A Fake Mercedes And A Real London Taxi: 1966 Austin FX4 vs 1985 CMC Gazelle – The

Good morning! Today we’re cranking up the weird-o-meter another notch and looking at a kit car from Miami and a famous “black cab” from London currently residing in California. Which one is more your cup of tea? We’ll see.

Yesterday wasn’t without weirdness; we looked at a Laforza, that Ford-powered, military-truck-based, square-jawed block of Italian luxury SUV. The Laforza may have lost in the sales race to the more common and accessible Range Rover, but here in our poll, the tables were turned. A narrow win is still a win.

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And of course it deserved to win. I mean, that’s a really nice Range Rover, and it’s one of the better ones relaibility-wise, but it’s also not all that hard to find for sale. But Laforzas aren’t exactly parked on every street corner – except perhaps in San Diego, as one commenter pointed out. The rest of us almost never see them. I think I’ve seen one, maybe two Laforzas in real life.

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Today’s choices aren’t exactly a dime a dozen either, at least for most of us here in the US. One was once the most common vehicle on London’s streets, and the other is one of the most common kit cars to come out of south Florida but drive either one into any Target parking lot, and it will be the only one. Actually, drive either one pretty much anywhere and it will be the only one. Let’s check them out.

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2-liter diesel overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Laguna Niguel, CA

Odometer reading: 57,000 miles

Operational status: Unknown; has been in storage since 1989

Some cars are so commonly seen in certain situations and are so perfect at certain jobs, that it seems like they were designed for the purpose. Ford’s Crown Victoria, for example, wasn’t designed as a police cruiser, but it was just about tailor-made for the task nonetheless. But this car, the Austin FX4, literally was designed for its purpose: its one and only reason for being is to be a taxicab in one particular city.

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If you’ve ever been to London, you know that travel through the city isn’t exactly swift. Traffic is heavy, the streets are a tangled maze, and often it seems like it might be faster just to get out and walk. To navigate it all, London cabbies must learn “The Knowledge,” an encyclopedic understanding of the city’s streets and landmarks, and pass a test proving that they have absorbed it all. I’ve read that it takes a certain kind of mind to successfully pass The Knowledge; not just anyone can do it. Their chariot is likewise optimized for the task, with a super-tight turning radius and an efficient diesel engine. Believe it or not, most London taxis are automatics; this one happens to be a four-speed manual.

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This cab has been out of its element, in faraway southern California, for four decades now. If I’m reading the ad correctly, it was purchased in 1983 and parked in 1989, and hasn’t moved under its own power since. But one of the great things about old simple diesel engines is that they can slumber for a long time and still be revived. Rubber parts still perish, of course, and plenty of them will have to be replaced, but putting this car back on the road should be a matter of patience more than anything.

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Cosmetically, it’s pretty good, with still-shiny black paint and some hard-earned patina. I’m not sure what one would do with a London cab in California; rent it out for movies, I suppose?

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.3-liter overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Mount Airy, MD

Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: Not running, has a bad ignition switch and probably other things

Mention kit cars to a group of gearheads, and you probably won’t get a very positive reaction. Most of us remember the ads in the back pages of automotive magazines back in the day, and some of us actually know someone who bought one; I once had a friend who bought a secondhand VW-based MG TD kit car that wasn’t very well built, and yes, it soured me on the idea of kit cars for a long time. But companies like Fiberfab and Classic Motor Carriages sure sold a lot of them, and one of the more popular models was a replica of a 1929 Mercedes-Benz SSK, known as the Gazelle.

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You could get a Gazelle kit to plop directly onto a Volkswagen Beetle chassis, just like dozens of other kit cars, but it seems like most Gazelles went a different route. Kits were available to use either Ford Mustang II parts, or Chevy Chevette parts, in either case hung on a steel tube frame that came with the kit. This one is Ford-based, powered by a 2.3 liter four and an automatic transmission. In researching these kits, I found a PDF manual for the Chevette version; I assume the Ford version is similar. It’s interesting reading, and it kind of makes me want to build one – or rebuild one.

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This particular Gazelle is not in running condition, and it looks like it hasn’t been in a long time. It was built in 1985, the seller says, but that’s about all the information we have. The seller says they planned to drop a V8 into it, which seems ill-advised in a hand-built fiberglass car. The deal doesn’t include a V8, but it does include – get this – a complete second Gazelle kit, untouched, never built, still in boxes. You could transfer the necessary parts from this ratty one to a fresh new-built Gazelle and start from scratch.

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Or you could get this one running, clean it up, sell it, and use the proceeds to fund the drivetrain for the new one. Either way, under four grand for two kit cars is quite a deal, if you’re into that sort of thing. Yeah, it’s cheesy. If you ask me, the world could use a little more cheesiness these days.

With either one of these, you’ve got your work cut out for you. And even once you get them going, they aren’t exactly daily drivers. But they are both worthwhile projects for the right person. Yes, I know a lot of you aren’t into project cars, but if you were, which one would you go for?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

This article was originally published by a www.theautopian.com . Read the Original article here. .