The sign on the boot reads HONGQI. The stretched four-door, seven-litre V8 black sedan with its rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors and fan-styled grille was built in 1968, though it looks older. Its engineering is rough and inadequate, from the hewn wooden dashboard to the poorly upholstered velvet seats, the armour plating a thick concrete looking gunge between the doors. It smells of mould and starts up with a rough, uneven snarl. ‘Madonna’ exclaims its owner when asked about the fuel consumption of the Hongqi CA72: ‘1.5kms per litre’ he whimpers. But, it’s an icon, a piece of motoring and political history. As the two red and yellow pennants on the front wings indicate, it was once one of Mao Tse Tung’s personal ‘protocol’ vehicles. The office of Gianfranco Terenzi, the four time president – locally known as a ‘Captain Regent’ – of the Republic of San Marino, is festooned with political memorabilia. The photos on the wall concentrate on his portrait with two subjects – Chinese leaders a...

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