Home » Here’s How All These Random American Cars Ended Up In China

Here’s How All These Random American Cars Ended Up In China

American Cars In China Ts
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Not that long ago, China loved American cars. Specifically, American cars had a big moment from the 1900s up to the 2010s. Only recently has the love has cooled down a little. Not so much because of geopolitical tensions and all of that.

In my experience living and working in China, most Chinese consumers don’t care about politics when it comes to their cars. The main reason for this downturn in popularity is that American cars, whether locally made or imported, are simply not competitive enough anymore in the highly contested Chinese car market.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

This article is about imported US cars that I have seen in China. Earlier, I wrote about locally-made American cars, and about a visit to a Buick dealer. In this post, I will discuss a flock of American import cars that I have seen in and around Beijing over the years. But first, a bit more about imported cars. Because, as with everything in China, it is complicated.

How The Hell Does A Chrysler Concorde End Up In China?

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Here’s a perfect second-generation Chrysler Concorde, painted in a pretty shade of gold with gray alloy wheels. The Concorde was not officially sold in China, but quite a few made it to Chinese shores in other ways. How?

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For all the products that China exports around the world, importation into China is fairly complicated. There are official imports, as when Ford imports a car into China and sells it at a Ford dealer. But that is a relatively small import market, due to steep import tariffs. This is why most new American cars that are sold in China are made in China.

At the same time, there’s the gray or parallel import, where Chinese car dealers import cars directly from dealers in the US, Canada, and Mexico. The rules for this gray import have always been purposefully vague in China. It is a gray area, and regulations may differ per province, but it is allowed, generally speaking. There have been periodic legal campaigns against gray imports, but it has never been outlawed.

Raptor 1
A Mexico-spec Dearborn-made Ford Lobo Raptor, seen at a gray-import dealer in Beijing in 2017.

Buying and owning a gray imported car is not for everybody. Buyers still have to pay the import taxes, and it isn’t always easy to register and insure a gray-imported vehicle. Furthermore, getting the right maintenance is not easy either. Official dealers usually won’t do work on gray imports, so buyers have to rely on specialized and expensive repair shops. All these problems can be solved but it costs money.

Gmc
A GMC Yukon Denali, seen at a gray-import & second-hand market in Beijing, 2018.

Therefore, gray-imported cars are usually of the most expensive kind. One may wonder why people buy this stuff. Well, the reason is simple: they buy gray cars because these are not otherwise available. Due to the mentioned high import tariffs, there isn’t much official import, so many desirable vehicles are not available in China. Specifically, it’s been hard to get high-end pickup trucks and giant SUVs. These kinds of cars are not made locally either, because the market is too small to bother.

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It still has the original dealer sticker. Koons runs several GM dealers in the Washington area.

Let’s say you are a Chinese fellow living in Beijing, you love American cars, you have some cash in hand, and you really want a Cadillac Escalade SUV. Cadillac China won’t sell you any, and it isn’t made in China either. So the only thing this fellow can do is go to a gray-market dealer and get one there. I have been in many of those dealers. They usually order cars by the dozen, and you can buy one right off the showroom floor.

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No Secondhand, Sir

There is a clear and simple rule: importing second-hand cars in China is forbidden. All the older cars were imported when they were new. The central government sets this rule and it is strictly enforced. There are two reasons for this ban: 1) fear of polluting cars. It is too hard to know the emissions of an older car. 2) Fear of unfair competition. When this rule was set in the 1990s, the government was afraid that cheap second-hand imports would destroy the upcoming Chinese brands [Ed note: An irony considering that cheap Chinese cars are threatening every other car market-MH].

The ban is for every kind of car, and that became a bit of a problem. In the late 2000s, when China got richer, Chinese entrepreneurs got interested in high-end foreign classic cars, like Ferraris and Shelby Cobras. But they couldn’t import any, because these cars were classified as second-hand as well, and thus banned.

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A modified Chevrolet Bel Air 2-door hardtop with Oregon plates in a ‘museum’ in Beijing. This was a brilliant place far outside town, not far from the Goldenport race track. The owner had an enormous collection of exotic European, Japanese, and American cars. He charged 100 yuan for entry, which was steep, as most state-sponsored museums charged 10 yuan or so. Most days, I was the only visitor.

