Home » A Fake Mercedes And A Real London Taxi: 1966 Austin FX4 vs 1985 CMC Gazelle

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

Sbsd 7 9 2024
ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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.

Screenshot From 2024 07 08 18 14 53

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

1966 Austin FX4 London Taxi – $3,000

00h0h 2cp6wgxphqm 0mn0ij 1200x900

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

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

00k0k 8nprysbgf4x 0t20ci 1200x900

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.

00r0r 7auln8w2mws 0ci0t2 1200x900

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

00u0u Cnfeqewauob 0po0jm 1200x900

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?

1985 CMC/Fiberfab Gazelle – $3,925

00h0h Kqkmxmwkfg6 0ba0rs 1200x900

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

Location: Mount Airy, MD

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

00c0c 3jpfqdqltst 0ba0rs 1200x900

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

00n0n Drwvf93bwqo 0ba0rs 1200x900

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.

00202 Kwelhxugvtc 0ba0rs 1200x900

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?

ADVERTISEMENT

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
53 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
2 days ago

Hah! I have experience of the 2.2 in that taxi. It’s the same engine they put in the Leyland postal vans of the era. You don’t want one. I’d take the 2 kit cars any day.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
2 days ago

Kit cars just never look right,and are almost never built right either.
I am definitely going for the Austin cab.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
3 days ago

Definitely the REAL London Taxi Cab! How exciting…I like it…look at how much room there is in that bay to work on such a simple engine- compared to an 80’s Civic CVCC with a “map of the known universe” vacuum hoses (https://www.autoweek.com/car-life/but-wait-theres-more/a1860746/run-away-screaming-1985-honda-cvcc-vacuum-hose-routing-diagram/)
Also the dash w/ NO screens is so refreshing! Now what I actually really want is a Checker

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
3 days ago

That taxi is dope.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
3 days ago

Love the idea of running the cab off biodiesel — driving a British car that smells of fish and chips seems perfect. Does JCWhitney sell “Rule Brittania” horns?

10001010
10001010
3 days ago

My dad bought one of those Gazelle’s when I was in HS and he daily drove that beast for 3+ years (his commute was over 1hr each way). No AC, no cruise, no windows, no nothing, honestly it didn’t even have all of it’s flywheel teeth so starting it was a crap shoot. Still, he drove it every day.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
3 days ago

The Taxi will be knackered, not because it has stood for years but because it was a London Taxi. by the time it was sold in 1983 it would have worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week for seventeen years. Most of the bolt holes will be ovals, simple things like the window runners will be worn thin. They were, and are, very well buiilt, very expensive things but they are tools. Like good tools they do not get sold until they are beyond economic repair.

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
3 days ago

Get the cab and drop an old Mercedes diesel in it (the biggest that will fit, whether it be four, five, or six cylinders) along with the transmission, and any drivetrain sourcing will be easy and it will run forever.

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
3 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Reed

Or, as another commenter made me think… Miata engine?

Myk El
Myk El
3 days ago

I expected a landslide for the cab and so far looking that way. If I had the money to do an EV conversion for it, I would be on it so fast.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
3 days ago

They might be psycho killers, but tonight I really don’t care.
Just turn up the music, take me home, take me anywhere…..
Black cab. Black caaaab

https://youtu.be/MD9U54gsUsA?si=ZRLdUU1P7qcFNHXO

Black Peter
Black Peter
3 days ago

These are horrible kit cars, they look nothing like the what they’re copying and have horrendous proportions. Black Cab all the way

Aaron
Aaron
3 days ago

That style of kit car is tacky in all the worst ways. The Gazelle is only worthwhile if you have a fetish cosplaying as the Wish dot come Cruella De Ville. I’d probably engine swap the cab with a more modern gas I-4, clean it all up, and drive around living out some ironic Tea-aboo fun.

Black Peter
Black Peter
3 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

Exactly!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 days ago

Using a Ford as the basis for a rise-of-Hitler-era Mercedes replica seems a little on the nose, doesn’t it?

Taking the cab.

Black Peter
Black Peter
3 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 days ago

I voted for the taxi, just because I have a strong, irrational hatred for Gazelles. I don’t mind kit cars or replicars in general, some of them are quite appealing, but the fact that those things look so far off from what they’re supposed to be replicating has always ticked me off. It’s like a blind person described an SSK to a drunk person over the phone. They also always seemed to have some of the ropiest quality of any kit car, thin fiberglass, grilles like chrome plated aluminum foil, etc

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 days ago

I voted taxi, though I really don’t have any interest in either one.

53
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x