Palestinian's classic car replica turns heads in Gaza

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GAZA (Reuters) - Repairing cars in the Gulf, a Palestinian mechanic from the Gaza Strip once spotted a vehicle that took his breath away.

It was a classic: a Mercedes Gazelle. Munir Shindi knew that he had to have one. So, after returning home to Gaza, he set about building a replica of the 1927 model of the two-door, open-top roadster from scratch.

Cannibalizing parts from used vehicles and importing a few items such as locks, hub caps and hinges from the United States, Shindi, 36, spent nearly two years shaping his masterpiece. It’s now on display in his mechanic’s shop.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I can make it and that nothing was impossible,” he said.

Off-white with burgundy seats, the replica is built on a Mitsubishi chassis and powered by a 1,600 cc Mitsubishi engine. It drew admiring glances and cheers from motorists and pedestrians as Shindi, accompanied by two of his sons, took a rare drive down a main Gaza street on Sunday.

“I am still waiting for the authorities to allow me to license it so I can drive it properly,” he said.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the lightweight Gazelle series helped Mercedes dominate motorsport in the late 1920s and early 1930s. According to classic car websites, about 300 Gazelles were produced, and one unrestored model sold for $7.4 million in 2004.

Palestinians in Gaza, territory controlled by the Hamas Islamist group, import cars from around the world via neighboring Israel. There are about 70,000 registered cars in the small, densely populated enclave of 1.95 million people.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller/Mark Heinrich