For a while, I was involved in a project to import classic cars from the Netherlands to China, using a get-around, but ultimately we failed. The law was just too strict. This changed in the 2010s when the government allowed one exception: second-hand cars can be imported legally by museums. These museums have to be government-approved, they have to be open to the public, and they have to charge for entry. Cars imported by museums cannot be registered for the road, but they can get a special license for classic car events and such. The museum rules were pretty strict. Still, in Beijing alone, I know at least two ‘museums’ that are actually private collections.

Another Kind Of Import: The Foreign-Owned Company Rule

China launched several regulations to attract foreign investment and to make operating a foreign company easy. One of those rules concerned cars. From the 1980s to the mid-’00s, foreign-owned companies and their employees could import cars, with a reduced import tariff. There was no limit to the number or the sort of car. Alternatively, these companies could also buy a locally-made car with reduced consumer tax. Thus, cars imported or purchased locally were issued with the famous black license plates.

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A massive Cadillac Brougham sedan, seen in central Beijing in 2014, with an early black license plate.

This foreign company rule led to some creativity. At the time, official import tariffs were up to 60%. So if you could import a car via the foreign-owned company rule and re-sell it, you could make a decent profit. And that is exactly what happened. Companies were funded, usually with ownership in Hong Kong, which was legally a ‘foreign’ entity at the time with the only goal of importing cars and re-selling them almost immediately. In the early days of the system, this was perfectly legal, but later on, the practice was banned.

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A massive Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, seen on a car market in Beijing.

The key to deciphering this is by looking at the license plate. The first character of the plate refers to a geographical area. For Beijing, the sequence was 京A, with ‘京’ (jīng) being short for Běijīng. The numbering started at A·00001 and then up. So the lower the number the older the car. The plates of this Cadillac Fleetwood Broughamare thus quite old: 京A·02502, the two-thousand-five hundred and second foreign-owned company car registered in the city.

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An abandoned white Chevrolet Corsica LT with black license plates. It was parked in my compound in east Beijing.

Until the mid-2000s cars with black license plates had similar rights as cars with diplomatic license plates. That meant: no fines, parking wherever you wanted to, and traffic police didn’t bother you. It all changed in 2007 when China stopped issuing new black license plates, and the extra rights were canceled at the same time. From then on, a black plate was legally the same as a standard blue plate.

The Lore Of The Cadillac DeVille

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This Cadillac DeVille was famous in the Beijing car-tuning scene in the mid-2000s, it was at all the shows, with a big stereo inside and babes crawling over the skull on the hood. Later, it got out of sight, replaced by younger models, until I found it at a small car repair shop in the far east of Beijing in 2015. It was a bit dusty and dirty, but otherwise all right.

Cadillac Deville China Skull 2

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In the late 2010s, black license A plates started disappearing from the roads. The cars were too old, and no longer passed the annual emissions inspection. The cars were either crushed or sold to other provinces. The plates ended up in the trash bin. There was no way to keep them, not even as a souvenir-memory. Under Chinese law, the actual plates belong to the state, not to the car’s owner. The black plates were no longer issued anyway, and no longer valid or transferrable. There was one way out: report the plates as stolen to the police and keep them. I know some folks who did that. It sounded a little risky to me.

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Another DeVille, a bit dusty, but almost completely original. In the background is a Beijing-Jeep Cherokee XJ.

The 1992 US-China trade deal

In a complex 1992 deal between China and the United States, the Chinese government committed to buy $130 million worth of passenger cars from Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. The deal was important at the time for both countries. The US accused China of unfair trade competition and therefore threatened to take away China’s coveted “most-favored-nation trading status.” The car-purchase deal was a move to get some goodwill in Washington, and it worked.

The buyer was the Chinese government itself, and the cars were intended for use as taxis and tourist vehicles. These were US-spec cars, without any changes for China. The Ford Taurus was the largest single component of the deal, with 3,010 units. The $130-millon deal also included the Chevrolet Lumina, the Chrysler Neon, and the Plymouth Sundance.

