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.
Plus my favorite ride:This mystery of the old car is not so difficult to solve
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.”
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.
My favorite ride:Like Lego blocks, two 1951 Willys vans could make an old truck
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.
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.
Coyle’s two-seater would take up two full-size parking spots in Bloomington. Coyle said when he called the city parking office to ask if he could take two spots with his car and pay both meters, they said no, that violated the parking law. “Parking is a problem,” he said.
My favorite ride:Is that a 1969 Lincoln Continental hiding under that car cover?
Coyle didn’t have much luck finding a mechanic who could do all the repairs the car needed. He said he had invested around $9,000 so far; his wife shook her head and said no, it’s more than that.
Speaking of Jan Coyle, she’s not a big fan of her husband’s dream car. She drove around the neighborhood once, praying she wouldn’t run into another vehicle or hit anything before heading home. “It’s so long,” she said.
My favorite story involves the police. One morning, while the car was in residence at the second mechanic shop, Coyle received a call from a Bloomington police officer asking if he owned a 1934 Mercedes-Benz.
Residents of a home on Kinser Pike had walked out that morning to find their car blocked in the driveway by an unusual and exotic car parked behind it. The cop said the people had to leave and he was going to have the car towed. Coyle called AAA and had a flatbed tow truck pick up the car.
He called the mechanic later that day to find out how the car ended up abandoned in a driveway miles from where it was supposed to be. “He said he was doing a test drive and the engine died, so he pulled into a driveway and left it there.”
Jan Coyle sent flowers to residents of Kinser Pike to apologize for the inconvenience. That’s when her husband hired a third mechanic, who ended up fixing the car.
After more than a year, Coyle said he was almost done with the vehicle and could sell it this summer. I encouraged him to participate in the 4th of July parade in Bloomington. It’s big enough to be a float on its own. And, people need to see this car before it leaves.
Do you have a story to tell about a car or truck? Contact reporter Laura Lane at [email protected], 812-331-4362 or 812-318-5967.