Outwardly, it looked like an Ital with a nicer-looking front bumper, but underneath, it sported a new chassis. 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.
In 1998 there was a press publication by the Chengdu Auto Works (Sichuan Province), a company belonging to the First Auto Works Group, one of China’s most important automotive corporations. Chengdu Auto Works announced the start of the production of a CAC6430 estate car. In the newspaper clipping I possess (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 sedan and estate car since 1998.
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 4.3 meters long. So, the car is classed as a bus of 4.3 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 is a normal (and accepted) way to avoid problems with Beijing.
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-ton (payload, 4 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.
The Chinese Morris Ital is depicted in several versions. It has to be said that the full depth front bumper featuring integral fog lamps looks rather nicer than the original Austin-Morris version – as does the jacked-up ride height. Click the above image to view the original spec sheet (in Chinese).
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 since disappeared from statistics, handbooks etc., and they no longer respond to letters, faxes, emails.
According to Juan Chen, Editor of AUTOCAR China, the text in the advert reads: “It is really a common people’s car. FAW brought in the body-in-white from Austin Rover, and use their 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.
Juan Chen also added that: “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.