Auto obsession fuels Beijing vintage car museum

Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:20am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Kitty Bu and Marc Detemple

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin's wooden Rolls-Royce and cars from the first made-in-China brand are on display at a newly opened Chinese museum geared toward showcasing the wheels of Communism.

Set up by a private antique car collector who sold his multi-million dollar transport business to finance his hobby, the China Classic Car Museum exhibits some 170 vintage, and rare, automobiles from various eras and from all over the world.

But to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, on October 1, the museum has polished up its "red" fleet, which includes the convertible vehicle Chairman Mao used for army inspections and a car that once belonged to former leader Deng Xiaoping.

There is also a Gaz-69, an Soviet army vehicle, which collector Luo Wenyou sought the help of one of China's former vice premiers to obtain.

Among the antiques, there are motorcycles with sidecars that were used by the German army in World War Two, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The museum is a dream come true for 57-year-old Luo, who has been obsessed by cars since he was a child and who spent more than $4 million to build up the collection.

"Now, cars are seen as means of transport. When I was young, the coolest professions were those of doctor or driver. These were the trendiest jobs. If you could drive a car, you could be really proud of yourself," he told Reuters.

Luo, who started out as a miner and then built a successful delivery business from scratch, spent all his savings and borrowed money from relatives who thought he was crazy to set up the museum. And money remains his biggest concern.   Continued...

<p>Chinese vintage car fanatic Yang Yi-Jun cleans a stretched car that former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong owned that is now on display at the Beijing classic car museum June 17, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray</p>