Road Trip in China–the Beijing International Auto Museum

Last month I took the opportunity to see Beijing’s first car museum.  It has been open barely a year. 

Cars have substantial and significant effect on countries commensurate with their numbers.  Since 2000 the number of cars in China has exploded and so has its effect on the country, its cities, and its culture.  Beijing now has seven ring roads encircling this city of 40 million.  Twenty percent of cars are kept out of Beijing within the forth ring during the work week by excluding license plate numbers by each work day.

Automobiles provide quick and relatively easy access to work, entertainment, shopping, and socializing.  They also demand roads, parking spaces, fuel stations, service garages, tire shops, body shops, and dealerships.

It is significant that 50,000 square feet of museum space is now devoted to a focus on the automobile in China.

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My friend and I had a bit of a challenge locating the museum, but as we drove about the area I had opportunities to see more of the great city of Beijing and its population.

We reached the museum and found it easy to find parking before we walked to the ticket booth that was made from railroad cars.  With tickets in hand my host and I entered the building, presented out tickets, and were directed to the top floor where our exploration began with a history of transportation.

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The museum is designed for visitors to start on the top floor and then work their way down, floor by floor, and discover the advances in transportation and in particular the automobile.

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The introduction on the fifth floor showed the tracks of a chariot and then showed how various forms of wagon-based transportation evolved.

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It was clear that the first vehicles were so expensive a technology that only the rich and powerful could afford to construct and own them.

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Hence governments used their capabilities to provide military and technological advantages.

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This quickly moved to what we recognize as the automobile with a French car that was imported to the early twentieth century China.

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There was an example of another French car, the Citroen.

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There was even a very early Subaru.

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Along with an early air-cooled VW.

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There was an example of an air-cooled VW bus along with a more recognizable bus that commuters would be familiar with.

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There was a creative display of race cars and performance cars and in one room you could even get into a formula car and test your skills via a simulator.

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There were various luxury cars such as Roll Royce and Cadillac.

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Some examples of iconic four-wheel drive vehicles such as the Jeep and Land Rover.

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Finally there were examples of early Chinese cars from the 1950’s that foreshadowed the eventuality of mass private transportation.

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There was an exploded view of a car that showed just how complex a modern cars componentry is.

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There was a display of various motors from European and Japanese manufacturers.

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The exhibit was fascinating to guests of all ages.

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There were examples of many early government cars in their characteristic black paint jobs.  Even today automobile owners gravitate toward black cars for the aura of the official look.

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This is an amazing investment that will entertain and educate people in the Beijing area and I would recommend it as one of your stops the next time you find yourself in the capital of China.

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4 Responses to Road Trip in China–the Beijing International Auto Museum

  1. Jim's sister says:

    I was curious what day of the week you went to the museum and what kind of crowds were there? It’s an amazing piece of architecture. Do you know if there are specific architects with reputations in China today — someone like Frank Lloyd Wright?

    • jimsgarage says:

      We got to the museum on a Tuesday morning. The place is very large so even if there were a thousand people there it didn’t seem packed. The architecture is very forward looking. I don’t have any details on who designed it, but I saw many examples of creativity in building design in Beijing.

  2. Mike Clow says:

    Very cool Jim, interesting no Mustangs or other muscle car? Enjoy

    • jimsgarage says:

      Not much in the way of muscle cars. Outside of the museum I saw a new Camero that was painted in satin black and had some exhaust work done. It pulled into the hotel I was staying at and then left before I could do more than take a couple of quick snaps.

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