Due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, we haven't enjoyed our usual routine of obsessively covering auto shows ... because there haven't really been any auto shows to obsessively cover. That finally changed this week in Beijing, but pretty much everything interesting on display isn't meant for American roads. And so we'll instead flip the script and take a look at the strangest, most offbeat or otherwise intriguing things we from China.
We'll kick this list off with a pair of oddballs from a Chinese automaker called Songsan. The first of the retro-inspired duo, seen above, is called the SS Dolphin, and it's clearly inspired by a late-1950s Chevrolet Corvette. A quick glance from some angles makes it look like the car's designers did a pretty decent job mimicking the classic 'Vette. From other angles, though, the proportions are all wrong. The most egregious view is from the rear three-quarter, where it's painfully obvious that the light and sinewy Corvette's lines don't translate into a larger and more bolbous rear end. That's probably not surprising as the SS Dolphin is nearly a foot longer than a 1958 Corvette. (This is not to be confused with the U.S.S. Dolphin, which was 137 feet longer than a '58 Corvette).
Under that skin apparently lies a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and electric motor combo that's fed by a 16-kWh battery pack reportedly sourced from BYD. Songsan says it can travel about 60 miles on electric power and run from 0-60 in under 5 seconds.
The second retro-inspired offbeat Songsan entry in the oddball sweepstakes is called the Summer. As you can see, it's designed to look like an old vintage Volkswagen Bus, but, well, it fails miserably. Whereas the SS Dolphin was kind of reasonable in its depiction of a classic Corvette, the Summer is a misshapen mess. Instead of pointing out all that's wrong with this ... thing, we'll at least grant that it's got a nice color scheme.
Best we can tell, the Summer has the same plug-in hybrid powertrain as the SS Dolphin. It's also surrounded by a bunch of highly customized motorcycles powered by huge American air-cooled V-twin engines. We'd love to see some more camper vans on the market, but not this one. Moving on.
This one is kinda neat. It's the Futurist from Great Wall, and unlike the Songsan twins, it isn't meant to mimic anything specific. That said, it does sort of look like a mashup between an old, upright BMW or Fiat and a Ford Mustang Mach-E. In any case, we like it, both inside and out.
The Futurist can reportedly accept an array of powertrain options, but the concept on display is fully electric. We don't have many specifics, but the automaker claims it boasts a range greater than 400 miles. This is one we'd love to see in production, and rumor has it that's a distinct possibility.
We finally jump off the retro train with the Hongqi E-HS9. There are clear Rolls-Royce Cullinan references in the big SUV's bodywork, particularly the angular face with its waterfall grille and two-tone color scheme. This one is apparently a real production vehicle that will be sold in China with a fully electric drivetrain. There's an electric motor at each axle — 215 horsepower up front and 328 at the rear — which means this all-wheel drive hulk ought to be a pretty solid performer.
Inside there's a full digital dash, crystal shifter and plenty of wood and leather. It'll cost between $80,000 and $110,000 in its native market, depending on battery capacity.
The final entry on our list comes from Ford, and it's not actually a vehicle at all. It's actually little more than a sculpture that's designed to show how Ford's styling will evolve in the future for the Chinese market. We see clear Mustang and Mustang Mach-E elements in this design, which Ford is calling "Progressive Energy in Strength," but with a unique language that doesn't rely on historical styling as a crutch. We like it, and we also think it'd make a pretty sweet three-wheeler in its current state.