Below are some of my favorite, random American cars I’ve spotted while being in China.

Chevrolet Lumina APV

Lumina

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The Chevrolet Lumina APV was a cool minivan with a polarizing design. I really like it. This one has the best color combination: white/black with red stripes.

The Lumina made quite an impression in China, as there was nothing like it on the road. Chinese car maker Nushen famously made a local clone, powered by an ex-Chrysler engine. The Lumina’s platform would eventually end up at Shanghai-GM to underpin the Buick GL8.

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Here’s a rare period photo of a car market with a black Lumina, dated 30/06/1992. Archives.

Ford Tempo

Ford Tempo W 1

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According to the trade deal, these Tempos were meant for taxi use, but I have never seen one in such a role and never heard about it. As far as I can see, all the trade deal cars were sold on the private market. The Tempo was a strong little sedan, up until about 2010 you could still find some on the road, like this pretty white example. The China-bound Tempos had the 2.3-liter four-pot under the hood.

Ford Tempo W 2

The trade-deal cars were US-spec, so note the license plate area that is too small for the Chinese plate. Cars that are officially exported usually get a wider China-spec license plate area.

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An abandoned red Tempo near a Honda dealer in west Beijing, parking in front of a W140 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

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Plymouth Sundance

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The Plymouth brand was never marketed in China, so any Plymouth is a special sight on the road. The Plymouth Sundance was part of the 1992 deal, too. I saw this black one in heavy rain at the parking lot of the Zhuhai-Shenzhen ferry. License plates are from Guangdong Province. The mirrors have a cool aerodynamic shape. It also has a notable white-red stripe over the side. Probably a special edition of some sort.

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Here’s a white one that I saw in Beijing, with sporty after-market alloy wheels.

The Insurance Sticker Situation

Lumina 2

China has all sorts of fuzzy rules that date back to the state-controlled economy. A nice one was about insurance stickers. Like in many other countries, cars in China have to have an insurance sticker on the windshield. So far so normal. But! Until the early 2010s, cars had to have sequential insurance stickers, going back to the year the vehicle was first registered! So many older cars had up to ten insurance stickers on the windshield, on the right-top side. I had a lot of them on my Jeep, so many indeed that my view was partially blocked. The cool thing was that fanatic car spotter could see exactly when a car was registered in the country. 

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The stickers caused stress: if you didn’t have all the subsequent stickers, you could get in trouble at the annual car inspection, and when you got stopped by police for other reasons, and the cops noted a missing sticker. So it was very important to have all of them in sight. The stickers didn’t have to be in numerical order, it was okay to have a 2009 sticker next to one from 2004. The requirement was eased in the 2010s. First, you only needed two stickers, of the current and previous years. That was soon changed again, to current-year only. The company that maintained my car asked me if I wanted them to remove the stickers, but I didn’t, as I was kind of attached to the whole set, so I kept them on.

Chevrolet Corvette C4

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The C4 has always been my favorite Corvette because of the A-Team, which was a super popular show in the Netherlands when I was a kid. I had a model of Faceman’s white red-striped ‘Vette, I thought it was the coolest car in the world. The C4 wasn’t sold in Europe, so I never saw any on the road at the time. It wasn’t sold in China either, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautiful red example at the premises of the Beijing Film Academy in 2009. The academy was and still is based on a vast campus with low buildings and lots of trees [studios, shooting films, cool cars]

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The academy was a great place to see weird cars. There were many movie studios, too, and every day something was going on, like a movie shoot or some celebrity parading around. I mostly came there to take photos of the camera trucks, but I also saw extended limousines, movie prop cars, and one red Corvette.

About the blue ‘A’ license plates

Blue A license plates were issued to the first batches of privately registered cars. Most blue A plates were issued in the early 1990s. Again, each province and municipality had its own blue license plate program. The lower the number the older the car. This Chevy van has 津A·17055. 津 (jīn) is short for Tiānjīn, a major municipality & port city about 150 km southeast of Beijing. The port of Tianjin has always been, and still is today, the major point of entry for gray-market US import cars.

