Today in Chinese Car Brands That Time Forgot (CCBTTF™): Jiuma, a brand under Shanghai Jinma Automobile Corporation. From the mid-1990’s until the mid 00’s the company made a series of interesting vehicles with lots of parts from the Volkswagen bin, some with Volvo design elements. Besides those, Shanghai Jinma also made a range of odd Suzuki Alto-copy cars.
Jinma = the company.
Jiuma = the brand.
Jiuma (九马) means ‘Nine Horses’. The brand was named after the famous Nine Horses Mountain near the great city of Guilin in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Shanghai Jinma Automobile Corporation was established in 1994 in Shanghai. When launched, the company had a license to produce: low-speed farm vehicles, low-speed trucks, electric vehicles, auto parts, hardware tools, and mechanical equipment.
For this article the low-speed farm vehicles category matters most. Under China’s vehicle classification system, ‘farm vehicles’ include all sorts of vehicles used for farming and general workmanship. Examples are small trucks of the rugged kind, transport tricycles, all sorts of small tractors, and, crucially, pickup trucks.
Many of Jinma’s passenger cars were classified as farm vehicles -> pickup trucks, even if they were not really pickup trucks. An example can be seen on top of this article (more on that particular car below).
This kind of odd ‘sedan trucks’ were very common in the late 1990’s and early 00’s. They were developed by car makers to get around government license-limitations for making passenger cars. It was much easier to get a license for making farm vehicles, like pickup trucks, than to get a license for making passenger cars.
Chinese manufacturers, creative as they were, thus developed ‘pickup truck cars’ that were actually sedans with a boot, but with the rear boot lid removed. After selling the vehicle to a customer, the boot lid would be sold separately after-market, and so the pickup truck became a sedan.
In Jinma’s case things were even weirder because they only had a license to make ‘low speed’ vehicles. In those days that meant a maximum speed of 70 km/h and these cars were not allowed on the highway.
Typical low-speed farmer vehicles are small dump trucks and the aforementioned tricycles. But Jinma made passenger cars! Nobody would buy a low-speed passenger car.
So Jinma powered most of their vehicles with a big 2.2 liter four-cylinder diesel engine. Guess what output they claimed this engine had..? 46 hp! This in turn allowed them to claim a top speed of just under 70 km/h for all their cars, ‘complying’ with the law. I strongly suspect that Jinma was again a little bit creative with the truth there.
The Volkswagen connection
Many have assumed the large Jiuma cars were somehow “based on” the first generation Shanghai-Volkswagen Santana.
That appears to be incorrect. Size doesn’t match and the Jiuma cars clearly have a much higher ride height than the Santana. Furthermore, the Santana was a front-wheel drive car whereas the Jiuma’s are rear-wheel drive. And of course Jiuma used heady diesel engines and Volkswagen petrol engines.
But the looks are very similar. I suspect Jiuma got their parts simply from Volkswagen suppliers or from suppliers who copied Volkswagen parts.
This was not uncommon in China in the days. The Maple brand for example bought entire bodies from official Citroen suppliers to create their own cars. Needless to say, the French were not amused…
In Jiuma’s case, their cars contain style elements of both the first generation Shanghai-VW Santana and the later Santana 2000 series, making for a somewhat fuzzy design. As far as I know, Volkswagen has never tried to sue Shanghai Jinma Automobile Corporation.
The larger Jiuma’s were likely based on an adapted farming-truck chassis, which Jiuma also made. These trucks are generally low-tech, cheap to run and maintain, and surprisingly strong.
The JM2805WXII is a four-door wagon panel van. It has a simple design, steel wheels, and leaf spring suspension at the rear. The mirrors look far too small for such a big car, something we have seen at many small automakers of that period.
Power came from a 2.2 (2156 ml) liter diesel engine designated ‘485A1′. It was manufactured by the Jiangsu Sida Power Machinery Group. Output was rated at 46 hp, good for a 69.7 km/h top speed.
Size: 4410×1680×1440, wheelbase 2550, curb weight 1080 kilo, and max load capacity 200 kilo.
Same car but with real wagon-windows instead of the panel-van panels. Note the Volkswagen grille, lights, and wheel covers. On first sight it really looks like a Santana wagon with a Santana 2000 front-end, but the proportions are off and it stands very high on its wheels.
The Jiuma JM2305CWX was an update of the JM2805WXII. Jiuma redesigned the entire front, including the grille, bonnet, and the front fenders. The front bumper remained the same.
The grille was much larger now, black with the Jiuma badge in the middle. The grille was flanked by square-shaped headlights.
There was a new engine too! A 1.8 liter diesel engine, designated YD480 and manufactured by a company called Yangdong Corporation. Output was officially 31 hp, good for a 69.5 km/h top speed.
