Wealth on wheels
Updated: 2013-01-17 13:38
By Xu Lin (China Daily)
After converting millions of assets into classic automobiles and then a museum to house them, a car fancier drives his hobby as a full-time endeavor, he tells Xu Lin.
Luo Wenyou, 57, is probably the poorest zillionaire in China.
After spending all his fortune - about 70 million yuan ($11.10 million) - on classic cars, the former businessman started his own museum in 2009 to promote car culture and now saves every spare penny to maintain it.
"I never regret my decision because what I have been doing is very significant. Besides, I'm obsessed with vintage cars, which come in all shapes," says Luo, who is from Chengde, Hebei province.
Located near the Beijing-Chengde highway, the Beijing Classic Car Museum attracts about 70,000 visitors each year with its more than 100 vintage cars from the 1920s to 1970s in a 3,200-square-meter hall.
The precious cars are of various brands from home and abroad, including Rolls-Royce, Morgan, Ford and Shanghai. These come from only half his collections as there is limited space in the museum.
Cars once driven by celebrities are of great value, he says. His collections include cars that belonged to Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Liu Shaoqi.
Different designs of cars have different functions. For example, China's flagship sedan brand Hongqi, or Red Flag, has a car with a stretcher in it, a ready-made ambulance for national leaders if needed.
He's very proud he's collected a nearly complete set of Chinese classic cars, including a 10.08-meter-long Red Flag, the only existing one of its type.
"Each car has its story and tells us the history," he says. For instance, windows of Liu Shaoqi's car are full of cracks hit by the Red Guards during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).