American cars of the 1950s and ’60s aren’t popular just in the United States.
For example, wealthy collectors in China love the unique style and charisma of muscle cars like a 1964 Corvette Sting Ray that left this week on an 1,100-mile journey that began at the Great Wall near Beijing and will end Friday in Shanghai.
The classic Corvette was one of 90 participants in the third Classic Cars China Challenge that celebrates the spirit of the famous Peking to Paris Race of 1907.
Despite this public race, car collectors in China face many challenges that their counterparts in America don’t, including just getting them imported into the country because of tight government restrictions.
Luo Wenyou, head of a collectors’ group that includes more than 3,000 people, says his members are every bit as enthusiastic about their classic cars as Americans.
“However tired or hungry you are, when you hear the engine start after months of hard work, it’s unbeatable, the happiest moment in life,” says Luo, 59. He owns an amazing 200 classic cars, with more than half of them from abroad.
Fellow car enthusiast Sun Jian says he has called the Beijing traffic police, seeking permission to drive it, but they tell him his classic Jeep has no doors and is too dangerous.
“But it was the original design in World War II, to save money,” Sun argued to no avail.
Luo says he understands the reasoning behind the strict policy – too many people, too many old cars, and too much traffic.
He’s still committed to his collection, though, on which he has spent more than $11 million over the past 35 years. He and his wife now run a museum that features their classic cars, but ironically they have to hop on three buses to get there, because none of their 200 cars is approved for street use.
Fortunately, there are ways around the rules. Sun, for example, hasn’t given up enjoying the ride he’s dreamed about since he was a boy watching World War II movies like “Patton.”
He drives his Jeep secretly on country roads where police patrols are scarce, just as many classic car owners do in China.
Photo Credit: Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY