Nine breathtakingly bold Chinese copycat cars
Papermaking, moveable type printing, gunpowder, and the compass. Those are just a few major contributions China has given the world. You can also thank the Chinese for tea production, alcohol, the mechanical clock, the umbrella, iron smelting, the seed drill, row crop farming, the toothbrush, paper money, and, well, you get the point. China has given the world a lot of great things. More recently, you can thank China for the low cost of whatever device you're reading this article on, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows in China. Modern China is also known for sweatshops, computer hackers, and an authoritarian dictatorship claiming it's running a socialist state. It's also known for lax ideas on what copyright means and any sort of enforcement of copyright and trademark infringement as dictated by global agreements. While all of this is rather serious, the complete lack of respect shown for intellectual property is fascinating when it comes to car culture and has led to wild copycat cars worth highlighting.
Great Wall was founded in 1984 as a privately-owned automotive manufacturer headquartered in Baoding, Hebei. It's currently the eighth largest automobile manufacturer in China, and ORA is its electric car sub-brand. How they didn't think Volkswagen wouldn't have something to say about the car you see pictured below would be baffling. Except, clearly, they expect Volkswagen to realize it's basically an electrified reproduction of the classic Beetle and just don't care. The arrogance here is breathtaking.
A Toyota Land Cruiser is a well-put-together and expensive piece of kit. The Hengtian L4600 may look like a Land Cruiser, but it is just a cheap look-a-like. Curiously, reports on the L4600 say it has a luxurious and leather-wrapped interior, is bigger than the real thing, and it has a 4.6-liter V8 under the hood. We don't think we're putting much on the line suggesting the Hengtian L4600 will likely fall on its face if you even showed it the kind of landscape the Land Cruiser is designed to tackle, though.
Since April 2020, Chinese citizens have been able to pick up a Range Rover knockoff. Perhaps the saddest part of the story is that they've been seen sporting genuine Land Rover, Range Rover, Sport, and Autobiography badges. It appears that the, for want of a better word, designers started freestyling at the back a little. Perhaps that was out of boredom or in the hope that it might take the design far enough from a Range Rover that Land Rover might not sue them. Inside, things are a lot different, though. That three-spoke steering wheel is not the Range Rover way, and Land Rover would be embarrassed by the upholstery and gaudy LCD screens.
The Beijing BJ80 is an internet world-famous fake Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, and we kinda love it. It's the vehicular equivalent of a pair of extra-gaudy knockoff V3rs@ce sunglasses. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class copycat has been around long enough that it has been recently updated with a digital instrument cluster, an enlarged touchscreen infotainment system, and satellite navigation. With a 3.0-liter turbo V6 the US equivalent price is about $50,000 or, if you prefer, a Ford Bronco Wildtrak 2-Door and a couple of gas tank refills.
The Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 was an expensive limited-run vehicle featuring an extra axle and pair of wheels and a 536 horsepower AMG twin-turbo V8 engine generating 561-lb-ft of torque. The Beijing Auto BJ80 SUV is a cheap knockoff featuring the Saab 2.3-liter single-turbo four-cylinder engine that Beijing Auto Industrial Corporation (BAIC) bought the rights to from GM back in 2009. So, at least Beijing Auto did something the right way. We particularly enjoy the placement of the tow hook and the 6x6 badge. As far as we know, this was just, and we use the term loosely, a concept vehicle.
According to Songsan, when it showed off the Dolphin in 2020 at a Chinese auto show, you would be able to buy the first C1 Corvette clone in the US for $160,000. Nothing has been seen of it since, and we suspect Chevrolet might have had something for their legal department to write down and send to Songsan and the relevant federal import authorities about that. Which is, let's face it, kind of a shame because who wouldn't want a hybrid-powered replica of the most iconic Corvette of them all? And, did we mention Songsan said it would cost $159,900? It bears repeating for the comedy value.
If you can't afford a Lamborghini Urus or Porsche Cayenne and don't care about the comfort, safety or performance, then the Huansu C60 might just be the sad knockoff you're looking for. We say Urus or Cayenne because it seems the bored designers couldn't decide which Volkswagen Group car to copy, so they split the difference. Still, for the equivalent of about $14,362, you're not going to get an exact copy of either. Instead of a fire-breathing twin-turbo V8, the Huansu C60 has a 2.0-liter turbo, making pathetic horsepower and a bit of torque.
The Zotye SR8 is more definable and definitely, er, influenced by the Porsche Macan. As far as a clone goes, it's not the worst and would fool the average person in the street that might know what a Porsche Macan vaguely looks like. Unlike a Porsche, the Zotye SR8 can be had with a manual transmission on the base model. Unfortunately, yet also unlike a Porsche, the base model comes with a 2.0-liter Mitsubishi engine making 190 hp. For those unafraid of a Chinese knockoff DCT, you could also opt for a 2.0-liter turbo with 252 hp or a 3.0-liter, a 3.6-liter V6, or a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel. Perfect if you live in China and want to look good but avoid gold diggers.
The Dongfeng Hanma is an old one, but it has a weird story worth digging into. It's Chinese-made armored vehicle based on the American Humvee, and manufactured for Chinese government use by the Dongfeng Motor Group. AM General presented the Humvee to the Chinese government as a prospective client but was turned away. However, when the Chinese government saw the Humvee's effectiveness in the first Gulf War, it wanted them for the PLA (People's Liberation Army), which is the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party. The first vehicles built were manufactured with US-made parts with AM General Motors' help, including the Hummer H1 chassis. They were then powered by a Cummins Diesel engine Dongfeng was licensed to build. From 2008, all the parts for the Hanma were built in China once the process was reverse-engineered. The vehicle has since been replaced by the Dongfeng Mengshi, which evolved into a fully Chinese design. However, it may live on as an all-electric vehicle.
Our favorite fact about the Dongfeng Hanma is why it has made this list. A version licensed to be sold abroad was called the High Mobility Utility Vehicle, which was given the initialism "HMUV."