Development of cars during the Great Leap Forward.

This article gives an overview of the more unknown products developed in the period 1958-1961. Styling was strongly influenced by contemporary American styling.

At the end of the 1950s, China seems to be impressed by her own quick development. Chairman Mao became overconfident. He announced the Great Leap Forward (大跃进, 1958-61), an attempt to change the Chinese agricultural society into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization. Mao wanted to catch up with or exceed Great Britain in industrial output in the next 15 years through peaceful competition. Fore those who want to know more about the Great Leap Forward see 

The attempts to industrialize were also visibel in the automotive industry. A number of Chinese car workshops started to design a motor car, without any help. They used western or Japanese products to analyze. In fact they were in a split, they had no experience or knowledge and needed foreign products, but straight imitation was forbidden because it was considered to be uncritical adherence of foreign ideas. So they imitated an engine, but altered the cylinder capacity or they copied the bodywork with adding new front and rear. The cars were amazingly influenced by Western, mostly American car-styling.

Some of these products came by magazine or newspaper articles to us in the west. Today we have admission to all Chinese sources and even today we discover more and more of these trials. Most of them disappeared after one prototype, a single led to production. I will start to show them to you with the good help of two little Chinese books, called 产汽车简性能资料手册 (Handbook of concise performance data for domestic automobiles), edition 1958 and 1959.

The first car I want to introduce to you is the Heping no. 1 from Tianjin. The people of the Tianjin Auto Repair Works had clearly found their inspiration in the Toyopet Crown RS-series. The Heping adapted the engine, the right site steering wheel and the ‘suicide’ rear doors of the Crown. The car was ready in June 1958 and shown at an industrial exhibition in Beijing in October 1958. The engine, which was called ZT10, had the same size as the Toyopet’s: 1453cc 4 cylinder-in-line delivering 55hp. The original Toyopet styling was changed into a more American influenced one, which was also apparent in the oriental ornamentation. The Heping was a bit longer than the Toyopet. Heping: wheelbase2530mm, lwh 4600x1730x1525mm. Toyopet: wheelbase 2530mm lwh 4410x1700x1530mm. Colour film made at the industrial exhibition showed the car in beautiful two-tone colours.

Before I follow with the second Heping I want to show you two cars developed by the Tianjin University, based on the same Toyopet Crown.

The Hongyuzhuan (Red and Expert) no. 1 was a closed sedan, in fact another exercise on the same theme: copying a Toyopet Crown. Here the same engine and the same sizes as the Heping no. 1. The difference is the left site steering position. Hongyuzhuan no. 1 saw its light in October 1958, together with an open car which was called Hongyuzhuan no. 2. Lacking good pictures of the number two, I asked the Bulgarian artists Ivan Kolev to make a nice drawing of the number two for us.

The second Heping from Tianjin was much larger and even more ‘American’ than the Heping no. 1. Appearing in 1960, it looks like at least two cars were made. Name Heping was written in characters on the bonnet.

Another photo shows premier Zou Enlai pointing at an emblem on the bonnet which is the same as on the Heping no.1. Not so much is certain about the engine; some sources speak about a V8.

The next vehicle I want to show you is the Xianjin (Advance) 71 from Chongqing. There is a whole range of Xianjiin vehicles, named 71-1, 71-2 etc. One of them is a car named Xianjin 71-5; it is the vehicle following this item.

This Xianjin 71 is made by the Chongqing Difa State New Building Machinery Works. Introduced in June 1958, we have proof of only one vehicle produced. Vertically arranged dual head lighting, blue with white top according the information (but never seen a colour photo..). There are strong indications that the engine was locally made and based on a 1940s De Soto 236.6  6-cylinder engine of 3890cc, good for 85hp.

The other Xianjin is the Xianjin 71-5. Also made by the Chongqing Difa State New Building Machinery Works in June 1958. Five-meter long car, using the same 3.89-litre engine as the Xianjin 71. In characteristics practically equal to the Xianjin 71, but outside appearance is different.

