By on April 21, 2013

FAW evokes the bad old times when China’s leaders, tired of the Long March, ordered hand-made parade limousines. The originals had been chronicled by Tycho de Feyter. Now they are re-lived as the Red Flag L5, L7, and L9.

This is the Red Flag L7, an especially baroque version. The cars have been crowd magnets at Chinese auto shows for years, but remain a rarity on the street. The modern Chinese leader prefers an Audi.

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29 Comments on “Shanghai Auto Show: Waving The Red Flag...”

  • avatar

    audi ;official sponspor of chinese government

    • 0 avatar

      It’s more like this …
      Chinese government: an official sponsor of Audi.

      You can bet your bottom dollar that Audi made money on every single one of those cars.

  • avatar

    Sticker on trunk: “My other car is a Bentley.”

  • avatar

    I’m sure it’s all baling wire and chewing gum under the skin but that is such a good looking vehicle. It’s a beautiful retro design done modestly well. Then again the pics are in a semi-dark place so it’s a little tough to tell the fit and finish quality.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Or a 10 yr old 7-Series chassis with a retro body.

      • 0 avatar

        I like the way the design cues all mash together, its like you got designers from the 50s, 60s, & 70s together while also having them be from the United States and Great Britain. I love it, it’s like an international retro mobile.

    • 0 avatar

      Bailing wire and chewing gum notwithstanding, I would like to see these Chinese-made vehicles brought over for sale in the US. An unlikely prospect given the clout of the UAW with the current administration.

      We have a need for inexpensive, throw-away commuters for the daily grind, just like we had in the days when Hyundai brought their ‘bailing wire and chewing gum’ vehicles to our shores.

      But Hyundai and Kia pricing has entered the realm of Toyota/Honda/Nissan and the need for inexpensive, throw-away commuters has re-emerged.

      • 0 avatar

        This is of a much higher quality (and price) than the “inexpensive, throw-away commuters for the daily grind” China is typically known for.

        I could see an importer bringing in low volumes of these Hongqi/Red Flag cars (like others do with supercars like those from Noble).

      • 0 avatar

        Inexpensive throw-away commuters? These aren’t it. Your daily beater might just be Chinese someday, but it won’t be a Honqi Red Flag. These are the equivalents of 600 Grosser Mercedes, or Zil Limousine, or the Queen’s Bentley, or President Obama’s Cadillac. Maybe if you want something less expensive for your daily commute than your Rolls Royces and Bentleys…

      • 0 avatar

        Hyundais back in the 90s start where chevy sonic/sparks start today. Just doing quick inflation adjustments put the mid-90s hyundais around 12-14K without options. The super cheap commuter car has always been that hyundai 3 years old. On top of that we’re still not keen on Chinese cars for safety and IP violations. Chery will be here in another decade but don’t expect a bottom feeder. They may launch a lexus fighter before they go after the middle class american.

      • 0 avatar

        Okay, if these are going to be too expensive, let’s bring in some el-cheapos that can be marketed to the working class folks as commuters.

        I can’t imagine anything made in China that will be on par with Bentley, Rolls, or even Mercedes, BMW or Audi. If the Chinese had that capability they would have done so decades ago. Instead they reversed-engineered Jeep vehicles, and poorly at that.

        If China wants to rake in the bucks, the money is in el-cheapo commuters, heretofore the domain controlled by Hyundai and Kia.

        Now that Hyundai and Kia have become pretentious, it’s time to bring in a new player. If China thinks that these vehicles that portend to be their top of the line will somehow miraculously dislodge the luxury leaders of the industry, then why do so many Chinese choose ‘foreign-made’ luxury vehicles over their domestic ones?

        The need that China can easily satisfy is to provide cheap, throw-away commuters for the working class, all around the globe. We need such vehicles in America but there is a concerted effort to keep el-cheapos from China and India out of the US market, thereby forcing the less well off to buy used.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          I’ve read that the Chinese manufacturers are improving quality at twice the rate the Koreans have managed, which was twice the rate of the Japanese.

          They figure within a decade the Chinese vehicle will be comparable to other Asian manufacturers.

          I can’t envisage a Chinese workers standard of living increasing at the rate of Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. They will be able to produce cheap vehicles for a long time.

