Today we have a Tianjin Sanfeng TJ6481AJQ3, living out its remaining days as someone’s house in Yinchuan. The once pretty Sanfeng was in a very sorry state with all sorts of patchwork repairs to keep it watertight.
The TJ6481AJQ3 and its derivatives were made between 1991 and 2002, competing directly with cars like the Jinbei Toyota Hiace and the FAW Jiefang vans. Sadly it seems that the Sanfeng never did as well as its competitors. In the 3 or 4 years I’ve been prowling the streets looking for cars I’ve only ever seen 2 – this one and one on the top rack in a scrapyard.
Tianjin Sanfeng Minibus Co. was a joint venture between the former Tianjin Minibus works and Macau Kouk Hang Enterprises Development Co. Sanfeng had been making buses since around 1970.
This was Sanfeng’s original products – a lightly revised version of the origina Toyota Hiace that was made between 1967 and 1977. link
A more recent photo showing an updated version – note the mirrors have changed from ultra cool chromies to sad plastic affairs. From the stickers on the windscreen we can see that this photo was taken in the early/mid 2000’s. This van was made until 1991 when it was replaced by the new model. link
The TJ6481AJQ3 was certainly a cool design with it’s streamlined front end. The design of the vehicle was actually done by Internation Automotive Design (IAD), the company responsible for the designing and prototyping of the original Mazda MX5. Most of IAD was sold off to Daewoo in 1993 when the former went into receivership. Sanfeng is said to have developed the chassis itself, though some sources point to it borrowing heavily from the Mazda Bongo. A Japanese company called Ogihara Iron Works Co. developed the protypes and developed the necesary stamping and tooling for production of the car to be carried out. Max seating for the TJ6481AJQ3 was 11.
Here we can see how this particular example has been converted into a motorhome of sorts. When I finished taking my photos and was simply looking at the van a man did come back, take a long stare at me and then unlocked the van and climb inside. He did not look amused.
Sanfeng also made a minibus called the TJ6510, based on the same platform with proper bus doors! Both the TJ6510 and the TJ6481AJQ3 used the same engine, a Chinese made unit designated “491Q” – a 2.2 liter 4 cylinder engine good for around 100hp that powered zillions of cars, trucks and vans back in the day. Gearbox was a 5 speed manual. Max seating was 14. But they didn’t stop there…
This is a TJ6481AJQ4C and it was powered by a Volvo engine! The engine in question is the B230G, a fuel injected 2.3 liter, 4 cylinder, single overhead camshaft engine. The extra 100 or so cc’s of displacement over the standard engine meant the Sanfeng could go as fast as the rocket it looked like it was styled after! Top speed was a whopping… 125km/h. 5km/h faster than the Chinese engine. Other changes for the TJ6481AJQ4C included nicer seats with the ability to swivel 360 degrees, air conditioning and ABS (!), a minor miracle for a 90’s Chinese car of any kind. The car I found showed evidence of none of these and the front seats did not look like the above picture of the TJ6481AJQ4C so I presume it is a TJ6481AJQ3.