Today in Chinese Car Brands That Time Forgot: (CCBTTF™): Binzhou Pride Automobile, a company based in the great city of Binzhou in Shandong Province. They only lived 2006 until 2008 but they made quite an impact, thanks to a surprisingly crazy and creative design.
Most of the Binzhou Pride cars were based on existing cars, and not based on as in ‘platform’ but as in ‘whole car’. Binzhou Pride simply bought various vehicles on the general market, gave them the Binzhou treatment, and tried to sell them on for more money.
The local Binzhou government was heavily involved in the venture. They owned a majority of the shares and Binzhou Pride had to become the pride of the new Binzhou Economic Development Zone that was established around the same time.
But there was a big problem. Binzhou Pride couldn’t get a license from the central government to make cars, which they needed to legally sell cars in the whole country.
At the time, the central government in Beijing believed there were too many car makers in the China. The government wanted consolidation, not more car makers, and certainly not from a place like Binzhou where nobody had ever heard about.
There was however a loophole of sorts. Local governments, like Binzhou City, were allowed to issue local car making licenses. Naturally, Binzhou Pride had one of those; some licenses are easy to get when the government is your largest shareholder!
A local license had a serious drawback: Binzhou could sell their vehicles only inside the city limits, and nowhere else. Many other small automakers in many more small cities all over China faced similar problems. Some were creative and got around these limits by re-branding their cars in every other city, depending on a license by the local government there.
But it seems Binzhou Pride stated in Binzhou. There are no known pictures of any Binzhou Pride outside its home town. It also seems that the company didn’t make many cars as all, a couple of hundred at best during their 3-year live span, and many of the most crazy ideas never got past the prototype stage.
All Binzhou Pride’s vehicles were made in same three years, all at more or less the same time. So for easiness I discuss them here from small to large, with the non-car oddities as the end.
Because Binzhou Pride did not have a national license to make automobiles it also didn’t get a designation, like BJ for Beijing or DF for Dongfeng. None of the photos of any of the Binzhou Pride cars shows a name or even a number, and that means the cars are essentially nameless.
Here we go:
Three cars that seem to be based on the Suzuki Alto.
The Alto has a rich and very messy history in China. It was officially made by Changan-Suzuki, and Suzuki licensed the design to many other Chinese companies. Changan-Suzuki and those other companies sold the Alto and the Alto platform to yet other companies who based their own cars on it. And then there were many completely illegal copies. Almost every Chinese car maker, small or bigger, was selling an Alto variant in the 1990’s. I am not sure how Binzhou Pride got to their Alto.
The photo shows two cars that still resemble the Alto, with new lights, grille, and bumper. The orange car further in the back has a totally new bonnet, fenders, and a Jeep-like grille.
The Renegade is not the first compact Jeep. This was.
This seems to be an Alto with a notchback, looking rather nice. Sadly I have only one picture of it. There is another red Alto variant in the background.
A two-door vehicle that resembles a Beetle. I suspect it is Alto-based as well, but is has a totally new body. Many Chinese car makers experimented with small sportscars in those days, and Binzhou Pride’s effort is interesting.
The interior of the sportscar, showing a lot of faux wood, an instrument panel with two big dials, a narrow center tunnel, and a typical Alto steering wheel.
There is a bench in the back so it could likely seat four. The long rear deck looks very classical. Wide fenders very Beetle-esque. License plates are of Shandong Province
This is a very clean micro car that seems to be a variant of the Daewoo Tico. The Tico has similar history as the Alto in China. There was cars made by an official joint venture, official licensed cars, and many semi-legal and illegal clones. Where Binzhou Pride got their Tico is sadly unknown but it seems the barely changed anything on it, except adding their own badged as such. The most restrained vehicle made by Binzhou Pride!
Leaf springs at the back.
Happily, we have some data on this beauty. It was called “Wexing Qiche”, which simply translate to mini car. There was no original name or number. In 2007 it was priced at 39.800 yuan.
Size: 3340/1400/1395, wheelbase is 2335 and curb weight 713 kilo.
