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Chinese leaders' limos are now collectors' items

Luo Wenyou and his collection
Luo Wenyou and his collection

The lumbering limousines that once ferried Chairman Mao and top officials around China are now collectors' items. One Beijing millionaire, keen to capture the past, has built up a classic collection of China's home-grown Red Flag automobiles.

For collector Luo Wenyou, the Red Flag represents a memorable slice of Chinese history - one that must be preserved.

At his private museum in the capital, Luo has assembled around 40 gleaming examples of the marquee - from monster stretch limos to sporty-looking open tops.

Luo said, "When I was a child, I saw state leaders like Chairman Mao on TV in those big Red Flag cars. I thought the cars were amazing. So when I got rich, I spent most of my money collecting Red Flag cars. They are just mind-blowing to me and have the spirit of the Chinese nation in them."

Over the past 30 years, he has spent nearly 13 million yuan on his varied collection of Red Flag models from different eras.

He also spent 10 million yuan building his private museum on the outskirts of Beijing.

Opened in 2009, it is China's first classic car museum with around 2000 square meters of space.

"These cars look old fashioned, but technologically they were on the same level with some best cars in the world at that time. They carry the history of China," said Luo.

Luo Wenyou and his collection
Luo Wenyou and his collection

China made the first Red Flag in 1958 as a tribute to one of the founders of People's Republic of China, Chairman Mao.

Ever since then, the Red Flag has been used for all of the most important state occasions.

They were also the main cars used to receive important foreign dignitaries like former U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972.

More recent designs are still in use, but those of the first generations are rare.

Luo believes his collection of Red Flags could inspire others to do the same and help save some of China's unique motor car heritage.

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