Although it's titled as a Mercedes-Benz, this neat little Gazelle is a bit more affordable and probably every bit as much fun to drive. Famously constructed from kits, they were a pretty successful way for the enterprising hobbyist to give himself something to do on weekends and end up with one of the better-proportioned replicas of the period. And it's still a blast to drive!
Based on humble Ford Pinto mechanicals, the Gazelle is the antidote to the more familiar inexpensive British and Italian sports cars of the period. It offers neo-classic styling that most folks will at least admire as it drives by, even if they don't know quite what it is, and with rear-wheel-drive and a featherweight curb weight, it's entertaining on the road. This one was built only 2142 kilometers ago and shows quite well, showing only minor signs of use today. For a fiberglass kit car, fit and finish are surprisingly good, with even door gaps, a snug-fitting trunk lid, and glossy paint that is familiar to anyone who has driven, built, or even seen another Gazelle. This one is highlighted by a lot of period pieces that accent the distinctive shape and honestly, the long hood and sweeping fenders do look pretty good; the guy who designed this car got the proportions just right. Other details like the chrome grille, rubber running boards, and exposed side pipes are all part of the vintage illusion and everything remains in good condition, so you know the car was loved and treated right.
The seats are pure vintage cool, one-piece buckets that look futuristic, even in the antique-looking Gazelle bodywork. There's a matching rear seat that's probably best reserved for children or your briefcase, and a luxurious wood-rimmed wheel gives it an appropriate upscale feel. Yes, there's some wear and tear, mostly on the driver's seat and carpets, but overall everything is in good order. The custom-made wooden dashboard carries white-faced gauges that proudly spell out that they are "Vintage Reproduction" and there's an AM/FM/cassette stereo over there on the passenger's side. Weather protection consists of very 1929-esque folding cloth top, and it actually gives the car a very upscale appearance and seals up better than a lot of cars of the target era.
Basing the Gazelle on the Pinto was a smart move. Everyone else was using VW Beetles and even Chevettes sometimes, but the ever-reliable Ford was a sturdy, well-built, rear-wheel-drive chassis that delivers decent performance. The engine is a fuel-injected 2.3 liter inline-four, which won't win any drag races, but it's bulletproof and you have to remember that they took about 800 pounds out of the car when this body was dropped on top. Parts are plentiful and it's easy to service, with good access under the tilting hood. A 3-speed automatic transmission makes it easy to drive and you'll quickly find that it starts when you turn the key and zips through traffic with ease. Front disc brakes have decent stopping power and with the light curb weight, power steering isn't needed. As a ground-up build, the undercarriage is quite tidy and there's a chambered muffler that gives it a muted sound that doesn't give away any secrets. Shiny chrome wire wheels really dress it up and carry 185/75/14 Goodyear whitewall radials all around.
Inexpensive fun that stands out in a crowd, that's all the Gazelle wants to be. If that's your kind of fun, give us a call today!
This car is titled in FL as a 1989 MERZ.