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A guide to Classic Cabs

Carry on Cabbie Published: 13th Jun 2011 - 1 Comments

A guide to Classic Cabs
A guide to Classic Cabs Okay, so you can’t drive in selected lanes like a real cabbie but you’ll blend in nicely
A guide to Classic Cabs Later FX4 models benefit from worthy upgrades such as engines and steering
A guide to Classic Cabs Like the idea but want something different to a London cab? Then consider a Checker cab. There’s real character here!
A guide to Classic Cabs Original FX4 is still the classic cab for many but early ones hard work to drive
A guide to Classic Cabs Really old cabs have appeal but not as easy to maintain as FX4 generations
A guide to Classic Cabs Have a taxi and make some money! Classic cabs are popular for wedding hire
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If you’re after a tough, durable and off the wall classic then why not consider a cab? Jeff Bailey reckons they’re fare game…

Getting a taxi on a wetFriday night in town can be harder than solving the Rubik cube, but now help is at hand – you can buy one yourself! Think about it, it makes perfect sense for anyone who spends most of their time in town or who has a need for carrying a large family and luggage around. Add to this the diesel power and on-a-sixpence turning circle and you have a recipe for classic motoring with a difference. Ask people like Stephen Fry and even Prince Philip why they driveone and they would probably answer “discreet”, which suits somepublicity-shy celebs very well. Equally, for the man in the street there’s the added advantage of being “invisible”. The authorities won’t give you a second glance and nor will anyone else – unless it’s a wet Friday night, of course.So how workable is a black cab as an everyday choice? Very workable, I would say, provided you get the right model. This has become easier for the private buyer since the turn of the millennium, when regulations decree any cab plying for hire must have wheelchair access. Most built after 1989 have this facility, but earlier examples aren’t worth converting and are therefore on the market cheaply. There are two main models to choose from, starting with the venerable black cab, the FX4. This was originally launched as far back as 1959 and was updated almost yearly according to regulation until it was replaced by the new shape TX1 in 1997. This model looks like an FX4 on steroids. In 1981, the evergreen FX4 became the FX4R, which had a Rover 2.2 diesel engine, but this is not recommended even for irregular use as it’s crude and rather underpowered. The R was in turn replaced by the FX4S in 1985 and with it came the Land Rover 2.5-litre diesel, which was much better in all departments including economy and reliability. The FX4S Plus followed with the addition of upgraded interior. Most of them were automatics by this time. The Fairway replaced this in 1989 and brought with it a pretty usable Nissan 2.7-litre lump, which was another improvement. This lasted until the aforementioned TX1 arrived in 1997. The other model that was on sale at the same time as the FX4 was the Metrocab. This boxy shape taxi looks like a scaled down Range Rover and has more room inside, but less style, which is why most private buyers plump for the classic FX4 in one guise or another.

Cab considerations

What do you look for when buying a taxi? Actually they are not much different from any other used car really, apart from the galactic mileages they incur. Don’t worry too much about this, though because the annual MOT they are put through is far, far tougher than the one’s our cars have to endure. Cabs working in town clock up an average of 30,000 miles a year, whilst those on the open road can see double this. This means that most older cabs may have been to the moon and back several times and naturally will have been through a couple of replacement engines at least. Meticulously maintenance is needed to pass the annual licencing check so the chances of finding bodged repairs is pretty remote. Servicing work is not a problem as there are many small garages tucked away in the major cities that handle taxis exclusively. There are also plenty of web sites devoted to all things taxi (see box), so finding them should be no problem either. OK, so servicing is recommended at 4500 mile intervals but this amounts to little more than an oil change and a check over and they are pretty DIY-friendly, too,especially older models. And taxis are as tough as old boots if maintained properly – better than a
Land Rover in fact. Bodywork is not a great problem, either. Older FX4s tend to show that age by corroding along the bottom of the front and rear wings, but that’s about it. Metrocabs fare even better, if you’ll excuse the pun – they’re glass fibre-bodied, so no tin worm there but check the chassis all the same. Adding extra seats to FX4s is cheap and easy enough. It costs only £130 to add a front passenger seat complete with belt, for example. Do watch for correct actuation of the rear door locks, standard on post-85 models. This should work when on the move or stationary with foot on brake. Without this, the suicide doors might just live up to their name… You can get into one of the desirable FX4S Plus models for as little as £4000. We saw an ‘89 with sun roof, electric windows, 2.7 Nissan engine and only two owners for £4250 at one of the dealers below while real classic models can be had for a grand or even less. Now where can you get an MPV at that price with anything like the panache of a black cab and still get most of your money back when you come to sell? Honest, Guv’nor! And you don’t even have to go sarf of the river after midnight…

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User Comments

This review has 1 comments

  • Best buys are the last Fairway Driver's '93/'97, come with Nissan NA diesel, disc brakes upfront, ball joint suspension, prices are quite low at the moment as they are all coming off the roads due to 'no over 15 year old cab use' in London reg' 2012 ...most are being exported to Africa etc as they are tough as old boots and very well suited to rough going....I would say buy one now before prices shoot up. Buy one that has been a London PCO cab and just come off service.

    Comment by: iconic rich     Posted on: 02 Mar 2012 at 12:32 PM

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