One of the surprising mysteries is the Yuejin (Leap Forward) CN-750. I don’t know much about this vehicle. In 1959 Nanjing Auto Works showed a range of vehicles, mostly trucks, at a small exhibition in Nanjing. Two cars, one with a strong resemblance with the Russian Pobieda and one with the American Plymouth, like the first Fenghuang from Shanghai.
The second edition of the little books we spoke before shows more about this vehicle, only, photo and technical specifications are completely equal to the Russian GAZ M20 Pobieda. A copy or just a question of badge engineering? The date of introduction is September 1958.

On the same exhibition this second model was exposed, ‘Plymouth’ styling. The car looks like the Fenghuang (first model) made in Shanghai but there are differences. In the little book we find a car named Nanjing, also from September 1958. As manufacturer is given the Jiangsu Nanjing Auto Repair Works. The photo shows a Ford Fairlane. In sizes the Nanjing car is far from the Fairlane. Copy or misuse of a photo? This Nanjing could be the American style car shown at the exhibition.

The engine of the Yuejin CN-750 was the same as the one from the Pobieda. It is for sure that this engine was also build by the Nanjing Auto Works. The four-cylinder (2120cc) engine as CN-050 for the CN-750, the six-cylinder (3480cc) as CN-070 for the Nanjing. The CN-050 was also in use in the Fenghuang from Shanghai, the CN-070 in the whole truck range from Nanjing Auto Works. It became the basic engine in use in the Yuejin NJ130 and all its derivatives.

Next is the Dengta (Light house) N-101 made by the Zhejiang Ningbo District Highway Transport Automobiles Repair Works in October 1958. A six-eater with a length of 5.15m. The engine comes from its own factory and is a four-cylinder 2.6-litre, good for 50.5hp.

Another Soviet copy. This time the Russian GAZ M12 ZIM. The Weixing (Satellite) was shown in October 1958 by the Guizhou Postal Machinery Works. Here it is totally unclear if this is really a made-in-China vehicle or just a ZIM. At least the picture is taken in China as the car has a Chinese license plate (7-2002 test). Maybe they made one copy?

The Kunyu is even stranger, it is a 4.9m long built by the Qinghai-Tibet Highway Traffic Company Repair & Assembly Works. The engine is not given, the introduction date was September 1958.

Now we are leaving the little books. First the Xihu (West Lake) from Hangzhou, found on the internet. The only thing we know is that the car is made in 1959.

Not much more is known of this car. Two cars on the photo and written at the top of the picture: Shenyang car made July 1, 1960. I got the photo from the phone of mr. Tang.

And then I come along a photo of the strangest car of the whole range: a COPY of the first Chinese car, the Dongfeng CA71. The car is made by the Andong Automobile Refit Works. Andong was till 1965 the name for the city of Dandong. So at least we know the car is made before 1965. The main difference between the Dongfeng and the Andong is the headlights.

In September 1959 the Kunming Automobile Repair Works showed a car. Name? The car showed up in some Chinese car history books. I notice a resemblance with the French Simca Aronde.

I will stop here. Observant readers will have noticed that I have omitted some important products. I didn’t mention:
Dongfeng CA71
Hongqi CA72
Fenghuang No.1
Fenghuang No.2
Fenghuang and Shanghai SH760
Beijing Limousines
Dongfanghong BJ760
These  cars are more commonly known. You can find these cars easy on the internet and also in my history documents:, about the Hongqi, the products from Beijing and Tianjin and from Shanghai.


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erik van ingen schenauPaul Recent comment authors
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Xianjin 71-5 looks like the Turkish Devrim car.

erik van ingen schenau

Yes, you are right Paul, there is a strong resemblance of the front end of the Turkish Devrim with the Xianjin 71-5. One point: the Xianjin 71-5 photo is from a booklet printed in April 1959. The four prototypes of the Devrim were developed in 1961. So the Xianjin was earlier..


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