Aug 25, 2010

The most famous taxi time line: London Taxi part 5

The most famous taxi time line: London Taxi part 5

The famous FX-3 taxi
The Austin FX3 of the 1950s

Post-war, there was an urgent need for new taxis as all the pre-war models had been discontinued. Nuffield, the makers of the Morris-Commercial cab had tested a prototype cab throughout the war. It was introduced in 1947 as the Oxford and sold by Beardmore, who had not developed a new cab of their own. In 1948 a new Austin, the FX3, built by Carbodies of Coventry and financed jointly by Mann and Overton, Carbodies and Austin appeared and soon dominated the market. It was first produced with a petrol engine but in 1952 a conversion for a Ferguson diesel engine was made available. However, in 1954 Austin produced its own 2.2 litre diesel engine. Austin also built a four-door limousine version of the FX3, the FL1, fitted with a bench front seat but minus a ‘For Hire’ roof sign. Beardmore introduced a MkVII in 1954, but it sold in very small numbers and presented no threat to Austin. The last Beardmore was produced in 1967.

The well-known FX4, introduced in 1958 and still common in
The well-known FX4, introduced in 1958 and still common in London today. This example belongs to one of our members, and is seen at the Taxi Driver of the Year event at Brands Hatch, with the club stand and a Winchester in the background.

Austin’s next taxi, introduced in 1958 was the FX4. This famous vehicle remained in continuous production with various modifications, including seven different engines, for 39 years. This wasn’t because it was such a fantastic vehicle –it had many shortcomings- but because neither Austin nor Mann and Overton could find the money to replace it. Carbodies Ltd of Coventry made two attempts of their own, the FX5 and the CR6 but in 1982 bought the production rights to the FX4 from Austin and, as London Taxis International Plc built the final version of the FX4, the ‘Fairway’. Production ended in 1997 after more than 75,000 FX4s had been built.

The Winchester taxi, launched in 1963 from Winchester Automobiles (West End) Ltd, had a glass-fibre body and was the first London cab built from this material. The first three variants shared the same rounded body but the Series IV had a very modern appearance. Production was small and ceased in 1972.

The Asquith, a retro-style cab based on pre-war the Austin LL was introduced in 1994. It was powered by a ford Transit diesel engine. It was very expensive and only about twelve were sold in London. A modern style cab was proposed, but never went into production. Asquith went into liquidation at the end of 1998.

In 1972, Metro-Cammell-Weymann, who had built the last Beardmore cabs introduced a prototype, called the Metrocab, based on Ford Transit running gear, but it failed to go into production. However, they never gave up the plan to make cabs and in 1987 launched an all-new Metrocab. The cab’s body was made of glassfibre and all but the last version, the TTT, which was Toyota-powered, used a Ford Transit diesel engine. The Metrocab has passed through four owners in twenty years of production, the most successful and longest lasting being the third, Hooper. Its present owner, Kamkorp suspended production in April 2006 but planned to continue developing the cab. In early 2008, pictures of a revised, hybrid power version appeared in ‘Taxi’ newspaper and it is hoped to see the marque’s re-introduction at some time in the future.
London metrocab
Hooper Metrocab

In 1997, London Taxis International replaced the famous FX4/Fairway shape with the TXI, which used the same highly regarded Nissan TD27 engine as the Fairway. An updated version with a Ford engine, the TXII followed but was unreliable and unpopular. The Conditions of Fitness underwent a protracted review in the light of a challenge from the makers of van conversions that complied with every rule except the turning circle. After a protracted wait, the PCO decided in early 2006 in favour of retaining the turning circle rule.

In November 2006 the TXII was replaced with the TX4, using the same body and chassis as the TXII but powered by a VM turbocharged diesel engine. It was named the TX4, rather than TXIII because it complies with the Euro 4 exhaust emission regulations

If you are toying with the idea of buying an older FX4 as a preservation project there are plenty of cheap and reasonable examples around. Now that severe exhaust emission regulations are in force, some of the early Fairways are being sold off at very reasonable prices. Spares are still available and a number of LVTA experts can offer expert advice to the club’s members in buying and running them.

The laws governing London’s taxi trade go back nearly four centuries. Originally, regulation was in the hands of the City of London. In 1654, Oliver Cromwell authorised the founding of The Fellowship of Hackney Coachmen, but he disbanded it in 1657 because it became too powerful. Licensing was reformed in 1694 and London’s cabs have been continuously licensed since then, initially through the City of London and later through Parliament. In 1843, the Home Office took control and devolved authority to the Metropolitan Police who, through the Public Carriage Office governed the trade until 2000. Control is now in the hands of Transport for London, a part of the Greater London Authority.

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