Life in the old dogs yet

As the 15-year limit comes into effect that once ubiquitous and versatile piece of British engineering, the London FX4 Taxi, is reaching the end of its useful life. Well, that’s what Transport for London thought . . .

Launched under the Austin badge 55 years ago over 40,000 units have been produced.

Here is a few examples that have been transmogrified beyond the designers wildest dreams.

[T]he oft quoted remark: “It turns on a sixpence, whatever that is!” by Nubar Gulbenken, an eccentric millionaire who had a penchant for the London taxi. Using some of his not inconsiderable wealth made from oil Mr. G. converted three London taxis to meet his own, if somewhat bizarre designs. The second creation [pictured] commissioned through Jack Barclay and built by FLM Panelcraft was an open-drive town car, with carriage lamps and wickerwork decoration on the body sides, it was reputed to have a Rolls-Royce engine, but this is uncertain. It might have cost him £3,500 (the equivalent of two Mark 2 Jags, aka Inspector Morse), but five years later the vehicle was sold at auction for £6,300 and again in 1993 it achieved under the hammer a price of £23,000.

Nubar Gulbenkian FX4 no 2 ©Bill Munro, LVTA archive

gulbenkian_taxi

 ©Keith Adams AROnline

[W]hen Royal Mail was floated last year its shareholders could have been buying into a fleet of taxis if the 1967 prototype had proved successful. With its much-vaunted turning circle it seemed the perfect city delivery van. The tall loading space provided 200 cubic foot capacity. Unfortunately being mostly paper the mail is somewhat heavy, causing the vehicle to wobble alarmingly when cornering.

fx4conv_07  ©Keith Adams AROnline

[S]tretch limos are all the rage these days and it could be that a cab limousine isn’t just what Tabitha wanted for her 13-years-old bash. But Carbodies in 1980 anticipated a market and produced a long wheelbase model complete with walnut-veneered cabinets, cocktails, sound system and TV with video by the simple expedient of inserting a windowed fillet panel between the front and rear doors. This gave generous accommodation for 4 passengers and – Heaven forbid! – by removing the cocktail cabinet provided room for an additional person.

Woodall Nicholson 6-door Stretch FX4S

©Bill Munro

[S]tar, News, Standard was the refrain in the 1960s the papers were printed daily, except Sunday, primary evening papers with more than one edition a day. Only the Standard remains, the Star ceasing first. The Evening News vans were bright yellow and black with red writing and the Standards were orange and white striped. These vans would race around and almost without stopping dump the bound stacks of papers on the pavement before chasing off to their next drop off point. The seller would quickly get the latest edition on sale.

Evening News ©Austin FX4 Evening News conversion by Ledlon89

[A]nd finally when a cabbie departs this life for the rank in the sky the London Taxi Hearse, claimed to be the only one in the world, could be used to transport them to their final resting place.

Cab Hearse

Thanks to Bill Munro at Earlswood Press for some pictures including the brochure illustration and background information and also Keith Adams at AROnline for the Royal Mail conversion story.

2 thoughts on “Life in the old dogs yet”

  1. I am using my old ex London Fairway as a car. Its a bit slow and noisy but every one loves it! So some are not going to the Taxi rank in the sky just yet.

    Like

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