Cheap Chinese CHAMCO Pickup Available by Early 2009
By: Mike Levine Posted: 01-16-08 00:30 ET
© 2008

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China America Cooperative Automotive, Inc. (CHAMCO) has big plans to import a small, inexpensive Chinese-made pickup into North America by early 2009.

In Detroit, CHAMCO showed off a pre-production copy of the truck, which doesn't have a name yet. But at the price the company expects to sell the truck for to American, Canadian and Mexican buyers, not naming it might be a cost saving measure.

CHAMCO says an entry level two wheel drive crew cab truck will sell for only $13,500.

It won't be poorly equipped at that price, though. The pickup will include power steering, power windows and power side mirrors, remote door locks, an AM/FM/CD player, 16-inch wheels and a full size spare tire.

Exterior styling is like a circa-1995 import just given a mid-cycle refresh. Its chrome grille and fancy headlights overcompensate for the truck's basic sheetmetal. The black truck shown beat any car or truck displayed in Cobo Hall for the shiniest tires of the North American International Auto Show. You could shave in their reflection and style your hair with all the grease.

The interior is even more spartan than the exterior. Black or silver hard plastic covers every surface except for the cloth seats. The switchgear is work truck simple. The biggest oversight that needs to be fixed before it arrives on this side of the Pacific - adding cup holders.

The four door compact will be powered by a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder gas engine rated at 150-horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission will be standard and a four-speed automatic optional. Running gear will include a front independent suspension and rear leaf springs in the back, air shocks, and front disc and rear drum brakes.

Available options are expected to include four wheel drive, backup sensors, a light bar, 17-inch wheels, and a plastic bed liner.

While there's sure to be plenty of skepticism about a Chinese pickup, it's worth noting that legendary second-stage and aftermarket tuner Steve Saleen is involved.

Mr. Saleen is best known for his Saleen Mustang and S7 high-end American supercar. He was hired by Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Co., Ltd. (ZXAUTO), the truck's manufacturer and parent company of CHAMCO, to oversee re-engineering and certifying the trucks for the U.S. market. Mr. Saleen will ensure the four door pickups meet federal safety and emissions requirements.

Who knows, maybe we'll get a Steve Saleen-tuned version of a CHAMCO pickup someday for only $21,000.

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