In the 2000s, when China got richer, blue A plates became a status symbol among the newly wealthy. They believed that the early plates equaled early money. So these wealthy folks would buy genuine cars with a blue A license plate, ship them off to the crusher, and put the plates on a newer and more expensive car. This also happened with mobile phones. The earliest assigned mobile phone numbers started with a ‘1’ and then up, so a telephone number with a low first number became a symbol of wealth, too.

Chevrolet Chevy Van

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A Chevrolet Chevy Van with blue A license plates from Tianjin Municipality. In the 2000s and 2010s, there was a lot of gray import of all sorts of conversion vans. These were mainly used as company executive cars, and some went to high-end hotels. These were imported as new after the conversion. However, starting in the late 2000s, Chinese companies started to do some of the conversion work in China, mainly interior upholstery, which was much cheaper to do locally than to have it done in the US.

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Ford Taurus

Ford Taurus

This is an interesting one. The window stickers were in English and French, so it was likely originally delivered to Canada. The license plates are from Liaoning Province.

Ford Probe

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This pretty red Probe was parked in a quiet area near my first apartment in Beijing. It has early black license plates from Tianjin Municipality. It was in reasonable shape, the hub caps were missing but the tires still had air, so it didn’t seem abandoned. Strangely, both mirrors had broken off. It stood there for a few months until one day, it was gone.

Ford Club Wagon E-350 XL

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This is the largest Ford van I have seen in China. It is based on the 1997-2002 Ford F-350, the XL version, with 12 seats! More like a bus than a truck. It was in great shape and clearly still in use, although the license plates were strangely missing.

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This massive machine was originally supplied by Dick Ruhl, a Ford dealer in Columbus, Ohio.

Lincoln Town Car Executive Series

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A black Lincoln Town Car Executive Series with black Beijing license plates. A classic American sedan like they don’t make them anymore! The car in the photos is a 1998-2002 pre-facelift example, which was also licensed by Ford to China’s FAW for the production of the Hongqi CA7460. The CA7460 was long seen as a ‘fake’ Hongqi by the Chinese public, as it was too obviously based on an American car. But in recent years, the CA7460 has become cool, even in America. A Chinese fellow living in the US bought a Town Car and changed it into a half-Hongqi, using parts shipped in from China.

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Lincoln LS

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A Lincoln LS sedan with license plates from Shandong province. The number sequence is auspicious: both 9 and 8 are lucky numbers in Chinese culture.

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This Lincoln was originally delivered in Las Vegas, by a car dealer with the great name ‘Desert’. The company doesn’t exist anymore, but eBay still sells the license plate frames.

Mercury Grand Marquis GL Ultimate Edition

Mercury 1

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If old Chevys and Fords are rare in China, an old Mercury is ultra rare. In my 16 years in China, I have only seen a handful. I found this Mercury Grand Marquis GL Ultimate Edition in an underground parking lot. Amazingly, it was still in use as a daily driver. That’s a rarity for these older American cars as they usually don’t pass the annual emissions test. But somehow the owner of this perfectly maintained beauty manages to keep his wheels on the road.

Mercury 2

The Grand Marquis was not officially sold in China but it shares much of its mechanics with the Lincoln Town car and the Hongqi CA7460, so that makes it relatively easy to find replacement parts. It has lucky Beijing 59898 license plates.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Dragon Edition

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Jeep had early success in China but they are near-dead now. Jeep had two joint ventures in China that produced Jeep-branded vehicles: Beijing-Jeep (1988-2006), where I got my car from, and GAC-FCA (2015-2022). The first went bankrupt in the financial crisis, and the second one went bankrupt due to disappointing sales. Besides the locally-made cars, Jeep also sold imports in China, and the Wrangler was the best-seller. Until the 2020s, it had a strong following in China, with off-road clubs and all of that, no matter the high prices. In 2016, to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dragon, Jeep launched the Wrangler Unlimited Dragon Edition. Many car makers in China launch special editions for the most auspicious years of the 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar. The most auspicious animals are the Dragon, the Tiger, and the Rabbit.

