Kiwi brings classic car culture to China

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, MG, Jaguar … these machines are what classic car enthusiasts can look forward to in Beijing on 16 September, when 160 cars line up at the start of China’s inaugural Classic Auto Rally, an 8000 kilometre-long voyage that will take drivers and their passengers through seven Chinese provinces, over 30 days.

A first for China, the rally has been organised by the Chinese government under their Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and China Association for Advancement of International Friendship programmes.

Their vision is to introduce the classic car culture to China – and they want as many Kiwi classic car enthusiasts as possible to share in the experience.

“Most Chinese people have never seen a classic car,” explains organiser Joe Zhou, a classic car collector who shares his time between China and New Zealand. “It wasn’t until the early nineties when the country opened its door to the world that there were even any classic cars in China.”

Zhou has been importing vintage Rolls Royce and Bentleys to China since 1995, and has been instrumental in establishing a classic car museum in Shanghai and China’s first classic car club.

Fellow enthusiast Charles Chelliah, owner of one of Australasia’s largest classic car showrooms and the rally’s Australian coordinator, sums up the appeal of these cars, which hail from an era when craftsmanship was highly valued.

“They’re works of art.”

One of over 60 Australians heading to China for the rally, Chelliah says there has been a lot of interest in the event from all over Australia. “We have 36 cars booked so far. Some have even booked already for next year.”

A vintage Lamborghini Chelliah will be driving, along with Rolls Royces and Bentleys, a number of MGs, some old Jags and three Mercedes Benz, are set to make their way to China for the rally, which Chelliah predicts will be “a wonderful spectacle”.

As well as classic car enthusiasts from Australasia, South Africa, England and the US, a number of Chinese dignitaries and businesspeople will participate in the rally, some driving cars belonging to Zhou.

“Many classic car owners are successful businesspeople and the rally will provide them with an opportunity to explore business opportunities in China as well as meet other classic car enthusiasts,” says Zhou.

The rally, described by Zhou as a “luxurious event”, is non-competitive and will coincide with the 12th Beijing International Tourism Festival. The cars will travel from Beijing to Beihan and introduce the classic car culture to over 300 million Chinese people.

New Zealand registration closes 30 July.

“Time is running out,” says Zhou. “But there’s still time to sign up to join in this great event.”