Before the QY-Series: 1980-1990 Mei Ling ML145/245 (Formerly the ML-Series)
The Mei Ling ML245 SUVs and ML145 trucks were some of the company’s first cars, built primarily for cross-country and delivery tasks. Being a clone of the Land Rover Defender, many aesthetic features were shared.
Quality was not shared however, with the ML245 being significantly more shoddily built. The panels were uneven, bumpy and fit was a typical problem. Corrosion occurred between door sills very frequently while electronic components and wiring would typically go loose. Many of the indicators were bolt-on and sourced from many other vehicles.
Like other jeeps of the same era, the interior was seriously, seriously barebones. Bare metal surrounded the vehicle, with no padding on the doorcards and not much in the floor area either. This lead to premature rusting in the interior which resulted in a few holes underneath the pedals.
Its 2.4 litre inline-4 engine was miles more durable than its Land Rover counterpart. Developed in-house by Mei Ling engineers, it made 78 horsepower. Some vehicles came with Mei Ling’s signature 4.0 litre inline-6, which produced a more punchy 122 horsepower.
With a reliable engine, cheap to replace parts, 4x4 and locking differentials, the ML245 was considered a direct predecessor of the infamous ML6486. The ML245 would be slightly more spartan on the ride with its front and rear leaf spring geometry and thinner metal panels.
Such durability saw some use of the vehicle with the People’s Liberation Army, yet in limited numbers.
Unlike the ML2010, this one actually had enough power to get it places it needed to be. The 4.0 inline-6 versions would be some of the quicker ones in the fleet as well, considering most of the Chinese jeeps would make around 70 horsepower.
A truck variant, the ML145 was sold too. Like the ML245, it had a carrying capacity of over 3 tonnes but offered an open bed to place material in the back. A 2-door variant of the truck was also said to be made, but documentation and images on its existence are lacking.
An odd feature of the ML145 was that its tailgate opened sideways, just like the SUVs.
Facelifts were delivered in the late 80s, which included a luxury version.
It had better seats, upgraded radio, a bullbar, sidesteps and lots of chrome. No changes were made to its underpinnings however.
The ML145/245 would soon be phased out and replaced by the ML6486 following the early 90s, where significant improvements were made to better the quality of life inside the car.