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The Dragon Edition had a large dragon decal, with the head on the hood and the body on the doors. It also had a gold-colored grille, headlight housings, and wheels. The wheels on this particular car are in gold as well, but not original.

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The interior was dressed up, too, with a dragon head on the headrest, a dragon on the passenger’s handlebar, and gold trim. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Dragon Edition was equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 engine with an output of 284 hp and 347 Nm, mated to a five-speed AMT. The Dragon Edition was limited to 999 units, and they all sold out.

You Can Get Trucks, But It’s Messy

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Not the most practical vehicle for Beijing: a massive Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch pickup truck (2011-2016), I saw the enormous machine in east Beijing, just outside the Fifth Ring. It has license plates from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

In most Chinese cities, pickup trucks are classified as commercial vehicles. This means that pickup trucks are prohibited from entering the city’s central area. In Beijing, that’s everything within the Fifth Ring Road (Beijing has seven ring roads). It doesn’t matter what the purpose of the truck is, lifestyle or work, all are classified in the same manner.

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The main reason is fear of pollution. Chinese work trucks are usually powered by rather old gasoline and sometimes even diesel engines, and those are stinky. This has long put a stop to the development of passenger-focused pickup trucks by Chinese car makers, and an effective stop on official exports. However, there are always some folks who don’t care about all those complicated little rules, they just want a V8-powered truck, and that is why the gray market exists in China.

Dodge Ram 1500

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A Dodge Ram 1500 HEMI 5.7 liter, without license plates, in 2014.

However, the strict pickup truck rules are slowly changing, thanks to the EV revolution. An increasing number of cities now allow EV-powered pickup trucks. Chinese car makers didn’t wait long and brands like Radar and Qiyuan promptly launched electric lifestyle trucks. And what about Ford? Did it see this opportunity too? No, of course not. Instead, Ford decided to build the ICE Ranger in China, which faces all the old limits, and won’t sell well. 

Hummer H3T

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Another great-looking American dinosaur: a Hummer H3T with a bullbar, in red. China and Hummer always have had a complicated relationship. In the 1990s AM General tried to sell the Humvee to the Chinese armed forces, which promptly reverse-engineered the Humvee, with American assistance, using American engines. During the financial crisis, Chinese company Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corporation negotiated with GM about buying the Hummer brand and shifting production to China, but the deal didn’t happen. Interestingly, there was never any official Hummer export to China by General Motors. All road-going Hummers in China arrived via the gray market. This odd omission continues until today: the new GMC Hummer EV is not available in China, but that’s okay now, as Chinese consumers can get electric trucks with even more horsepower.

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Left: a heavily modified Strut H2, with a ‘Houston’ sticker on the back. Right: a H2 Flex Fuel (E85 Ethanol).

 

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Dodge Ram 3500 & the yellow license plate regulation

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A Dodge Ram 3500 with a ‘carbon fiber’ wrap and darkened windows. Note the insurance stickers. This Dodge has yellow license plates, and that’s another peculiarity in China’s license plate regulation.  Yellow license plates are issued to commercial vehicles. The way these vehicles were used didn’t matter. The only way in which passenger cars and commercial vehicles were separated was by length.

Every vehicle longer than 6 meters was qualified as commercial. The enormous Dodge in the photo was longer than 6 meters and has a yellow plate. It makes sense. But it didn’t always make sense. The Maybach 62 is a famous example. It was a luxury limousine, not a work of transport vehicle. However, it was 6.2 meters long and the rule was the rule, so it too classified as a commercial vehicle. An added consequence was that drivers needed a special commercial-vehicle license, no matter whether they drove a truck or a stretched limousine. The rule has since been adjusted, so that long-wheelbase passenger cars no longer classify commercial. It was good fun…

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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A Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, in a residential area in west Beijing, on a sunny day in summer.

The Dodge brand has never been officially marketed in China, so every Dodge on the road in a gray parallel import. Chrysler should have known better. The Dodge Charger and Challenger had a huge following in China, partly thanks to the Fast & Furious movies. Chrysler could have sold thousands of them, no matter the price.

