Today in Chinese Car Brands That Time Forgot (CCBTTF™): Yema Bailu, a very interesting brand that made a series of 4×4 pickup trucks and station wagons in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, some with wild factory racing stickers.
The Yema Bailu brand was born out of a 1988 merger between four local car companies in Sichuan Province. The merger was instigated by the Sichuan government, one of their many plans to restructure the provincial auto industry, with the goal of creating a “regional champion” (the dream of any provincial government in China…).
The four companies were: the Chengdu Car Repair Shop, the Sichuan Dongfanghong Car Repair Shop, the Wenzhou Automobile Overhaul Plant, and the Sichuan Jinding Bus Factory.
Together these four companies had three brands: the Chengdu Repair Shop had Yema, Dongfanghong Car Repair Shop had Bailu, and the Sichuan Jinding Bus Factory had Jinding. The Wenzhou Automobile Overhaul Plant did not have an own brand.
The newly merged company was called the Chengdu Light Automobile Factory. The Chengdu Repair Shop was the largest of the four companies and Yema became the dominant brand. Since then the other two brands were referred to as Yema Bailu and Yema Jinding.
The Yema Bailu name is interesting because it combines two very different animals. Yema means mustang, and Bailu means white deer. So you would be driving a Mustang White Deer car!
The beautiful gate of the original Bailu factory, a place so pretty it could be in a fairy tale.
All Yema Bailu’s cars were based on the Beijing Auto Works (BAW) BJ212 utility vehicle and the BJ 121 pickup truck. BAW sold these cars under its own name but it earned even more money by selling it to basically any Chinese automaker who wanted to pay for it.
Some of these automakers simply bought the whole car, changed the badges, and sold it on under their own name. Others bought the chassis and engine and build new bodies on it. This lead to all sorts of wild and wilder variations, made by too many automakers to count.
Engine was a four-cylinder petrol unit build by BAW designated ‘492’. It was largely based on a Soviet design by Zavolzhye Engine Factory ( ZMZ). BAW had used it since the mid 1960’s for powering and endless range of cars, trucks, and buses. In the late 1980’s the 492 delivered about 75 horses. All of Yema Bailu’s cars used this engine.
Yema Bailu JC121A.
Baidu Yema’s first car was a four-door variant of the BJ121A. It was designated JC121A. It came with a four-door soft top (!) and a short bed. The looks of the car were largely unchanged. The JC121A seated five persons, it had a max load of 650 kilo, and a 98 km/h top speed.
Yema Bailu JC121B.
The JC212B arrived with a totally new body. Very rectangular but it looked great in red with white and black stripes. It had a Bailu logo (a deer) on the left side of the grille. It seated five persons, had a max load of 500 kilo, and a 98 km/h top speed.
I don’t know the designation of this beauty. It seems a variant of the JC121B, but it has different light units, different bumpers, different mirrors, a bar over the sides of the bed, a bar around the rear window, and, most importantly, different stripes.
Yema Bailu JC212.
The JC212 was a big station wagon. One could even call it an SUV. It had beautiful gray-painted steel wheels, a wide red stripe over the sides, and a chromed bumper with fog lights. It seated five persons, we don’t know the max load, and it had a 98 km/h top speed.
Yema Bailu JC420.
The JC420 was the top model. High end! It was longer than the JC212 and the company claimed it could seat eight persons. It had a high roof with its own stripe, stripes around the front window, and very racy stripes on the sides, complete with the number ’87’, a Bailu sticker, and a Bailu-logo sticker. Best however where the wheels, fitted with shiny silver protruding covers. An absolute dream car. Max load was 600 kilo and top speed 95 km/h.
Yema Bailu JC421.
The JC421 was designed for practical government purposes; the car on the photo is painted in the colors of the forestry police. It had factory standard warning lights ont he roof. Body was the same as the JC420, including the high roof. It seated eight as well, you can see the two benches in the rear, it had a max load of 470 kilo, and a 95 km/h top speed.
And these were the cars of Yema Bailu. The brand continued until 1992 when yet another government-forced merger killed the Bailu and Jinding names. From then on it was Yema only.
The brand went trough good times in the early 1990’s but started losing ground when the first Sino-foreign joint ventures started selling cars in earnest in the mid and late 1990’s. The brand basically disapeared until it was revived by yet another merger in 2002, and that is the Yema we know today.
More on the 1990’s Yema-branded cars in a later post.