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Chinese automaker Songsan Motors is grabbing attention for its retro-crazy electric vehicles. You might have seen its very C1 Corvette-looking coupe called the SS Dolphin from a few years ago. Now, it’s back with another EV that is based on the 1957 Buick Roadmaster. And surprisingly, it pulled off the transition from big, hulking Detroit iron, to a contemporary EV platform fairly well. 

What is Songsan Motors?

Songsan C1 Corvette
Songsan C1 Corvette knockoff | CCN

Songsan is building up a line of retro-tastic creations beyond the Dolphin. It also makes the VW Microbus-inspired SS Summer and previewed a more contemporary GT, which features scissors front doors. Songsan hasn’t determined whether it will produce the GT yet. 

Its Roadmaster knock-off is called the Monterey. Among its many features are suicide doors and a Landaulet roof. It’s like an open cockpit for rear passengers. It looks like it is meant to have some sort of folding cover, but for now, it is an open area. Not too practical, but interesting nonetheless. 

The Songsan Motors Monterey drips chrome

Songsan  Monterey
Songsan Monterey retro 1957 Roadmaster sedan | CCN

An abundance of chrome had to be part of the package for a mid-1950s attempt, and so the Monterey has that too. And it is fairly big. The length is 203-inches, width is 57, and 58 ½-inches tall. That is just slightly under the dimensions of a new S-Class Mercedes, but only slightly. 

Automaker BYD is supplying the powertrains, both electric and PHEV, according to Car News China. The PHEV gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but not much else has been released by Songsan Motors. For the full-electric, it only gives a 0-100 time, which is 3.8 seconds. 

Why did Songsan choose a 1957 Roadmaster?

Songsan Monterey
Songsan Monterey retro 1957 Roadmaster sedan | CCN

Why it chose the 1957 Roadmaster as its next subject is anyone’s guess. This was from the final throes of GM’s dive into chrome mobiles. The 1957 and 1958 GM products had more chrome and trim than any other automobiles ever. 

GM designers staged a revolt when design head Harley Earle was in Europe attending car shows. That revolt led to the clean-line 1959 models. Earle retired and was replaced by Bill Mitchell, who helmed what many consider the golden age of GM design. 

Chrome, blobby forms, and more chrome were the order of the day

Songsan Monterey
Songsan Monterey retro 1957 Roadmaster sedan | CCN

In those days Buick was just a notch below a Cadillac, and it received just slightly less chrome than the Cadillac, too. Chrome and trim were considered the height of prestige and luxury until it wasn’t. Bulbous bodies with generous sweeps and protrusions were the themes shared by many American automakers in the 1950s, not just GM.

Retro design is not the most favorable direction for car designers. They generally want to move design forward, not backward. So there is some stigma attached to it. 

But not in Japan. There is much less resistance to going back to sweeten up some classic designs to reflect modern proportions and features. We’d love to see Songsan Motors import the Monterey into the US as a stalking horse for future endeavors. But first, it must decide to produce the modern Buick.