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The gray market added an even steeper markup: when new, these sold for some 1.78 million yuan, which is $245K. Two-hundred forty-five thousand dollars. Even at that price, it isn’t a super rare vehicle. I have seen quite a few over the years, on tuning shows and on the road.

Buick Park Avenue

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A second-generation Buick Park Avenue. Gray import Buicks are comparatively rare because Buick makes a whole lot of cars locally, so I was very happy to see this one in Beijing. I was in a taxi at the time and the driver didn’t understand why I got so excited. “That’s just an old car” he said, a typical reaction.

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Well, just look at it! The big front-wheel drive American sedan appeared to be in great shape, painted in a dark shade of black, with sporty 7-spoke wheels.

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Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

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And I end this story with an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan, with a fiery sticker on the hood. I saw this red beauty on a local tuning show in Beijing in 2009. The Oldsmobile brand was never marketed in China either, and the brand was and is completely unknown. I remember talking to the owner, a young punk, and he told me his dad gave him the car. Well, that’s a nice present and probably the only red Oldsmobile in China!

Many more Chinese cars are underway. Next: advanced Chinese EREV technology. Next-next: early China-only LWB cars. Next next-next: I don’t know yet, maybe a dealer visit.

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Alpine 911
Alpine 911
27 days ago

Great article! But the C4 got sold in Europe. Friend of mine just bought one after I talked him into it

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
28 days ago

“Strangely, both mirrors had broken off. ”

No, this type of mirrors were fitted to the export version that were shipped to Japan and Europe. Since the mirror housings on the North American version are fixed and do not yield, they are not allowed in the countries where ECE WP29 regulations are adopted. So, different mirror housings that yield or fold away when struck by the pedestrians or immobile objects They usually then revert back to the original position afterwards.

The red Probe in the photo had the side turn signal indicators so it was for the Japanese market as the ones for European markets didn’t have
them.

Here’s another photo of the same Probe in side view. You can see that the mirrors are folded away.

On this Probe for Europe, you can see the mirrors that aren’t folded away.

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
28 days ago

I was thinking about the Grand Tour episode where the three of them imported Euro luxo barges (well, two of them anyway. Hammond brought a Cadillac STS) into Chongqing. How did that work actually?

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
28 days ago

I loved that article, and learned so much! It was especially meaningful because I’ve seen so many of those cars in person. The red Corvette is undergoing restoration and has started to be seen more after a few years under a tarp at my friends shop.

I bought my first car in Beijing in 2007, just a month after they stopped issuing black plates. I was so disappointed because I was buying a black car and thought the black plates would look amazing… but at least I have plates.

Now it’s nearly impossible to be issued a license plate in Beijing. A lot of my friends register their cars in other provinces and rarely drive in town due to restrictions.

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
27 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Marquardt

Tycho’s articles are fascinating. Chinese car culture and how the industry is structured is fantastic reading. And his style of writing always makes me smile. Great stuff.

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
27 days ago

I agree! I had the pleasure of hanging out with him a few time when he was based in Beijing. Super cool guy and a wealth of knowledge! I used to visit his old website everyday!

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
22 days ago

Hello Tycho! It’s a Camaro, but I get that literally all the time! I’m so happy to get to continue to read your articles at such an amazing website, keep it up!

by the way, I remember about 12 years ago when Tycho wrote an article on his site about the arrival of the camaro in China I was so uninterested and dismissive and even put a commented on the article., I never imagined at the time I would eventually buy one in 2013 (and keep it all these years, haha!

https://carnewschina.com/2012/02/09/chevrolet-camaro-transformers-edition-arrives-in-china-with-a-lot/

Strangek
Strangek
28 days ago

So that’s where my old Corsica ended up! I always wondered what happened to that thing….

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
26 days ago
Reply to  Strangek

Ha ha, good one! Yeah, my Grandma had one long ago…not that I liked it…

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
28 days ago

That Probe more than likely was originally sold in Japan, the awkwardly placed side marker light on the fender gives it away. Japanese regulations require a side turn signal indicator so pretty much every American car that was originally sold there has a generic, parts store looking turn signal just kind of awkwardly slapped onto the fender to meet regulations. U.S. and European market Probes didn’t need that indicator to meet regulations for their markets.

