The car market in China is currently the largest in the world, but that is a pretty recent development. What we know in the West about cars over there can be pretty murky, and this means that occasionally something really strange will bob to the surface. Something like the Bamin BM 2022A, for example.
As with most strange and obscure Chinese cars, I learned about it through Jalopnik-friend Tycho, who has written about the strange history of these vehicles before. The strange part about these 1980s-era cars built by the Bamin State Automobile Works is pretty obvious when you look at them: they look almost exactly like the Mercedes-Benz W123 series, built between 1976 and 1986.
That’s a remarkably good copy. Now, if you start to scrutinize the picture a little bit more, you may notice that the Bamin 1020 KHA, the white car on the right there, is actually a pickup truck.
Yes, that’s right: for some reason this Chinese Army-owned company decided that what the market needed was a fairly high-end four-door, short-bed pickup truck that looks just like a Mercedes-Benz sedan.
I really can’t say I think that was a bad idea at all.
These not-Benzes were built on the same platform as the other vehicles Bamin Automobile was building, specifically very Soviet-style Jeep-like 4x4 vehicles called the BJ212:
That’s why these Mercedes-knockoffs tend to have a high ride height and a sort of beefy-looking undercarriage.
In addition to the pickup versions, there were station wagons built, too:
As you can see, there’s some subtle differences in the upper right wagon, which I believe is a big earlier, and has a different C-pillar shape, something that matches a bit closer to the pickup variant, while the later ones have a C-pillar that looks more like what Mercedes was doing in that era.
As Tycho mentions in his article about these baffling cars, this was a very wild era for the Chinese auto industry, with little regulation and many, many companies pretty much building whatever the hell they wanted, albeit in very low production numbers.
Tycho also suggests that it’s very unlikely many of these were actually sold outside the factory’s home province of Fujian, so if there’s any still around, you’d probably have to go out there to find them.
Really, that’d probably be a worthwhile trip; who wouldn’t want a 4x4 crew-cab pickup truck that looks like a 1970s Mercedes?