Tianjin 'Yanpai' tj_faw.jpg

Modern Classic - Steve Harper Interview

Modern Classic - Steve Harper Interview

Thu 24th March 2016

In late 2015 Keith Adams of Modern Classic interviewed Steve Harper in his Studio about this past...

TJ135 design sketch developments 1988.09

As China began redeveloping its vehicle programmes in late '80's, the TJ135, produced for the Tianjin Corporation, was designed as a low cost 1.5 tonne crew cab truck.

With innovative design and construction, the project succeeded by keeping tooling costs to a minimum, and in less than 27 months from start to finish, resulted in a simple modern and robust vehicle that met the project brief.

The project was commissioned in September 1988. Initially 2 alternate schemes were drawn up, one for a forward control cab, with back to back seating, and a second with a conventional seat layout ‘Transit style’ cab.

The latter was chosen and developed as a sketch programme and then as a scale elevation drawings.

These design drawings were used in a parallel design process, whereupon the scale clay model and the computer modelled surfaces were simultaneously developed by the design and engineering teams.

The fully finished scale model was then presented in Tianjin in Jan 1989.


From that review and design acceptance decision, the project then began in earnest. To save process time and cost, the whole vehicle was styled, surfaced on computer, packaged and engineered by a ‘skunk works team’ all working together in one office.


One month later a 1:2,5 scale model was machined from the database as a ‘prove out’ for the design proportion and detail evaluation. From which a full size model stack was used as both to be the full size design model and tooling master in the March of 89.


In fact the whole design programme had a unique and simplified process, where even the ergonomic evaluation seating buck, later became the basis for the complete interior model. This was also completed and signed off by April 89.


Working as a close knit team, helped achieve an optimised tooling design where for instance: the same floor panel used for front & rear of the cab. All 4 doors were from the same tools, but cropped to create the individual front doors. There was even a clever plan shape developed for the cab, rather than a ‘engineered box’, for symmetry, all of which were designed and agreed simultaneously.


By November, the first ‘soft tooled’ prototype bodyshell was built. This was painted and together with a set of prototype interior IP, seats and trim, were assembled and first driven by the end of February 1990. A month later this was unveiled at an official handover presentation in Tianjin.

 With the tooling, fixtures and factory layout design being completed, the first vehicles came off the production line at the beginning of 1991.