Chinese Hong Qi Limousines on the Lawn at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. 

History will be made when 2 exquisite Hong Qi limousines pull onto the competition field at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Great automobiles produced in Europe and the United States have long graced the competition field of this Concours, but this will be the first appearance for automobiles produced in mainland China.

The Chinese manufacturer Hong Qi, whose name translates to “Red Flag,” celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Back in 1958, it was the first company to produce an automobile in China in the post-1949 era, and it is now the oldest automobile manufacturer there.

Hong Qi automobiles were not offered for sale to the general public. Instead, these special cars, built in very limited numbers, were used expressly by the Chinese government. Hong Qi limousines carried government officials, diplomats, and heads of state—including President Richard Nixon on his famous trip to China in 1972.

The limousines being shown at Pebble Beach this year come from the Sanhe Classic Car Museum in Chengdu, in the Sichuan Province of China, and the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, California.

Both of these automobiles are adorned with 3 Red flags, which are said to represent the Socialist Construction, the Great Leap Forward and the People’s Commune.

The 1965 Hong Qi CA72, with a wheelbase of just over 133 ins and a weight of 6,173 lbs, has a V8 with 3-speed manual transmission and column-mounted shifter, manual steering, and power brakes. Notable styling features include taillights inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns and a grill that resembles a Chinese fan.

This luxurious CA72 was in service to the Central Government until the 1970s, then was put into storage for two decades before being acquired by Zongmin “Jason” Huang of the Sanhe Classic Car Museum, where the car was then treated to a full frame-off restoration.

Huang has been attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance since 2001, and in 2016 he was the first entrant from mainland China, winning two awards with his lovely Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

“My experience in 2016 was wonderful and urged me to achieve my next dream,” explains Huang. “That is presenting the Hong Qi, the best Chinese car, to the whole world. It was my ultimate dream that one day I could bring my favorite collector car to this sacred hall for car collectors.”

The 2nd car is the 1974 Hong Qi CA770 that has been displayed at the Blackhawk Museum. Produced from 1963 to 1981, the CA770 is slightly larger in size than the CA72 model, it features three rows of seats, and it is often referred to as the “Big Hong Qi.”

Powered by a 215 hp, 5.6-liter V8 shifted through an automatic transmission, it has a 146-in wheelbase and weighs in at just over 6,000 lbs. And the luxurious interior is accented by a dashboard trimmed in scented mahogany, a famous Chinese timber.

This car was used for military parades and carried Premier Zhou Enlai, Foreign Minister Chen Yi and other State leaders. Later it was used in the Central Government as a reception vehicle before being retired and put into storage for a decade. It was then acquired by the Sanhe Classic Car Museum and restored to its original splendor.

Don Williams, President of the Blackhawk Museum, worked tirelessly to negotiate with the Chinese government and the Sanhe Classic Car Museum to allow the car’s legal entry into the United States in 1988.

Mr. Williams, who has been dealing in classic cars for over 50 years and has shown dozens of great classics at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, realized the significance of these rare automobiles and wanted the rest of the world to see them.

This was the 1st Chinese car legally brought into the United States from Mainland China and was celebrated in a ceremony with representatives from both museums in attendance.

“I’m very proud to show our ‘Red Flag’ with our friend Jason from whom we acquired it. Having him bring his Hong Qi all the way from Chengdu to Pebble Beach displays his commitment to the event,” said Williams.

After making their historic appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours, both cars will be displayed together for a brief time at the Blackhawk Museum, then the 1965 Hong Qi CA72 will return to its home in China.

By Steve Natale

New Forum: Saturday, August 25 | 12:00 pm

From vetting to victory, a panel of veteran selection committee members and judges will discuss how cars are chosen to participate in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the judging standards that make it the most competitive concours in the world.

Speakers: Chris Bock, Peter Hageman, Martin Button & Al McEwan

Admission: Free, must RSVP in advance.

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