Sunday, May 18, 2008

After 50 years, the end of the road for the classic black cab




This is the sort of thing that really pisses me off. What exactly is the point of crushing a perfectly useful British Icon ? I'm going to have to write to Boris and get him to put a stop to this shortsighted madness.
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After 50 years, the end of the road for the classic black cab


Martin Buckley
Monday April 14, 2008
The Guardian

They are as much a part of the national landscape as the London Routemaster bus or Gilbert Scott's red telephone box, but this year the last of the classic black FX4 "Fairway" taxi cabs could be erased from our streets. Mann & Overton, the main dealership for the modern replacement, the TX4, is offering FX4 operators up to £3,000 - 10 times the market value of their old cab - if they trade it in for a new TX4.

Sadly, for those of us who would like to emulate Kate Moss - she has been spotted behind the wheel of her own Fairway - this generous offer does not mean there will be a healthy supply of cheap classic cabs to snaffle up: M&O say, with chilling finality, that they will "scrap ... all the old Fairways we take in under this amazing deal".

The classic cab was launched under the Austin badge exactly 50 years ago and 42,000 units were produced over a 39-year period. It survived the ructions of the British Leyland years to become the Carbodies FX4 when the firm that had made the bodywork took over responsibility for the entire design.

Famed for its unmistakable engine rattle and nifty 25ft turning circle, the FX4s were designed specifically to comply with transport regulations in London but ended up being driven in cities throughout Britain. They have gradually been made safer, comfier and faster (the first ones would only do 60mph; not much good for the M4 Heathrow run) and, compared with the Noddy-car looks of the new TX series, there is a undeniable nobility about the FX4.

Black cabs have always been available to private buyers who wanted a bit of anonymity, and the right to drive in taxi lanes. Sid James, Sir Laurence Olivier, Stanley Kubrick and the Duke of Edinburgh drove their own personal cabs long before Moss was outed as an FX4 enthusiast.

Stephen Fry drove a black cab to avoid paying parking tickets. Bez of the Happy Mondays used the money he earned on Big Brother to have a condemned FX4 "pimped" and fitted with a V8 engine. Arnold Schwarzenegger shipped one out to California, and the eccentric millionaire Nubar Gulbenkian had one converted to look like a Victorian hansom cab, complete with carriage lamps.

You can find decommissioned FX4 taxi cabs on eBay and elsewhere for £500. Just like the ones Mann & Overton will be so heartlessly crushing, they have plenty of life left in them. It seems wasteful, but M&O say reducing emissions and providing "an improved taxi service fit for the 21st century" are the motivations behind this generous offer. Shifting a few more shiny new £31,000 TX4s won't go amiss either.

13 comments:

  1. Very Sad, why scrap them, this is madness! I just got my '95 Fairway Driver today... Great Blog, keep it going!

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  2. What a shame.

    Does he mean FX4s or the Fairway models? I was hoping to sell mine on eBay soon to get a Fairway Driver (drum brakes are doing my head in).

    I had a chat with a Cabbie in Watford who had a new TX4 - the inside is lovely but they ain't half ugly. I'm honestly surprised that LTI didn't keep the shape on the outside and just re-do the interior - I'm sure it'd have been easy enough.

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  3. Indeed! did you write the letter to Boris? I would very much liked to have petitioned it. What an arse!

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  4. We just pulled one out of the bushes the other day. You can see it here

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  5. Is it the tree huggers who want these things crushed so we can import a load of Chinese plastic junk to replace them in the name of eco something or other?.Or is it big business ensuring that some more money is prized out of peoples pockets?
    Either way its a waste of time talking to Boris,he has no interest in any of this countries heritage (not untill he wants a few votes anyway).

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  6. Can anyone suggest good sources (other than ebay) for procuring FX4s?

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  7. They do this right next door to their kitten drowning facility, adjacent to the money furnace.

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