The engine is a 0.798 three-cylinder petrol. This engine was designated JL638Q2, and manufactured by Changan Auto, based on a Suzuki design. Changan used it for the Changan-Suzuki Alto and sold it to any Chinese car maker who wanted it.
So here we have it: a Daewoo Tico clone with a Chinese Suzuki engine. I bet the Binzhou Price Alto-variants, as seen above, used this same engine. But I cannot be sure; the engine business was, and is, even murkier than the car business. There were literally dozens of factories building ‘Alto’ engines.
This is again a Tico variant but with wild fenders, ‘bumper’ strips over the sides, and a completely new front with QQ-style light units and a sporty bumper. The wheel covers however are the same as on the standard Binzhou Pride Tico
Things are getting properly mad now with this hatchback. It has is based on the early Geely HQ Liangjing, but fitted with a completely new front, with new front fenders, a new bonnet, a giant gaping grille, and the same headlights as the Tico above.
The new front made for a much longer front overhang, messing up the balance of the design. The Geely HQ Lianjing was Geely’s first car, it was based on Tianjin Xiali which in turn was based on the Daihatsu Charade.
Dashboard is completely Geely.
Sporty? Classical? Pretty? All that and more, but mostly: Radical!
No changes at the back. Interestingly, Binzhou Pride took the Geely badge off, but they didn’t put their own badge back on.
Geely also made a sedan version so it would have made sense for Binzhou to get their hands on that one too. But they didn’t. Instead, they designed their own sedan based on the hatchback.
The C-pillar, the luggage compartment, the rear deck, and the rear door are completely different compared to the Geely sedan. The front got pretty much the same treatment as the hatchback, with the grille shiny in chrome and with sporty alloys that came straight from Geely too.
The creation of Binzhou Pride looks actually better than the Geely sedan, which had a very odd and very high rear deck. It deck is much lower with the Binzhou Pride, and the rear window stands at a steeper angle.
This is likely the best looking Binzhou Pride of them all, a wagon based on the Chery Fengyun sedan, which in turn was based on the Seat Toledo.
Neither Chery nor Seat made a wagon. Binzhou did. It was simply called the ‘Luxing Qiche’, literally ‘travel car’, a common Chinese expression for ‘wagon’.
This is a properly designed car, one could even call it beautiful. The rear end looks great with a little notchback-on-the-hatch, like a Treser Liner!
Happily, we also have some data on this one: in2007 it sold for 39.800 yuan. It was powered by 1.6 liter engine, likely exactly the same 1.6 as in the Fengyun. Binzhou Pride claimed a top speed of 172 km/h, which seems fast, I don’t think it could go over 150.
Size: 4321/1682/1424, wheelbase 2468 and curb weight was 1050 kilo.
The pictures with the red flowers on the bonnet were taken at a dealer event in Binzhou, where they had several cars on display. They seem however the same cars as on all the other pictures. It really seems as if they only made one of each car. There are no known pictures of any Binzhou Pride in any other color. The only car they have made more of seems to be the Alto-based vehicle as seen above.
Binzhou Pride really liked Chery because they stayed with the brand for their next car; a sporty and streamlined sedan. It was based on the Chery Eastar, which was a cheap, large, and no-nonsense vehicle.
Binzhou Pride decided to make it a bit more exiting with new front fenders, a new bonnet, a new front, new rear fenders, a new C-pillar, a new rear window, and a totally new rear end. They did a lot of work on this one.
And the best part is the integrated spoiler, sitting below the endless rear window. They changed the Eastar from a sedan into a fastback! But I am not sure it actually opens as a fastback should, just look at the window lines, I think only the small hatch at the back can open.
New grille makes for a sporty look. Engine was the same 2.4 as in the Chery, which in turn was sourced from Mitsubishi.
This is the famous 4G64 Sirius engine. It was made locally in China by the Shenyang-Mitsubishi engine joint venture, which sold it to dozens of small Chinese car makers, including Chery, Geely, Great Wall, Zotye, you name it. In those days output was usually around the 140 horses, later that went up to about 160 hp. The Shenyang-Mitsubishi joint venture still exists and still sells shiploads of engines, today mostly 1.5 turbo and 2.0 turbo units.