The Jiuma JM2805CW was the first of Jiuma’s sedan trucks. It is based on the Jiuma JM2305CWX wagon, with a small pick-up truck bed behind the C-pillar. Uniquely, it also had a small extra side window on the pillar, a design detail only seen on the Jiuma JM2805CW and the JM2805CW-1 (below).
Power came from yet another type of engine: A 2.2 liter diesel made by Changchai Corporation, designated ZN485QA. Output was 39 hp for a 62.9 km/h top speed.
Chinese car companies always have numerous engine suppliers. Even today the practice persists. Just look at BAIC for example. They make their own engines and they buy engine from at least five external suppliers.
Jiuma’s count stands at 3 suppliers now. But I still got many cars to go…
The JM2805CW-1 was Jiuma’s first ‘Volvo’. It was based on the JM2805CW (above) but it came with a Volvo grille! Inspiration was apparently the Volvo 740/760-series. There are new Volvo-style lights too, and shiny wheel-arch extenders. It also has the tiny third-side window. A brilliant car, why didn’t Volvo think of something like this..? It is unknown if Volvo even knew about the JM2805CW-1. Back in those days Volvo wasn’t very active yet in China so perhaps the Swedes just missed it.
Power came from the 485A1 again, here rated at 44 hp, good for 69.7 km/h.
Shuaibao & Shuaihu
After these first vehicles the Jiuma brand became a bit more settled and they launched a new series of pickup trucks and wagons. Besides their designations these cars also got namen: Shanghai Shuaibao (Shanghai Handsome Leopard) for the pickup trucks and Shanghai Shuaihu (Shanghai Handsome Tiger) for the wagons.
The Shanghai Shuaibao pickup truck was Jiuma’s most popular vehicle. Many were sold, or so it appears, to local government agencies. Jiuma’s factory p.r. photos show the pickup truck used for all sorts or government work, as in above, where a worker repairs a pole along a road.
The Jiuma JM2805CWII looked slightly less like a Volkswagen. It had a modern set of large headlights and a new grille with narrow vertical bars. Most notable is the ‘rail’ on the edges of the bed leading up to the roof.
Power came from the ZN485QA rated at 39 hp for 69.7 km/h.
Size: 4410×1680×1440, 2550. Curb weight 1030 and max load 200 kg. Size of the pickup truck bed: 780×1380×370.
Even after my incredible extensive research of Jiuma I have never been able to totally understand their designation system. I believe there wasn’t really a system, just like with many other smaller automakers of the time.
They just did. The best designation of Jiuma, and they have a few dozen in total, must be this one: the JM2305CW-1Ⅱ. The last part is brilliant: 1II, 1 and II, the second of the first. Pure poetry!
The JM2305CW-1Ⅱ is of course based on the JM2805CWII but it looks slightly more upmarket. It has a pretty wheel cover, albeit only at the front. Engine is the Yangdong 1.8 rated at 39 hp for 68.7 km/h.
The JM2305CWXⅡ was the panel-van wagon of the JM2305CW-1Ⅱ. It is not entirely sure if this car actually existed. As you can see, the wagon-part is clearly a Photoshop, and not a very good one at that. It is exactly the same car standing on the same location!
The Jiuma JM2305CWXⅡ was powered by Yangdong 1.8 diesel, 39 hp, 68.7 km/h.
A line of 5 JM2305CW-1Ⅱ’s on an empty road in a green land. Wait… That doesn’t look like Shanghai! Note how Jiuma called it a “Multifunctional sedan truck”.
The JM2805CW was an updated version of the JM2305CW-1Ⅱ. It had a new grille with horizontal bars and it came with black bumpers, black wheel arches, and a black painted rail on the bed. The changes are small but the Jiuma suddenly looks a whole lot more modern.
Engine was the Jiangsu Sida 2.2, rated at 46 hp for 69.7 km/h.
And Jiuma did a Photoshop with the wagon variant again:
As mentioned, the JM2805CWXII was the wagon variant of the JM2805CW. It is unsure if it was actually manufactured. There are no other known photos of the wagon version. Engine was the same 2.2.
And then it was time again for another design update. The grille was split in two parts with the Jiuma logo on the low-middle. The wheels were new too, with a Jiuma logo in the center. Engine remained the same.
The JM2805CW1-II appears to be the company’s most successful model. We have more pictures of it than of any other Jiuma. This photo shows a water-spray variant, with a huge tank in the back, a pump in the front, and two water sprayers seen on left, spraying trees and grass.
The JM2805CW1-II spraying crops, cooking, powering a generator, an assisting with some welding work. The message was clear: the JM2805CW1-II could do everything!