          • 0 avatar

            BAFO, I agree! I, too, believe that China will be able to produce cheap vehicles for a long time to come yet.

            And that’s why I believe that China should target the inexpensive car market instead of the luxury car market, especially in the US, to satisfy the need for cheap commuter-car transportation, a market totally abandoned by all the global automakers selling in North America. Even the Chinese don’t buy their own luxury vehicles. They prefer European luxury vehicles!

            My own philosophy, based on years of experience living in poverty while I was in the US military, is that when you buy used, you buy someone else’s problems.

            If someone is happy with their ride, they’re not going to get rid of it, no matter how many miles it has on it. As long as it works!

            As an aside here, there are many people in my area who commute anywhere from 90 miles roundtrip per day to work to over 200 miles roundtrip per day. That’s because I live in a gas&sip out in the boonies.

            Their biggest complaint is that the cheap cars from ALL the manufacturers selling in the US do not hold up well under such long-distance commuting rigor, even with regularly scheduled maintenance and oil changes.

            But I do expect that the UAW will put up quite a fight and lobby hard against letting the Chinese bring their cars into the US. They already know what bringing the Japanese cars into the US did for them, way back when.

            And the Chinese getting better at making cars? That can only be a good thing for competition.

            Servicing the need for cheap, throw-away commuter cars is the name of the game these days.

  • avatar

    What they prefer, and what they will get is a big question. Comrade Xi has let the word out to Party officials that in-your-face luxury must be moderated. Already there are limitations on expensive booze and colorful flowers at meetings. Expect to see less Audi, and more Phaeton. VW is, after all, the people’s car.

  • avatar

    Very classy, I give Red Flag a big thumbs up on personal taste… the modern Chinese leaders should take note, this is what you should be seen in.

    What do our gov’t elites run around in? Tahoes, Escalades, (which are the same thing) and maybe the occasional stretch limo. Meanwhile these people build the equivalent of a Continental or Sedan de Ville of decades past.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting how the communist leaders of Russia and China in the late ’50s and early ’60s looked to American luxury cars when having state cars made. The Zil limousines that Kremlin leaders rode in were copies of the last Packards. The word ironic is overused but the idea of Khrushchev riding around in a car copied from something called The Patrician is indeed richly ironic. The Hongqi is a bit more modern design than the Zil, but as Tycho said, “FAW looked to the United States. Loads of chrome up front, very square greenhouse, and small tail-fins at the back.” It’s not as much of a copy as the Zil was, but American styling influences from the era are clear.

    Israel was pretty much a socialist state under the control of the Labor party from the country’s founding in 1948 until Menachem Begin was elected prime minister in 1977. Around the same time that politburos in Russia and China were having big luxury limousines made for themselves, a state limousine was made for the use of the Israeli premier and visiting dignataries, a stretched Studebaker Lark convertible. Studebakers had been assembled in Israel from CKD kits (and Kaiser Frazers by the same Israeli company before that). Unfortunately that one-off Lark parade car no longer exists.

    • 0 avatar

      See it here…

    • 0 avatar

      There’s one more photo of the car (or a different cropping) that I’ve been able to find. You can find it here where I wrote about the Israeli Studebakers and Kaiser Frazers a while back:

      More details on the car itself are at Hemmings. Unlike Joe Bortz’s Motorama cars, there’s no doubt it doesn’t exist any more. It might be a cool car to replicate:

  • avatar

    It would seems that even the Russian Zil isn’t without it’s concept car dreams

  • avatar

    That first photo demonstrates the lesson that a straight line on a car tends to look like it’s sagging. Witness the car in the back, the line along the top of the windows. It just doesn’t look quite straight.

    That said, I still think these beasts are quite gorgeous. And I appreciate that some of the design details are somewhat authentically Chinese, even though the front end is authentically Soviet Volga.

  • avatar

    There’s a kind of Farina styling influence which may have arrived subconsciously from the time of Chinese exchange students ‘Versailled,’ into working free in French auto plants. I believe young Chou En-lai (and others) engaged in compulsory non-paying labor in French plants between the two wars. This was binding with the foreign student program of the era.

  • avatar

    Yes I see bloated Peugeot 404. One was given as a gift to premier Chou.

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