2010s / BAW / Chinese

China’s home-grown 4×4: BAW BJ2023

With few exceptions, every country that boasts an automotive industry has developed a Jeep-like off-roader at one point or another. China’s home-grown go-anywhere model was the Beijing Automotive Works (BAW) BJ212, which made its debut in 1965. It immediately became the car of choice for the Chinese army, and for a few other branches of the government.

Production of the original BJ212 ended in 1983, according to website Military-Today. In a stunning display of foresight, American Motors Corporation (AMC) became the first western company to enter the Chinese market when it formed a joint-venture with BAW. One of the alliance’s earliest projects was updating the BJ212 by giving it a markedly more modern 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and installing anti-roll bars, among other improvements.

The updated 4×4 was dubbed BJ2020. The front-end design was tweaked to reflect the changes under the sheet metal, but the modifications were minor at best. In other words, it still looked like the mutant offspring of a Toyota FJ20 and a UAZ-469. The lineup included several different body styles, including both two- and four-door trucks (available with either a hard top or a soft top) and a pickup.

Against all odds, the BAW BJ-series is still in production today — think of it as China’s equivalent to the Lada Niva, only much older. A foot-long emblem on the bottom part of the tailgate tells us the model featured below is a BJ2023, which is a relatively recent specimen. The color suggests it’s a military vehicle, and it probably was at some point in its life, but it’s most likely privately owned today because it’s wearing civilian plates.

If you’re curious, this is what the 2017 version of the truck looks like:

Powertrain options include a 2.0-liter gasoline-burning four-cylinder that makes 81 horsepower, and an Isuzu-sourced 2.8-liter turbodiesel rated at 70 horses. A five-speed manual transmission spins all four wheels regardless of fuel type.

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