The exhibition room of the Sanhe Classic Cars Museum claims to be Asia's biggest classic car repair and restoration center and is part of Huang Zongmin's car-dealership empire in Southwest China, which includes exclusive dealership of luxury car brands such as Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin.
On your way to Sanhe's showroom, you'll most likely stumble upon samples of one or another of these luxury brands—we squeezed through rare and extremely expensive Morgan Aeros to get to the entrance.
Inside, only a handful of the more than 60 classic cars that Huang has accumulated are on display at any given time, but different models are rotated in every month or so.
The current display includes an exact replica of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, widely acknowledged as the very first automobile and housed by the Deutsche Museum in Munich. A reprint of a historic advertisement for the car hangs on the wall, praising the comforts and advantages of the automobile, strangely reminiscent of contemporary auto advertisements.
Another iconic piece of auto-mobility on display is a 1927 Ford Model T, dubbed the 20th century's most influential car. Its great sales success stems from Henry Ford's now legendary assembly line, which cut costs so drastically that middle-class and even Ford workers themselves could afford to own car at a time when streets were not yet paved apart from those in the world's most wealthy cities.
The oldest original car on display is a 1919 Buick H45. Buick was at the time the United States' second-largest car manufacturer, and two other historic American cars accompany the H45 in the Sanhe showroom: a 1924 Oakland and a 1927 Dodge.
The two Rolls Royce models on show are a 1939 Wraith Phantom, whose production was limited to 492 units, and a 1961 Silver Cloud II, the last classical model before the company switched to a more modern design approach.
Of course, classic Chinese cars are also on display—most notably, a 1960 Hongqi (红旗) CA72, the pride of Chinese car manufacturing. Admittedly produced under a Chrysler license, this model transported people of the highest ranks of PRC society, including members of the Central Committee. A total of 202 models were produced before the trial production was deemed "uneconomical." More recently, Hongqi has produced cars under license from German and Japanese manufacturers and last year tried to stage a comeback in the luxury-car market with the HQE, China's most expensive car with a sticker price of more than RMB3 million.
Although small, the exhibition is worth a look for enthusiasts as it's free, bilingual, and well presented. Eager parties can rent the classic cars (with chauffeurs) for special occasions.
Finding the showroom can be tricky because changing road blocks make it difficult to enter from the main streets. Anti-automobilists can take bus line 816 to Taipingsi Station (太平寺站) and cross the street—but that would be weird, wouldn't it?