Today in Chinese Car Brands That Time Forgot (CCBTTF™): Fuzhou Automobile Works and Forta. Fuzhou Automobile Works (also known as FAW, unrelated to the First Auto Works) was formed out of the existing Fuzhou Car Repair Shop in 1956. In 1958 FAW started to produce copies of Dodge Trucks and Mazda three-wheeled vehicles. In the same year FAW produced just 8 trucks and 1 motorcycle (believed to be units not different model types, so 9 vehicles in total). FAW was also renamed as the State Owned Fuzhou Automotive Repair Shop.
By 1961, FAW was producing components for car manufacturing, namely brake hubs, steering and axle components. In 1965 FAW produced a total of 49 vehicle bodies. Between 1966 and 1970 vehicle production did not exceed 1000 units total as FAW was more focused on parts and components production.
In late 1969, FAW unveiled a small SUV called the FZ211 with two test cars being produced in 1970. By 1971 low volume production commenced with 50 cars being made. In 1973 FAW produced 10 units of the FZ620, an 11 seater minibus based on the FZ211 platform.
In 1978 FAW began producing the FZ130 with 156 vehicles being produced that year. The FZ130 was FAW’s own version of the Beijing BJ130. In March 1980 FAW for the first time became part of Nanjing Auto Affiliated Companies. In 1980 also produced 500 vehicles.
Here we see a lineup of FAW vehicles taken around 1981 outside Fuzhou Railway Station. On the left we have one of the bus bodies made by FAW, in the middle two FZ130’s! On the right an FZ110. This photo came from the cover of a Chinese Car Magazine 汽车技术 Automobile Technology, photo taken by Erik.
The years spanning 1981 to 1983 were not kind to FAW, with economic changes meaning capital investment was low and so production for the three years barely exceeded 300 units, with just 311 vehicles being produced.
In 1982 the FZ211 was replaced with the FZ121, a vehicle based on the RWD Being BJ121, itself the RWD version of the BJ212. Pictured above is an FZ121
FAW also produced the FZ110 – a 2WD version the regular Beijing Jeep.
Our friend Oliver Barnham was able to snap these two photos in Hangzhou in 1979.
In 1983 the FZ130 was replaced with the FZ131 line of trucks. Production in 1983 totaled 211 units. The FZ131 line were based on the U20/Y20 Toyota Dyna.
Here we have what appears to be a facelift FZ131, seen by my colleague Erik in Beijing in 1997.
In May of 1984, FAW became a part of Fuzhou Automotive Industry Corporation. Production of both the FZ121 and FZ131 was also accelerated in 1984, with production output increasing post-merger and these two vehicles becoming the focus for FAW throughout the 1980’s. FAW also began importing engines and transmissions from Japan. As a result of their hard work, FAW received both first and second prize for Scientific Achievement in 1985, with their products receiving wide acclaim from customers across the country.
Between 1984 and 1986 Forta assembled 600 Mitsubishi L300 vans (photo link) Sources suggest they also produced 1599 Isuzu WFR vans. These two ventures allowed FAW to study foreign manufacturing and operations so that they could improve their own procedures.
From 1986 FAW would develop specialist vehicles to meet the demands of more customers, with the aim of introducing new models to meet new demands in the marketplace. Also in 1986, FAW and Isuzu announced their joint venture in accordance with China’s Seventh Five-Year Plan (1986-1990) and it’s goals with an initial investment of 29 million RMB to develop a company that could produce 10,000 vehicles annually. By 1987 23 enterprises such as components manufacturers had joined and the new company was called Fujian Province Automobile Industry Joint Venture. However, due to several factors including financial difficulties the plan could not be implemented in full, although the venture did go ahead with several Isuzu based products entering production.
In 1988 the FZ131 was rated as a first class product by the Quality Assurance Department of the Chinese Automobile Federation. In the same year, FAW introduced quality inspection and assurance techniques in line with international standards. 3029 vehicles were produced in 1988. By this time FAW had established relationships with 124 other companies providing services to them. It was also awarded an Advanced Enterprise title by the Fujian Provincial Government and was listed as a key enterprise in the province.
By 1989 FAW felt that the Dyna based FZ131 and BJ121 based FZ121 no longer satisfied the market as their sales were lowering and demand dried up for these older vehicles. FAW therefore chose to focus on producing newer designs, namely the fourth generation Isuzu Elf (N-series). All of FAW’s Isuzu based products would use the 2.8 liter Isuzu 4JB Diesel Engine.