Factory photos of the factory, showing a long line of brand new JM2805CW1-II’s ready to roll.
A period brochure showing the JM2805CW1-II in front of a villa on a gold course.
Time for a Volvo again! And even better, this time it was a real wagon, not a Photoshopped car. Oddly, Jiuma didn’t make a sedan-truck variant of this one. The JM2805CWX-1 was wagon-only.
Design seems mostly inspired by the first-generation pre-facelift Volvo V60, note the typical air intakes on each side of the grille. Nicely copied. It is even painted in a Volvo-shade of light blue. The grille features the Volvo diagonal with a Jiuma badge in the middle.
Power came from the Jiangsu Sida 2.2 liter diesel again. Size was a little different compared to the earlier cars: 4610/1720/1455, and wheelbase was 2520, 20 mm more than before.
The rear wasn’t so much Volvo. The lights are from a China-made Volkswagen Polo.
The Jiuma JM2805CWX-II was the same car as the JM2805CWX-1 but this time without the Volvo diagonal. Instead, it only had the Jiuma badge on the grille.
Jiuma did something very funny with the rear-side window. They made it smaller to make to look more modern! It worked. Jiuma also added a chrome bar above the license plate and a chrome strip on the body-colored rear bumper. And this picture shows, again, very clearly how much ground clearance the Jiuma had. Size: 4410/1680/1440, and wheelbase is now 2550, according to period claims of by Jiuma.
The Jiuma JM2805LX is probably the most interesting Jiuma, seen on the left side, next to a JM2805CWX-1.
It also has the Volvo design, but instead of a wagon it is a five-door hatchback, with a trendy white roof! And even better: it was an electric car. Note the license plate (电动汽车), and it has also been confirmed by period Jiuma brochures.
It seems to be a wagon with part of the rear cut-off. Size: 4105/1690/1430. Wheelbase is 2550, the same as the wagon.
The Jiuma JM2805LX seen in the hallway of the offices at the factory, with a Jiuma badge on the bonnet. The combined Volvo-Jiuma badge situation is clearly visible here. The seats have light gray seat covers, and note how low and skewed the driver seat sits.
The Jiuma JM2805LX without the Volvo diagonal. The car’s proportions are very odd, with a bonnet that seems to be almost as long as the rest of the vehicle. The entire rear door seems borrowed from the Shanghai-Volkswagen Polo. We know the electric motor’s factory code, 485A1/15, but sadly nothing about its power or the car’s range. It was likely just a concept/prototype. And it also was the last of the large Jiuma cars, which brings us to the smaller ones:
The Alto-based cars
Jiuma also manufactured a series of small cars ‘based on’ the Suzuki Alto. Naturally, they made many variants of each car. They also got a little crazy, in a good way.
How much Alto there really is beneath these cars is difficult to answer. The Suzuki Alto has a long and confusing history in China. It was manufactured by Changan-Suzuki, but Suzuki also licensed the Alto to various smaller Chinese car makers, some of which semi-legally sub-licensed the Alto to yet other companies. Next to that, there were many illegal copies and clones.
The Jiuma cars look like they were Alto-based but proportions are slightly off and sizes don’t really match. But the most important clue are the engine. Every Chinese car maker that made licensed or sub-licensed Alto’s used 0.9 liter four-cylinder petrol engines, usually of the same licensed-sort and based on the original Suzuki Alto engine design.
The copies and clones, however, used whatever engines were available. Guess what Jiuma used to power their ‘Alto’? A big fat diesel engine!
I therefore dare to conclude that the Jiuma Alto’s were illegal copies. Like with the bigger cars, some parts may have been bought at actual Alto-suppliers or after-market suppliers.
The first ‘Alto’ is the Jiuma2305C-1II, a tiny two-seat convertible that was of course officially a farmers pickup truck. Well, it has a cargo bay! It looks very cool and ready for the beach. The single wiper barely covers half of the windshield . The roll bar doesn’t look very reassuring. The Jiuma badge didn’t fit inside the grille so they just hung it over the grille.
Size: 3500×1450×1520, wheelbase 2200 and curb weight was just 500 kg. Power came from a diesel engine. A 1.8 liter unit designated LL480Q, made by a company called Shandong Huayuan Laidong Engine. Output was 40 hp for a 67.8 km/h top speed.
This is another official picture of the Jiuma2305C-1II. But it isn’t the same car. It has a much larger front overhang with more body work in front of the front wheel. The bumper sits much further from the wheel and a lot higher.
