Earlier on, I had written an article at my website about how AM General had helped China develop its Humvee-clone, the Dongfeng EQ 2050. AM General was not the only American company that hand a hand in arming the Chinese army. There was another one: Chrysler.
Beijing-Jeep was a Chinese-American joint venture with Beijing Auto Works (BAW) and Chrysler. The Chrysler-based Beijing-Jeep 2022 shown above later changed its name to Beijing 2022. It now is the most widely used 4×4 in the Chinese army.
How did all this happen?
To gain a better understanding, we need to go back in time, all the way to 1983. Beijing Auto Works and Jeep-maker American Motors Corporation (AMC) had signed an agreement to make the Jeep Cherokee in China. In 1985, the first Cherokees rolled down the line in the new factory in Beijing.
The 50-50 joint venture not only made the Cherokee, the Chinese side added the old Beijing 212, renamed Beijing-Jeep 212. The 212 was designed for the Chinese army. Its design was based on the Russian UAZ-469. While the Cold War was still in full swing, a 4×4 made from American parts and a 4×4 with its roots in Russia were produced side-by-side in China
In 1986, the Beijing-Jeep joint venture developed a Jeep Comanche-based prototype for the Chinese army. A single Comanche was brought to China from the U.S. In the end, nothing came of it. There was a feud between both partners about the terms of production for the Comanche, and the Red Chinese Comanche was never built. In the meantime, production of the Cherokee and the military 212 continued unabated.
A year later, Chrysler bought AMC and became the new owner of the 50 percent share of the Beijing-Jeep joint venture. Chrysler was busy at home, and did not get overly involved with things in China.
In 1999, Chrysler agreed to supply the Cherokee’s 2.5 four-cylinder for the aging 212, which was renamed 2020.
The slow times ended when Beijing-Jeep brought the ‘Warrior C1′ concept to the 2002 Beijing Auto Show. It was designed by a new ‘Beijing-Jeep Research & Design Center’ in Beijing, The C1 was based on the Cherokee. The Warrior C1 was powered by Jeep’s 4.0 liter six-cylinder engine.
The Chinese army became very interested. It needed a replacement for the 212/2020. The cold warhorse had become long in the tooth, even with the Cherokee’s 2.5 under the hood. The army requested the Beijing-Jeep joint venture to make a proposal. Beijing-Jeep supplied several prototypes (the picture shows one of them). All were based again on the Cherokee.
The first prototypes were too small and too flimsy for the Chinese army’s taste. Beijing-Jeep was sent back to the drawing board to come up with something more substantial.
Beijing-Jeep developed the Beijing-Jeep 2022. It was still based on the Cherokee, but had added girth and length. The design was inspired by the Warrior C1. Chief designer of the C1/2022 was an American citizen of Chinese descent, Edward Wong, who worked at the Beijing-Jeep design center.
The Beijing-Jeep 2022 was powered by a 3.2 6-cylinder diesel from Nissan. The Chinese army wanted a big diesel, but Jeep didn’t have one, and neither did Beijing Auto. The joint venture therefore bought the engines from the Dongfeng-Nissan joint venture, which makes cars, light-trucks, and Nissan-developed diesel engines for those trucks. In an indirect way, Beijing-Jeep was buying the engines from China’s alleged arch-enemy Japan.
The Chinese army didn’t have any ideological problems with an American-inspired truck powered by a Japanese-designed engine. The Chinese army liked the 2022 a lot, and in 2005 decided to go for it. Production began and deliveries started slowly in late 2007.
There you have it. The Beijing-Jeep 2022, nicknamed Yongshi (Brave Warrior), armed the Chinese army. It is based on the American icon Jeep Cherokee, it was designed by an American citizen, and powered by a diesel with Japanese DNA.
The story however, doesn’t end here.
In 2009, Chrysler was at the height of its financial trouble in the U.S. For some strange reason, Chrysler decided to abandon the Beijing-Jeep joint venture. As part of the deal to get out as soon as possible, Chrysler granted BAW the rights to continue the Cherokee and 2022 under its own name. After some name changes, the Cherokee became the BAW Qishi S12. The 2022 simply became the Beijing 2022. Both cars are still in production today and deliveries of the 2022 to the Chinese army have continued ever since.
To end this story, here are some pictures of the 2022 ‘Yongshi’ on active duty:
Dutchman Tycho de Feyter runs Carnewschina, a blog about cars in China, from Beijing, China. He also collects die-cast models of Chinese cars.