1986 Gazelle Car Kit Still In Crate!

In 1986, Ronald Reagan was President, the Soviet Union was still around, “Top Gun” was the highest grossing film, and someone out west ordered a Gazelle kit car.  37 years later, “Top Gun-Maverick” is still the biggest movie out there and that kit is still sitting in its original box waiting to be put together.  If you missed out on the whole kit car craze of the seventies and eighties, God has smiled upon you yet again.  Feast your eyes on this genuine, in the box from 1986, Classic Motor Carriages Gazelle kit for sale on craigslist in Sparks, Nevada.  While you may need to add a drivetrain and some other odds and ends, the $2,00 asking price makes this puzzle on four wheels an outright bargain.  Thanks go to Robert P. for this fiberglass find!

You had to be there to understand just how widespread the kit car craze was back in the seventies and eighties.  People had a lot of time on their hands and the space and tools to take on big projects.  Magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science sometimes had articles on building kit cars.  Road and Track even featured a Westfield Lotus replica put together and driven cross country by Peter Egan.  For kids of the eighties, the magazine Porsche, VW, and European Sports Cars (among its many names over the years) always had a number of VW powered kit cars advertised within its pages.  Most notable were the VW Beetle based Porsche Speedster replicas.

Among the manufacturers of Speedster replicas, along with other types of kit cars, was the Miami, Florida based Classic Motor Carriages.  They were likely the largest of manufacturers, and one of their best-selling kits was a loose interpretation of the 1929 Mercedes SSK, which was marketed as the Gazelle.  You had some drivetrain options when you ordered your kit, but most ordered them set up for either a more conventional Ford Pinto or Chevrolet Chevette drivetrain.  If you had a junk Beetle in your back yard, you could even get one set up as a rear engine vehicle with an air cooled Volkswagen powerplant.  Interestingly, like a lot of businesses in Miami during that time, CMC got in a spot of trouble with the law over their business practices.  You can read about the struggles here.

The story on this kit is that it was ordered directly from CMC in 1986.  By the looks of the invoice below, this is one of the versions that took a Pinto drivetrain.  Before you scoff at the notion of a Pinto powered kit car, remember that the inline four cylinder engine in the Pinto is still used in motorsports with plenty of spped parts available for it.  The engine also stayed in production until 2001.  By that time, it displaced 2.5 liters and packed 119 horsepower and 146 ft.-lbs of torque in a Ford Ranger pickup.  A 2.5 should bolt right up engine mount wise, and if you could adapt a late model Ranger five speed and rear end you would probably have a pretty fast vehicle.  Best guess on the weight assembled would be around 2,00-2,100 pounds.  That is a great power to weight ratio.

Before I put the cart before the horse engine wise, there is the matter of the kit.  The writer of the ad is helping the family sell this crate of parts.  The crate has been sitting out of the elements for probably all of its existence and would likely be easy to put on a roll back or maybe winch onto a trailer with some careful maneuvering.  The problem is that foam was used to keep the parts from rubbing together when the kit was transported.  I am sure I don’t have to tell you what has happened to that foam after all of these years sitting in a Nevada garage.

The bill of sale above lists the car as having a primrose body with brown fenders.  In other words, the color is already part of the gel coat on the fiberglass.  You could always strip the car and repaint it if you wanted another set of colors or damage from shipping was too extensive.  The best idea, if you like a primrose body with brown fenders, would be to disassemble the kit and either repack it or wrap everything up and stuff it into a U-Haul truck and be on your way.

At a $2,000 asking price, this could be a great bargain.  Gazelle prices are surprisingly high, and this could be the nicest one around when finished.  It would also be a fun project for someone with some skills, especially if a more modern drivetrain could be installed.

Would you be interested in taking on this unfinished Gazelle project?  Would you make any changes or modifications?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    And the asking price is what?

    Like 1
  2. Big C

    I’m in at $2.00.

    Like 5
  3. John Eder

    Somethings are best left crated.

    Like 9
  4. Mark Member

    2K is the price. I wonder if it was originally 2 bucks.

    Like 1
    • TheOldRanger

      amount on the included bill was $5495 for the crated car, and with tax and crating $6031.40 total.

      Like 3
      • Al

        Does this suggest New Old Stock and therefore $ 6,031.4 or do we have to adjust for inflation.

        Like 2
  5. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    I don’t even like these but I think it would be a fun project! The hard part may be finding a good Pinto donor.

    Like 3
    • chrlsful

      the Kent (x-flow), T5 and an 8 inch might all B more sporty and available for drive line…

      Like 0
    • chrlsful

      the Kent (a x-flow so more sporty)T-5, & a 8 inch B more sportie?

      Like 0
  6. Cobra Steve

    A friend of mine had one of the Bugatti replicas which was Pinto-powered…quite lively! Most of those had VW power which had awful handling characteristics (see my comments on the MGB on Barnfinds which is VW-powered).

    One note to the prospective buyer of this Gazelle…PLEASE make sure the windshield frame is actually fastened to a METAL cowl hoop and NOT to the fiberglass body. Years ago an individual who was driving one of these replicas in Texas (IIRC) was nearly decapitated. Best I figured was the wind must have gotten underneath the horizontal windshield (if it was folded down) and flipped it up at a high speed…resulting in it being ripped from its mounting points.

    Like 10
  7. TheOldRanger

    Excellent safety suggestion Cobra, and this is another “puzzle” to put together, but certainly much cheaper than the $40K for the Darrin. I have the time, but not the money or the expertise…. lol but I sure would like to try it

    Like 4
  8. Piper62j

    Nah!! You guys can have it..

    Like 2
  9. John Eder

    Now that everyone is tired of their Ferrari V-12 glass top coffee tables, just think what you could do with this. A large sheet of 3/8” tempered glass on top of this crate and you would have the coolest dining room table in The Villages…

    Like 5
  10. Paul S

    Seems like there is damage to the door opening on the drivers side or is it just me?
    And why does the invoice say Deluxe 29 ford kit coupe?

    Like 2
    • Beauwayne5000

      Kit is set up for Ford drive train & is the Mercedes 1929 Ssk replica.
      Considering Ford Ranger 2.5L engine & A shortened Ranger Rear end one could set it up nicely.
      But having dealt with these “kitcars” before Bradley GTs mostly I can tell you every single one is a Death Trap.
      There’s absolutely nothing to prevent another car from just Plowing right thru you.
      There’s no Side protection the body will crumble like cardboard the Front end and engine will collapse a hit in the rear gas tank will.fire ball ya.
      Who ever owns that pile of Junk will windup having to PAY to have it hauled to the landfill.

      Like 0
      • CeeOne

        Wouldn’t all your comments about the dangers of kit cars, also apply to the early Corvettes?

        Like 0
  11. 64 Bonneville

    Utilize the SVT Mustang with the turbo 4 and 5 speed from about 84 or 85 for a drive line.

    Like 1
  12. CeeOne

    He should have ordered the Speedster kit, seen in the background of the bill of sale. Although I do like the crate!

    Like 1

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