1990 was an important for FAW. The first important event was its change from being a municipal enterprise to being a provincial enterprise. With this came a new role for FAW as it became part of the Fujian Automobile Industry Corporation (FAIC). In 1990 FAIC introduced a new division called 福达 Forta using Mazda vehicles as their base, using the FZ model designation so continuing to be Fuzhou Auto Works products. Through the years following 1990 Forta would produce the fourth generation Mazda B-Series pickup truck, the first generation Mazda MPV and the third generation Mazda Bongo.
The Forta version of the single cab B series was called the FZ1022 and used a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder Mazda FE engine making 64.7kW and 154Nm.
Forta lettering on the tailgate for extra cool (link). Actually this particular car was photographed on the site of the Forta factory so was likely used at the factory.
There was also a spacecab version called the FZ1022YB.
There was also the dual cab version which was called the FZ1022SA with the same powertrain. Shown here is a later version with a Forta designed front end, earlier versions of the dual cab had the same front end as the single and spacecabs shown above.
Rather irritatingly for early buyers I’m sure is the fact that Forta didn’t use metric speedometers in their early cars! Shown here is an early Forta speedometer, photo from a friend.
There was a version with a sort of fixed rear canopy creating an SUV called the FZ5020.
Regular dual cab with removable canopy…
… With a very long name indeed.
Not to be outdone by what seemed like every single other automaker at the time, Forta also found it necessary to make a car that looked suspiciously like the S130 Toyota Crown. Above the have the FZ5020X and below the FZ5020XYB, the extra YB getting you a spacecab over the standard single cab.
Both of these
monstrosities interesting trucks rode on the same 1985mm wheelbase as the other Forta products and their powertrains consisted of the same Mazda FE engine. Only in China will you find a Toyota front end tacked onto a Mazda pickup. In all fairness though they do look quite good, if a little high off the ground, it seems Forta decided to also raise their ‘Crowns’ but forgot to give them four wheel drive. Sad.
Forta also produced a series of larger pickup trucks. These trucks all had designations starting with FZ1031 with minor differentiations like dual rear wheels or a different tray. The FZ1031A was came equipped with a 2.2 liter YangDong diesel engine that made a staggeringly low 48kW and 165Nm. These trucks appear to have come on the market around 2000.
But my absolute favorite is this tow truck – the mighty FZ5030TQZ. Sadly this is the only photo I could find of this magnificent machine. Thankfully this and the other variants of the FZ1031 did not come equipped with the YangDong engine. Oh no, they got a 2.8 liter powerhouse from Yulin Diesel that made an only slightly less unacceptable 66kW. It’s worth noting at this point the the TQZ weighed 2.8 tons empty! Other versions weighed about a ton less.
Here is a Forta Bongo van (photos from a friend). Interestingly they kept the Mazda logo on the front end for this particular car. The model designation for this car was FZ6430.
We can just make out the word Forta in some decals on the side.
Here we can see a Forta logo on the steering wheel in place of the original Mazda one.
This badge say Fuzhou Automobile Works (FuZhou Qi Che Chang).
An original Mazda badge.
Even the wheels got Forta branded center caps!
From another example we see this FZ6430 model designation badge.
Perhaps the rarest of the Forta made Mazdas is the FZ6450, I couldn’t find a photo anywhere other than an old book. The Forta FZ6450 is basically a Mazda MPV (LV) with Forta badges. The Hainan-Mazda joint venture also made a variant of the MPV. More on that company in a later post.
Production of the Mazda Fortas was finished somewhere around the mid 2000’s and after that the Forta name was applied to all manner of SUVS, trucks and buses:
This Isuzu based SUV was made by literally dozens, if not hundreds of other car makers.
Perhaps most interesting was this Isuzu based SUV with a bloated Nissan X-Trail front end.
Of course no Chinese company would be complete if it did not make a fake Toyota Coaster.
To their credit Forta is getting on the green train and making electric cars, or vans in this case, a copy of the Mercedes Sprinter… just like every other Chinese EV maker.
Please note that the section on later Fujian products has been removed due to their being unrelated to Fuzhou Auto Works and instead being related to the earlier Fujian Auto Works. A future article will cover the development of Fujian Auto Works from the first half of the 20th century.
Information and photograph sources: