Outwardly, it looked like a Morris Ital with a nicer-looking front bumper, but underneath, it sported new (well, old) underpinnings. The Huandu was built in Western China and proved fairly ubiquitous in its own part of the country…
The following account was written for this site by Erik van Ingen Schenau, of the China Motor Vehicle Documentation Centre.
Huandu CAC6430: Chinese makeover for the Ital
In 1998, a press publication was released by the Chengdu Auto Works (Sichuan Province), proclaiming the arrival of a rather familiar-looking car. This was a subsidiary of the First Auto Works Group, one of China’s most important automotive corporations, so it was seen as an important event. But when one delved deeper, and viewed the CAC6430, it was clear that the Chengdu Auto Works had built an updated version of the Morris Ital Estate.
In the newspaper clipping from the Chinese newspaper Zhonghuo Qiche Bao, you can clearly see a Morris Ital estate car. There is a second photo (taken from a different angle) published in a Polish yearbook named ‘Samochody Swiata, with the text explaining that Chengdu Auto Works had been producing the Huandu CAC6430 five-seat saloon and estate car since 1998 (although in reality, a saloon version was never produced).
In the designation CAC 6430, CA signifies First Auto Works; the second C stands for the Chengdu branch; 6000 is the bus series; and 430 means 4.30 meters long. So, the car is classed as a bus of 4.30 metres made by the FAW-Chengdu Auto Works. China has a specific designation for motor cars, but companies are only allowed to use it when they have permission from the central authorities in Beijing to produce motor cars. Using the bus designation was a normal (and accepted) practice back then to avoid administrative problems with Beijing.
Same story, different endings
The car was an interesting hybrid. FAW couldn’t build an all-new car, so the Rover Group in Longbridge England had supplied the Ital’s bodywork (van, estate and pickup), and had modified it to allow the Chinese engine and running gear to fit beneath its bodywork. So, the CAC6430 used the bodywork of the Morris Ital and the underpinnings from a Jiefang pickup. This enemble was powered by a Chinese engine.
Back in 2005, Juan Chen, the-then editor of Autocar China, confirmed that FAW brought in the body-in-white from Austin Rover, and use its own chassis, denoted 1021U2; the back seat is removable, so people can use this car for carrying goods. The price is less than 50,000RMB (£3700).’ Interestingly, the Chinese name of the car has the same pronunciation as the English word, ‘Rover’, but the second character in the Chinese name differs from Rover’s official Chinese name.’
I travel each year in China, visiting car factories. In the early 1980s I visited Chengdu Auto Works and, even by Chinese standards, the factory was shabby, dirty and old fashioned. They were producing 2.0-ton (payload, 4.0-ton gvw) small trucks, named Chengdu CD130, later renamed Huandu. I have never been back there, but during my visits to China I have never seen an Ital or Marina, or a look-alike.
What happened to the Huandu CAC6430?
In December 1999 there was an auto workers demonstration in Chengdu. According a press release, the workers were from a state-owned Chengdu auto factory, which was closed in May 1999. The Chengdu Auto Works has long since disappeared from statistics, handbooks etc, and the only production records relating to the CAC6430 state that 148 were built in 1998. And that was it.
Juan Chen added that the text in the advert reads: ‘It is really a common people’s car.’ Juan Chen also said: ‘We’ve never seen this car in Shanghai, so I asked my friends in Beijing and Sichuan Province about it. According to them, the factory remains closed, with resulting unemployment in the area. You can still see many Itals on the streets in western Chinese cities, but few in any other cities or provinces.’
In 2000 another car with the CAC6430 designation showed up; this is quite unusual. It is the Qirui, a Seat Toledo made in Anhui Province, near Shanghai. In 2001 the name was changed to Shanghai Qirui (Chery) SQR 7160.
Gallery: China, 2003
Images supplied by Paul Blokland