This picture shows four Hongqi CA72, three Beijing CB4 and two Tianjin Heping 2-type, together on Tian’anmen square in Beijing in 1959 or 1960. It is a very interesting gathering of the three candidates for manufacturing state-limousines for the People’s Republic of China. The chances are already clear taking into account the number of cars present: 4 Hongqi, 3 Beijing and 2 Tianjin.
Yes, it was Hongqi that won. And Beijing and Tianjin were the losers. Recently new photos have been found of the limousines from Beijing , which we will present here.
BEIJING INSPECTION MODEL
Two cars of the six-seat “inspection model” (these cars were not named convertibles or cabriolets as they were meant for the state-leaders to inspect the troops at National Day Parades) were made in 1958, they were sent to the National Day celebrations on October 1. Development started on August 5, it must have been a quick job, as the presentation took place at September 10.
Mr. Liu Ren, owner of a Buick 1956 sedan (how can you be owner of a nearly new American car in the PRC in 1958?), lent his car as an example. You can recognize the Buick-kink in the rear door. The hood could be raised and lowered automatically within 20 seconds. According the famous 1959 handbook which we described before, the engine was a V8, 5480cc, bore x stroke 101,6 x 82mm, producing 255hp@4400rpm. Several contemporary General Motor engines had the same bore, 101,6mm. The sizes were 5500 x 2100 x 1630mm, with a wheelbase of 3220mm. Tires 7.00-15. Power steering. The interesting thing is that name of the engine is CB4, we come back to this later. The car has no other name than ‘Beijing Inspection Limousine’.
One of the two cars had a license plate, number 1*06227. On the front of the car were the five stars of China, representing the Communist Party (the big star), the workers, peasants, citizens and the national bourgeoisie, (these were the entrepreneur).
BEIJING LIMOUSINE (FIRST MODEL)
In the same period the Beijing Auto Works, still named Beijing First Automobile Accessories Works at that time, also made a sister model, with the license 1*06228, which was consecutive with the inspection model.
This was a closed limousine, two were made. The specs of this car are probably the same as the ones of the open model.
There is confusion about the number of cars made. After the two in 1958, a third car was made, in a second test program to improve the car.
BEIJING LIMOUSINE (SECOND MODEL)
A third test program was started in 1959, in March an updated model of the limousine was unveiled. There were changes in the front (grille) and the stars disappeared, replaced by an emblem. The output of the engine was reduced to 188hp (it is possible that the 255hp of the first version was not very realistic..). Two of these cars were sent to the 1959 National Day, these are maybe the two cars here at the top of the article.
In many articles, this version is called the Beijing CB4 Limousine. I am not certain about this name. As you have seen above, the engine of the inspection model was named CB4, and by lack of a proper name, the cars were probably later in press-articles named after their engine.
In 1960 even thirteen cars were made. The consumption was reduced, from 22 litre to 13 litre per 100 km. In 1961 no cars were made. The last two were made in 1962. All together (including the inspection cars) 22 Beijing Limousines were produced.
The reasons to stop the development was 1. the government had a preference for the Hongqi, 2. production of the Dongfanghong BJ760 and later the military off-road vehicles (BJ210, BJ212) took all the place. Yes, Beijing had lost!
Any car left? YES! The Jilin University is the proud owner of a Beijing Limousine (second model). Before it was in hands of the First Auto Works in Changchun, then it moved to Jilin City.
(there is a funny story written by Paul Niedermeyer with the Beijing Limo in the main role, long ago mistakenly called The East Glows).
TIANJIN HEPING LIMOUSINE
The other group of cars on the top photo were made in Tianjin by the Tianjin Auto Repair Works. In fact, it was the second Tianjin model named Heping (Peace) . There is not much information.
I introduced this car earlier to you, in my article about the cars developed during the Great Leap Forward. At least two were made.
Also the Heping from Tianjin disappeared. Only the Hongqi remained and had a rich history, even today.