Same car, rear end. Jiuma badge on the right side. Very typical light clusters. Definitely not Alto-style. The mud flaps are red, very trendy again! The seats go without head rests and the mirrors are fitted high on the windshield frame. The dash looks like first-generation Chinese Alto, but details are hard to discern.
The JM2305C-1 was an evolution of the Jiuma2305C-1II. Note the handles and rubber knobs on the windscreen. It looks like the windscreen can fold down but there are no pictures to prove so. The bumpers are painted in body color and the front bumper gets a new design. There are nice looking wheel covers, seat covers, and a redesigned fence on the cargo bay.
Size was as before. And for the first time, buyers could choose between two engines! First choice was the LL480Q 1.8 liter Shandong Huayuan Laidong Engine, and second choice a Yangdong YD480 1.8 liter. Both diesel. The former had 40 hp, the latter 39. Top speed is the same: 67.8 km/h.
The Jiuma JM2005C was another evolution of the convertible theme. Jiuma called it the JM2005C Runabout. Jiuma didn’t try to mask it as a pickup truck this time. It has a very car-like design and it has four seats. Design is almost coherent, check that front bumper and grille. It even has fog lights! The wheel covers are new too and the roll bar has been deleted. Sadly, the JM2005C was not an official production car and I suspect they only made one.
In the background of the JMC2005C stands an interesting brown sedan with a spoiler on the boot lid. It seems to be one of those pickup tucks-turned into sedans after-market, in this case based on the:
The Jiuma JM2305CWII looks very Alto-esque but again, proportions are off and it stands way too high on its wheels. Nevertheless, it is a properly designed car, with a two-tone paint job. It has four doors and a small cargo area. The single wiper remains and Jiuma still didn’t manage to design a smaller badge for on the grille.
It has the same rear lights as the Jiuma2305C-1II.
Size: 3710×1430×1450, wheelbase 2200. Size of the cargo area: 640×1270×380. That’s a cargo bay so short it can barely be used as such, indicating this one was indeed purely designed for becoming a sedan.
Engine was a 1.8 liter LL480Q diesel made by Shandong Huayuan Laidong. Output was rated at 40 hp but top speed was just 61 km/h, making it the slowest Jiuma so far.
The Jiuma JM2306C11 was the two-door variant of the JM2305CWII. Note how the roof slopes up a bit at the back. For better aerodynamics, I guess.
Size: 3540×1430×1450, wheelbase 2200. Quite a bit shorter but wheelbase was the same.
Cargo bay was more serious this time: 1300×1270×380. The JM2306C11 was a real pickup truck. The Engine is the same too; the LL480Q for 61 km/h.
The Jiuma JM2305C was an updated variant of the JM2305CWII. It gets new wheel covers, new bumpers, new headlights, a new grille, and a new scheme for the two-tone paint. New mud flaps too. And the best news: the Jiuma logo finally fits!
Size: 3710×1430×1450, wheelbase 2200. Cargo bay is of the tiny kind again: 640×1270×380. Engines: LL480Q Shandong Huayuan Laidong or Yangdong YD480, both for 61 km/h.
When you update the JM2305CWII you should also update the JM2306C11. And so Jiuma did, with the JM2305C. Improvements are the same including that narrow grille. But there is one significant difference: the JM2305C goes without the two-tone paint scheme. It doesn’t look any worse for it.
Size: 3540×1430×1450, 2200. Cargo bay: 1300×1270×380. Engines: LL480Q Shandong Huayuan Laidong or Yangdong YD480, both for 61 kilometers per Shanghai hour.
And those were the passenger cars of Jiuma. I’d like to end with this pretty picture which was on Jiuma’s old website. The English text says: “Jiuma. Energy conversation and pragmatic no block wood are not bad.”
I completely agree. Shanghai Jinma also sold various small trucks and minibuses under the Jiuma brand. More on those in a later article.
Shanghai Jinma continued to make farm-vehicles until 2008. After that it continued as a part supplier until at least 2012. They also announced various plans for the manufacturing of electric buses but nothing came of it.
Jiuma B-028, proposal for an electric bus.
At that moment it time the company seems to have disappeared. Perhaps they were taken over or government-restructured. But in 2014 they were back once more with a new car called the Shanghai Jiuma B-033:
It doesn’t look like any Jiuma before. I suspect Jinma was indeed taken over by another company for their farm vehicle-making license. The B-033 came with two or four doors, with diesel and petrol engines. It was never sold on the mass market and the project was abandoned soon. A somewhat sad, but fairly typical, end for a small manufacturer with some interesting ideas!
Many thanks to Erik for the old brochure pics.
Shanghai Jinma Automobile Corporation: 上海劲马车辆有限公司
Jiangsu Sida Power Machinery Group Co., Ltd: 江苏四达动力机械集团有限公司.