Wheel covers are Chery’s too. It is somewhat odd that a company that made so many changes to so many cars didn’t bother to fit on new wheels.
Binhzhou Pride made two other creations based on their ‘Eastar fastback’. One was this scary monster with yet again different front fenders, bonnet, lights, and a menacing grille in a brushed-metal color. It looks fantastic, Darth Vader style. The five-spoke wheels are sporty, but still factory Chery.
It seems they didn’t make additional changes to the rear. Note pickup trucks in the background, we get to those later on.
But first this! The most crazy Eastar-based creation. New front fenders once more, new lights, bonnet, huge front overhang, all topped by a giant grille that appears to smile, with two round eyes just above it. Brilliant work. I am also pretty sure that it was extended, just look at the roof line from the B-pillar to the back, they put at least 10 extra centimeters there.
Yes, thus blue beauty really smiles.
Here you can see how long it is; compare with the normal-wheelbase Darth Vader car on the right. And yet again they kept standard Chery wheels!
Now this is an interesting car. It was a mad variant of the JAC Binyue, a sedan very similar in kind and style to the Chery Eastar.
So what it it doing at Binzhou Pride, without the JAC logo? One possibility is that Binzhou Pride converted one car, it is their style, that somebody of JAC saw it and liked it enough to buy the rights to the design. Or perhaps JAC had asked Binzhou Pride to produce a small series for them, to be sold by JAC dealers. This is all interesting enough for a separate story, so more on this JAC/Binzhou Binyue soon later!
Binzhou Pride also made two pickup trucks, based on the Great Wall Deer pickup truck. They changed the bonnet, lights, bumpers, and grille. But they kept the original decals on the sides! The Deer was powered by the same Shenyang-Mitsubishi 2.4 as the Eastar, and Binzou Pride left the engine unchanged.
The grille really makes the car, much better than the Deer. Shiny mirrors are factory-Great Wall, they were standard on the high-spec models.
I have some more data on the pickup truck: in 2007 it sold for 139.800 yuan, which is expensive for the segment and about 30.000 more than the Deer did. Engine was the 2.4 4G64, good for a claimed top speed of 190 km/h, which again seems far too fast.
Size: 4785/1818/1445, wheelbase 2711, and curb weigh 1470 kilo.
This is a different one. Still based on the Deer, but with other lights and an other bumper.
And then there were some really mad cars. This orange speed thing is a three-wheeler with two wheels up front and a super wide wheel at the back. It looks brilliant. The bonnet and headlights are somewhat Porsche-like in their design. The cabin is very airplane, with thin pillars, large windows, and a centrally positioned steering wheel.
The rear end doubles as a giant spoiler. The ‘exhaust pipes’ are actually lights, good for the racy looks. Sadly I don’t know anything about the power plant, but this is a large vehicle, so it needs substantial power.
The vehicle was once seen in a residential compound, so it seems likely that it did indeed have an engine. The rear wheel is beautifully covered by the rear body work. There are air intakes on the rear fender, but I strongly suspect that the engine sits in front.
The JL638Q2 might just fit in there…
It even had a third-brake light on the roof. This thing seemed ready for production but as far as I know Binzhou Pride only made one.
And finally Binzhou Pride designed two very interesting and very streamlined sporty cars. The one on the left had a cabin that lifted up to the front. The one on the right had a cabin that opened to the rear.
The interior of the car on the left. Doesn’t look quite finished yet, so this is likely a prototype. There are two pedals and a drive-selector, so this is likely an electric.
The other car is even more mad, and what is madder still is that this one actually became a finished car. In 2008 it was marketed by a company called CEstar, also from Shandong Province. They called it the ‘Smart’, it was powered by a 40 hp electric motor and sold for 6000 yuan. Sadly the company appears to be dead and gone.
And those were the cars of Binzhou Pride Automobile. They had some crazy designers and some good ideas. Too bad they didn’t make it.
More Chinese Car Brands That Time Forgot soon later! And I will get back on that JAC.
Binzhou Pride: Automible: 滨州普莱德汽车