This Gelandewagen knock-off is Isuzu-based and Saab-powered

This is the Beijing Auto BJ80, which is no way influenced by or to be confused for Mercedes’ iconic rig, the Gelandewagen. Nope, it’s its own thing. And that BJ80 name? It in no way should sound like a model of the Toyota Land Cruiser. It too, is all original.

Now that we all agreed about the BJ80’s originality, we should mention that the BJ80 has been in production since 2016. In that time it has sprung a few special editions. The below pictured vehicle is a 70th Anniversary Edition, made to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of People’s Republic of China and its communist rule, because of course.

To make the 70th Anniversary Edition really special, it was splashed in red (of course) and black paint job. It’s got big black wheels, and gold (of course) badges. It also gets special 70th Anniversary Edition badges on the doors, spare tire cover, dashboard, and on the seats. All of that is very original, of course.

Here is the super interesting part. Whereas the completely different and not all similar G-class gets powered by a choice of two amazing twin-turbo V8 engines, the BJ80 is powered by… an old Saab engine.

Remember when GM killed Saab and sold what was left to the Chinese? It was BAIC that bought all that old Saab stuff. And now that slightly modified B235 engine, in all of its 2.3-liter goodness, powers this one of a kind 4×4. It is mounted longitudinally in this application, with its power going to all wheels via a classic transfercase.

Remember when Saab had longitudinally mounted engines that were powering the front wheels? Good times.

That engine has an interesting history. It started as a Triumph engine in 1968 and it first appeared in the then brand new Saab 99. That engine lived until 1981 when it was modified and renamed from B-series to H-series. But for some reason the engine nomenclature retained the B. Over the years in gained a turbocharger, direct ignition, a slew of other modifications, and it grew in size. But the bones remained similar to that British ’68 engine.

That engine last appeared on a global scale when the first generation Saab 9-5 went out of production in 2010. But BAIC further modified that engine with the addition of variable valve timing, renamed it, and are still using it. BAIC made its own modified version of the first generation Saab 9-5. It was called the Senova and it was manufactured until 2018. So the first generation Saab 9-5 lived from 1997 until 2018, with an engine that originated in 1968.

It gets better. This rugged, totally original Chinese SUV that is powered be an engine from 1968 is based on the frame and chassis that dates back to the Isuzu SUVs and pickup trucks of the 1980s. Beijing Automobile Works (BAW) has been making versions of those Isuzus, known as Luling and Luling SUV, for many years. In North America we know those vehicles as Isuzu Rodeo and Isuzu D-Max. BAW is a subsidiary of BAIC Group.

If you want a BJ80 70th Anniversary Edition of your own, you better hurry. Only 700 of these puppies will be made. With a price of around $45,000 at current exchange rates, that is a hell of a deal for a new G-class.

Finally, one would wonder why Daimler-Benz isn’t going crazy over this car existence and filing copyright infringement lawsuits. The simple answer is because BAIC has acquired an equity interest of approximately five percent in Daimler AG. Money talks, my friends.

Inspired by this article on autoblog.pl.

19 Comments

  1. You’re all making this sound bad. If someone tossed me the keys to this Frankenstein, I’d sure check if I can make some of those limbs fall off, joyfully. They are ripping off a 40 year old square design, and employ an engine with an equally long heritage – sounds enticing. Get your hands on one and give us a comprehensive review please, dear Hooniverse-overlord!

  2. China’s disregard for intellectual property rights is infuriating, but let’s put this in perspective: if you ask any 3rd-grader to draw an “SUV”, they’ll pretty much nail the G-Wagen. You can almost spill a package of uncooked spaghetti and accidentally create this design.

    That said, this was an interesting read. What a Frankenstein! I am curious, though, why BAIC uses latin script and arabic numerals on a Chinese product, particularly in “70th Anniversary”, a label that is likely only significant to native citizens. Doesn’t China still use its own number system?

  3. So the 70th anniversary zoot suit edition is 45K. It that top base green one were to be in the 30K range and available I might be interested.

  4. You’re all making this sound bad. If someone tossed me the keys to this Frankenstein, I’d sure check if I can make some of those limbs fall off, joyfully. They are ripping off a 40 year old square design, and employ an engine with an equally long heritage – sounds enticing. Get your hands on one and give us a comprehensive review please, dear Hooniverse-overlord!

      1. This, of course, is a service I take great pride in. Brilliance had a run in Europe. They looked quite nice, but were of horrible quality and imploded in value once driven off the lot. For your next trip to Poland, that could be an interesting point on your itinerary. Some Chinese used cars are starting to hold their value better in Russia by now.

    1. I think I’d rather have it with the Cummins diesel and 6-speed. The Saab engine won’t make this thing fast, but at least with the diesel you’re not pretending it is. There’s no way to spin the B235 as anything but an oddball curiosity.

      1. I’m guessing they’ve acquired the engine line machinery and tooling, and it’s cheaper to build than a diesel for a lower entry price.

        On the ‘engine from 1968’, I’d be surprised if there is a single part from a Triumph that would fit a late model Saab engine. Cylinder spacing is not a part.

        I’d be prepared to give one of these a go if I was in a rural area (low traffic so the assuredly poor crash safety less likely to be tested), I know a guy who has a Great Wall SUV, now about 10 years old and it is still going ok.

        1. Wait, a Landwind that failed the EuroNCAP? How have those 10 years worked out for him, maintenance-wise?

          1. No not that one. Don’t think he’s had any major dramas, which is good because I don’t think that dealer support is very good, bit of a field between manufacturer and the importer.

    2. I’d go one step further, I’d like to see this pitted against the absolute cheapest G-Wagen available in the US, something that’s been passed through about seven owners more concerned with flexing than routine maintenance. I’d still bet on the G-Wagen to do better at everything except fuel economy.

  5. India has a real G-Class copy. It is in production since about 40 years and called Force Gurkha. It is powered by an MB OM616 engine, since Mercedes gave them the production line for this powertrain in the early 80s. So technically seen one can buy a “brand new” 1979 G-Class with a Unimog engine from the 1960s. I find this very satisfying. (Here is an ad for this car, it seems to cost many ₹₹):

    https://www.cars24.com/buy-used-force-motors-gurkha-2017-cars-bengaluru-1023700910/

    1. they also sell a facelifted mercedes t1n called the force traveller and they sold a chinese isuzu copy called the force one powered by a c class 4 cylinder.

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