Don’t worry - he had never heard of it either

Jay Leno gets to drive some pretty unusual cars, and this massive Chinese limo is definitely up there with the strangest ones. It’s a 1978 Hongqi CA770, definitely a very intriguing car for any westerner primarily because very few are left, and most of the ones that did remain in Asia - chances are you’ll never see one outside of a museum.

This particular car was used to ferry an exiled Cambodian king around Beijing until 1993; after that year it sat in the back of a garage before being taken out by its current owner in 2012.

Built between 1963 and 1981 by FAW, China’s oldest carmaker, the CA770 bore more than a passing resemblance to the Soviet ZIL-111 which in turn was loosely based on Chrysler designs.

Its origin is all a bit of a jumble of facts, stories, and possible explanations, and one can definitely understand why these (very rare) cars are so intriguing nowadays.

Video: Jay Leno Drives a 1978 Hongqi CA770
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Jay is left slightly confused when he says he recognizes the V-8 engine under the CA770’s hood as being a Ford, but when he starts it up he points out the starter sounds more like the one from a period Chrysler - a quick search suggests the car was never powered by a Ford 5.7-liter V-8, but had a Chrysler 5.6-liter instead; it apparently makes 200 horsepower in this application.

What’s clear is that it wasn’t fully designed in 1960s China, but probably changed and adapted to local tastes based on any designs engineers could get their hands on at the time (with help from the Soviets).

And as Jay also points out, the car may be huge and luxurious looking, but it lacked amenities like electric windows, rear vents for the air conditioning or power steering (on a car weighing 3 tons). Even so, it’s apparently the only running example anywhere in North America, so that has to count for something, even if the car itself is by no means a technical marvel.

Further reading

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Andrei Nedelea
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