Noel Cumner and his replica 1936 Mercedes Marlene.
Noel Cumner and his replica 1936 Mercedes Marlene. Hayden Johnson

Replica Marlene Dietrich Mercedes-Benz has real star appeal

THERE'S nothing better than a crisp Sunday morning drive under the blue skies with your loved one. Especially if that loved one is a sexy, shiny, classic Merc named Marlene.

Cars are wonderful things. Some people use them as an object of transport, purely for travel from point A to point B.

For others, the car isn't about the destination, it's about the journey.

It's a complicated love affair.

Cars take us to our jobs, we run to them in the rain, sit with them while waiting for the kids to emerge from the school gate, drive them to clear our heads and when we say goodbye to them it's often an emotional experience.

Noel Cumner's car is his second love (behind his wife Robyn, he assures me). He admires and adores her.

In 1936, Mercedes-Benz was commissioned to design a personalised model for international movie star Marlene Dietrich.

Noel purchased a replica Marlene in 2011 online after she was recently shipped from the United States in reasonable condition.

An original would easily fetch more than $1 million today.

Even in the replica, the aura and beauty of the original is clear.

It took the Fraser Coast man 15 months to give her a complete overhaul of everything to make it legal on Australian roads.

But after many pots of paint, WD-40 and swearing, the old girl retains the charm of the original Marlene.

"She's an absolute beauty," he said.

Under the bonnet, Marlene has a 3.8L V6 Ford motor with a Mustang front-end and C4 gearbox.

Noel fell in love with Marlene after searching on the internet for a classic.

"She's just beautiful," he said.

"What drew me to her was the shape and size of her and especially the engine."

The privilege of owning this car, believed to be the only one in the country, is after years of hard work.

"Sometimes I used to work 25 hours a day," he said.

But whatever you do, don't tell Noel he's lucky.

"Luck has nothing to do with it ... I've worked hard my whole life," he said.

"The longer I work and the harder I work, the luckier I get."

Noel has this real sense of excitement for life.

He lives each day as if it's his last.

"I had a melanoma cut out and the doctors said that if it reappeared and got to my lungs I'd have eight years to live," he said.

I asked him when the doctor told him that.

"That was about eight years ago," he said.

"I live life the way it's meant to be lived."

Noel's wife Robyn has been supportive in his love for cars.

Car culture runs in the family. Robyn has now bought her own love.

"She bought a bloody Corvette," Noel said.

What tips does Noel have for others rebuilding cars?

"My engineer Kelvin Ney has done a brilliant job ... and if I could give any tips on doing up a car it's to have a good engineer," he said.

The car draws attention, wherever he drives.

"I took Marlene down to Woolworths and a lady pulled up next to me ... she said 'that would have to be the most beautiful car I've ever seen'," he said.

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