Extra fun fact: all of the Japanese spec Probes were LHD too. There’s no actual requirement for a car sold new in Japan to be RHD despite it being a RHD country.

Greg
Greg
28 days ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

Re. the LHD Japanese Probes, I wonder why that was, when the Probe -was- also built in RHD for markets such as Australia? Seems inconvenient!

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
28 days ago
Reply to  Greg

For some cars, LHD is a bit of a status symbol over there. Why would you want an American car that’s RHD? That’s not how it is in America. Mercedes S-Classes are another one where a LHD version is “cooler” than a RHD one.

To make things more confusing, I’ve seen pictures of both LHD and RHD second gen Probes that appear to have been sold new in Japan so I guess you could get either one then. But I’ve never seen pictures of a RHD first gen in Japan, even the Japanese brochure for the first gen only showed LHD cars.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
25 days ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

Jaguar gave Japanese buyers the choice between LHD and RHD precisely for the reason of status.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
28 days ago

This is an American revenge story. While China reduces the size of their landfills by shipping all their garbage to Walmart to sell to us, it’s heartening to see they are getting our garbage in return.

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
29 days ago

I really find this fascination with pollution interesting. I was there in Beijing in January 2016, and I had to wear a mask because I was getting a sore throat. It was all that cheap coal they get from Australia to heat with. I can’t imagine that a few older vehicles are really adding much to the problem, though.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
29 days ago

Well, I also doubt that a well-maintained 11 year old motorcycle is any more dangerous than a 9 year old one, but regulations often serve other purposes beyond their surface level justification

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
28 days ago

Depending on time of year, the sandstorms are an even bigger misery in Beijing.

V8 Fairmont Longroof
V8 Fairmont Longroof
28 days ago

How dare you Sir! Australian coal is some of the most expensive coal, in the world… Now get off my lawn!

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
28 days ago

Sorry Sir Longroof!

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
29 days ago

Very interesting article. I’ve been to Beijing for a week on a business trip. I don’t remember any American cars, but I saw a lot of L’s like 335 IL extended wheelbase. I’d love for you to discuss that in a future article, as I presume it’s because most Chinese people don’t drive?

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
29 days ago

Great article! Keep them coming!

Logan King
Logan King
29 days ago

Interesting that very few of these (none?) have any lighting conversions for export. Does China have lighting regulations similar to other countries or are they the same as the US? Or is it just a matter of grey market cars from that far back they didn’t care?

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
29 days ago

Man, a lot of those are and were very miserable cars.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
29 days ago

For a while, you’d see ads on Craigslist Jobs for people who would shop for goods in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, etc – everything from purses to Mercedes-Benz S Classes.

They’d send you money to go shop for the items, you’d deliver them to the shipper – and you’d get paid.

Eventually the high-end car dealers and luxury shops (Chanel, Hermes, etc) figured out what was going on – and banned people from buying more than one or buying too frequently if they didn’t know you were a legitimate purchaser/owner.

This was done because it was far cheaper to buy these in the US and ship them across the Pacific than to purchase the exact items from the retailers/dealers in Shanghai, etc.

Of course Americans did the same thing purchasing Mercedes-Benz, BMWs, etc in Germany and shipping them to the US via the Grey Market in the 80s – until the German manufacturers lobbied the US Government to shut down this practice.

Last edited 29 days ago by Urban Runabout
Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
29 days ago

Yeah the GL8 is nice. GM should sell it over here. Also, China got a cool version of the late 90s Century/Regal with a 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual 🙂

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
29 days ago

I have a soft spot for the Plymouth Sundance. They’re in great shape! The ones here stateside are usually clapped out. Usually, American cars are well taken care of overseas because they’re viewed as status symbols.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
29 days ago

Man in China in 1992 enters dealership

“Hi, yes, I’d like to return the Ford Tempo I just purchased and I’d like my soviet two-stroke motorcycle back please.”

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
29 days ago

AND WHILE I HOPE I’M NOT LIKE THEM, I’M NOT SO SURE!

https://youtu.be/waVsJufs154?si=HIldfmUVd4vd8m6r

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