Aug 25, 2010

The most famous taxi time line: London Taxi part 3

The most famous taxi time line: London Taxi part 3

The First World War devastated the taxi trade. Production of the Unic ceased for the duration as the company turned to producing munitions. The majority of younger cabmen were called up to fight and those that remained had to drive worn-out cabs. By 1918 these remnant vehicles were sold at highly inflated prices, often beyond the pockets of the returning servicemen, and the trade deteriorated.

William Beardmore & Co Ltd was Scotland’s largest engineering concern and a division of the company built the first new post-war taxicab in Paisley, Glasgow. The cab was introduced in 1919 and because of its sturdiness and comfort it became known as the ‘Rolls-Royce of cabs’. A much-revised Mk 2 followed in 1923. A Citroën cab was introduced in 1921, as was an updated version of the pre-war Unic. In 1925, an attempt to introduce a two-seat cab that would run at a lower tariff, in parallel with the existing four-seat cabs was vehemently opposed, and eventually repulsed by the trade. However, the lower tariff was introduced anyway and the trade, already suffering in the Depression was severely hit. The Conditions of Fitness had not been altered since their introduction and by 1927, no British maker other than Beardmore was interested in making cabs for such a small market. The Conditions of Fitness were reviewed in 1927 to try and attract more makers and revised rules were introduced in 1928, although a Morris-Commercial appeared before their introduction. Following the review, Beardmore introduced a Mk3 and both cabs proved very popular.

1930's Austin taxi
An Austin 12/4 Low Loader taxi from the mid-1930s. Cabs could be found in many different colours before the 1940s and fleets would have their own colour

In 1929, dealers Mann and Overton sponsored a new Austin cab for London, based on the successful 12/4 car. Nicknamed the ‘High Lot’ because of its height it was an immediate success, significantly outselling Beardmore and Morris-Commercial. A new model, the LL ‘Low Loader’ appeared in 1934 and became the most numerous model of the decade, being cheap to buy, reliable and easily obtainable. Beardmore had moved to North London and its cabs were much more expensive than the Morris-Commercial or the Austin. Neither Beardmore nor Morris-Commercial, however could produce cabs in the same numbers as Austin.

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