly the sporty Dongfeng has been largely forgotten today, in China and in the rest of the world. This article hopefully brings it back alive at least a little bit.