By on December 30, 2011

Hongqi is the most famous brand in China when it comes to parade cars. In 2008 however, Chery tried to change that with help from the Chinese army and some astronauts. The Eastar parade car debuted in April 2008 and was used for a very special military parade. Or more like a parade of parades.

The Eastar parade car was stretched by 20 centimeters in the middle, the roof went off. After a handle bar was installed behind the front seats, the car was ready for duty. The project was initiated by the People’s Liberation Army’s General Armament Department. This department was responsible, among many other duties, for taking care of China’s astronauts.

‘Taking care’ included organizing the many parades throughout the country after the astronauts had returned from space. Until then, the army had always used Hongqi parade cars for the parties, but they wanted something more ‘Chinese’ for the heroes of the Shenzhou VII mission. The Hongqi after all, was not much more than a rebadged Audi with a Nissan engine.

National pride was indeed at stake here! The Shenzhou VII mission marked the first time that China shot a rocket tipped with 3 astronauts into space and one of those astronauts made China’s first spacewalk. The astronaut, Zhai Zhigang, waved around with a small Chinese flag while ‘walking’ in the endless nothing next to the spacecraft. After that achievement, a China-sized party was called for. The army therefore wanted a truly Chinese vehicle and on they went to Chery Automotive. Chery happily complied by making three Eastar parade cars.

September 29, 2008. The Shenzhou mission was successful and the astronauts had safely returned on earth. After saying ni hao to the wives, it was time for the parades. Pictures are from the parade in Beijing but they paraded in many other cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and even Hong Kong.

Zhai Zhigang in the first car, the other two astronauts are Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng. Note white army plates and the many soldiers around. The Chery-logo was painted in gold.

The moment: September 27, at around 16:43 (0843 GMT), Zhai walked in space for 20 minutes.

More pictures of the Chery Eastar parade car are in the gallery.

Dutchman Tycho de Feyter runs Carnewschina, a blog about cars in China, from Beijing, China. He also collects die-cast models of Chinese cars.

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