In 2002 China Brilliance and MG Rover started talks about a joint venture to make the Rover 75 in China.
During the negotiations MG Rover shipped two dozen 75’s with Brilliance badges to China, with the aim of showing the Chinese side how a ‘Brilliance-Rover 75’ would look like. All these cars were powered by the 2.5 liter V6.
What MG Rover probably didn’t expect was that some of these cars were actually sold and ended up on Chinese roads with valid license plates. Most, but not all, of these cars were labelled as Zhonghua B8.
Zhonghua, literally China, is the main passenger car brand under Brilliance Auto. Confusingly, the English name of the Zhonghua brand is Brilliance.
B8 is the type name. This name was likely made up by Brilliance. Via AROnline we know that the first Brilliance-Rover 75 was called the ‘Zhonghua 75-800’.
The first concrete signs that there was an impending deal between MG Rover and China Brilliance came in 2002. Unveiled on the Guangzhou Commodity Group’s automobile trading company’s stand at a Chinese exhibition show, the Rover 75-based 75-800 (below) was a surprise to all those attending. The power unit for the car was the 2497cc KV6 engine and, apart from the new badges, it was identical to all other Euro-specification 75s.
Strangely, no photos are known to exist of the Rover 75 with a 75-800 badge. Interestingly, that first car was apparently unveiled on the booth of a car trading company on a show in Guangzhou.
Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province, in the deep south of China, thousands of kilometers away from Shenyang, in the far north east, where Brilliance is based.
That’s a lot of strange: why not on a show in Shenyang, or even Beijing? Why on the booth of a trading company and not on an official Brilliance booth? Sadly, there are no known pictures of the 75-800 on this show.
What we do have is a set of images of a black Roewe 75 with Brilliance badges in a car dealer, again in Guangzhou, in 2004:
The dealer is not a brand dealer but a general car trading shop owned by a company called… Guangdong Commodity Group Automobile Trading Company (广东物资集团汽车贸易公司). I bet that is exactly the same company as the Guangzhou Commodity Group mentioned in the AROnline article.
The spec sheet shows the car was for sale. Price was 500,000 yuan or 550,000 yuan with license plates. Yes, in those days you could still get a license when you bought a car! Try that today… Anyway. The brand name on the sheet is Zhonghua, the type is simply 2.5 V6. Country of origin is England, and seller is indeed the Guangdong Commodity Group . They list a telephone number and a website, both of which do not seem to work today.
The price of 500,000 yuan translates to $41,350 in 2004 exchange rates. At that time the Rover 75 was also officially imported into China. MG Rover sold the 75, the MG ZT, and the MG TF. The company had official dealers in Shanghai and, again, in Guangzhou.
The list price of an official Rover 75, badges as a Rover, was 500,000 yuan. Exactly the same as was asked for the black Brilliance Rover 75. I will come back to the official exports in a later story.
Brilliance badge on the steering wheel.
V6 badge on the left. Brilliance badge in the middle. Annoyingly, there is no clear photo of the right side of the rear, so I can’t see if it has any additional badges there.
This is the same photo as the one on top. It shows a beautiful black car with the Brilliance badge on the grille. License plate is of Chongqing municipality. And then there is a big surprise at the back:
A ’75’ badge! No 75-800, no B8. Just 75, as in Rover 75.
This blue car has been spotted several times. It has different wheels compared to the black cars. License plate of Liaoning province,which’ capital is Shenyang, home of Brilliance Auto. It has a Brilliance badge on the grille, ….
… Brilliance badges on the wheels, …
… and a B8 badge on the back.
Next up is a blue car, again with different wheels.
Guangdong province license plates. B8 badge.
Another green car. Brilliance badge. I only have one low-resolution photo. The license plates appears to be of Sichuan province.
This silver gray car has been spotted several times too. It has Sichuan license plates, a B8 badge, and the same wheels as the two black cars.
The silver gray Sichuan car.
Moving on to another black car, sadly without license plates. It has the Brilliance badges, and…
… a B8 badge on the back.
Another silver gray example, without plate. Sadly I only have this one photo showing the grille and bonnet.
The last one I know about is this beautiful gold car, again with Guangdong license plates. It does not have any badge on the right side of the rear.
Brilliance badge above the license plate.
Brilliance badges in the wheels, which are different compared to all the others.
And those were the Brilliance Rover 75 cars of China. I am pretty sure there must be more. If you know of any, or know any more about how this all came to be, please contact me.