When Ford's head honcho Mark Fields debuted the new Lincoln Continental, he said the car was aimed at China, and he stated the brand had only entered the Chinese car market last November. That's not quite right, though Lincoln might wish you'd forget about it.
The story here starts with a brand called Hongqi, or Red Flag. It's China's signature luxury car, best known for building the parade cars that Chinese heads of state toured around in. This was the CA770 limo, built from 1958 to 1998. It was such a landmark car that Hongqi used it as the inspiration for their newest model the L5, quite possibly the most expensive Chinese car ever made.
The L5 wasn't Hongqi's first attempt at reusing the CA770's look. Back in 1995, they debuted the CA7465 C8. The front end looks just like the CA770, and if the rear seems familiar, there's a reason for it: the whole thing is a Lincoln Town Car.
I don't mean to say that this car looks like a Lincoln Town Car — I mean it is a Lincoln Town car. As Car News China recalls in this excellent and comprehensive history, Lincoln built complete knock-down kit (CKD) versions of the Town Car in America, then shipped them over to China so that Hongqi could assemble them in their factory.
The retro CA7465 C8 was based on the early '90s Town Car, but Hongqi soon switched to the later '90s model that we Americans could buy into the 2010s. This is the Hongqi Qijian line, a CKD Lincoln with complete Lincoln mechanicals (including the wheezy 4.6L V8 engine) but with a Hongqi grille, lights, and badges. The glass still bore Ford's Solar Tint trademark with a little blue oval in the corner.
Here is a press picture of a Qijian that I have not altered or cropped in any way. I pulled this directly off of Hongqi's English-language site, which lists this as 'Hongqi Limousine.'
Here is another manufacturer-distributed picture of this limo that possibly may have been photoshopped.
Here's a shorter wheelbase model for comparison.
Here's a view of the rear of the car. Note the 'V8' badge and the not-at-all complicated model name on the left.
Here's the interior, showing off everything a 1990s grandpa and/or Chinese dignitary could ever want.
Color choice appears to have been limited.
Hongqi made a bunch of Qijians from 1998 through 2005. Hongqi made standard wheelbase models, they made ones with a meter of added wheelbase, they made ones with TVs and bars and telephones. Hongqi stopped building Lincolns in 2005 when the relationship with Ford and Lincoln ended. Amazingly, it was Hongqi that cut things off.
Hongqi's parent company, First Automobile Works, started a joint partnership with Toyota that year. Hongqi started to base their big luxobarges off of the Toyota Crown Majesta and FAW ended their connection to Ford and Lincoln. That is, not before Hongqi had already claimed intellectual property rights to their Hongqi-branded Town Cars.
I have absolutely no idea why Lincoln got involved with Hongqi, but I'll be sure to ask their corporate representatives when I see them in person at the Continental's debut at the New York Auto Show in a few days.
Whatever the reason may be, I can certainly understand why Lincoln seems happy to gloss over this bit of their corporate history.
Photo Credits: Hongqi
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