Classic Cars

3 mechanics later, this roadster is repaired

Gene Coyle's 1934 Mercedes Benz replica is parked outside one of three mechanic shops that have worked on the car over the past year to get the vehicle up and running.

Gene Coyle waited a lifetime to buy his dream car, something cool, sleek and unique. A classic automobile that would attract attention, make people step off the curb when they turn to look.

The Bloomington man found it in a replica of a 1934 Mercedes-Benz Heritage Cabriolet Roadster that does all of the above. It’s 17 feet 6 inches of undulating, graceful, flowing lines cast in fiberglass. There’s a 285 horsepower engine from a 1971 Chevrolet Camaro under the very cool hood, which extends about nine feet past the windshield.

Turning this car around a tight corner would be a challenge.

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Gene Coyle's 1934 Mercedes replica sits in his garage after more than a year of repair work at three mechanic shops around Bloomington.

When Coyle started looking for a car online last year, he wasn’t sure what he wanted until he saw a red replica of the 1934 Mercedes roadster for sale in Vermont. The seller wanted $34,000, an average price for a car of this type. He almost booked a flight east to see it up close.

“Then I saw this one in Texas,” he said as I crawled on the floor inside his garage to take pictures. “It was $28,000. So I flew 15 months ago to see it.”

The car's suicide doors swing open backwards instead of swinging forwards.

He took the car for a test drive. The steering was pretty loose, he recalls, and he had concerns about patched wiring under the hood. Air conditioning didn’t work, but who needs it when you can roll down the canvas roof and enjoy the breeze?

Note: Coyle is a retired CIA agent. I think he should have asked more questions, done some research before writing that check. But he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the car, and it made him happy after life-testing health issues.

The Mercedes replica was purchased and transported to Indiana. When Coyle realized he needed a mechanic’s attention, he embarked on a journey that found the car in three different shops around town before it finally returned to the garage. from Coyle, ready for the road.

The hood ornament of Gene Coyle's 1934 Mercedes replica.

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I could fill a photo album with the photos I took that afternoon, lots of close-ups showing unique embellishments on the car – a tail light, the chrome pin locks on the hood, a hinge on a suicide door, the spokes on the wheel covers, the hinged silver pipes extending from the side of the engine which in 1934 would have emitted thick exhaust plumes.

One of the elegant wire wheel covers of the Mercedes replica.

I filled half a reporter’s notebook with the story of the car as Coyle told it to me. I will mention a few highlights.

In 1934, Coyle said, two of the first genuine cars he is based on were purchased by American movie stars. Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. This may have heightened his interest in the replica he purchased. The car would then have cost around $10,000. They sell for millions now.