LON­DON TAXI

CHR I S TOPHE R C HECK S O UT A C A B WI T H N O N AME

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Christo­pher Moor Pho­tos: Ross de Rouf­fignac

A CAB WITH NO NAME

When we in­ter­view Cass, the mileage on the odometer shows 69,000 (111,044km), but the true fig­ure is un­known. “It would have gone to the moon and back,” he jests

Welling­to­nian Cass Shavez has no name for his 1966 Austin FX4 taxi. “I don’t give it names. I just love the car, and that’s it,” he says.

Cass has owned the for­mer Lon­don taxi for 17 years, hav­ing brought the cab with him when he and his fam­ily mi­grated from the UK 15 years ago. It’s the sec­ond FX4 he’s owned, and he ad­mits, “I’d have more [if] I had the space.” He says his is not in pris­tine show­room con­di­tion. It has a bit of rust, from be­ing driven by pre­vi­ous own­ers on Lon­don roads sprin­kled with salt to melt the fallen snow.

When we in­ter­view Cass, the mileage on the odometer shows 69,000 miles (111,044km), but the true fig­ure is un­known — “It would have gone to the moon and back,” he jests.

When the taxi ar­rived in New Zealand, it met Euro­pean stan­dards, but they were not good enough for reg­is­ter­ing and war­rant­ing here. He had to get the odometer work­ing. Ap­par­ently this was not a re­quire­ment in the UK at the time — he had bought the taxi with­out the odometer record­ing the mileage.

Cass says he has no idea about the fuel con­sump­tion: “If you have that prob­lem, there’s no point in own­ing it.” He knows the max­i­mum speed is about 65mph (105kph) from driv­ing on the flat.

Cass has not driven it as a taxi, but says,

His taxi has seat­ing for five pas­sen­gers, whereas, when new, the num­ber was four

“I have done wed­dings for peo­ple.” When on wed­ding duty, Cass looks the part, wear­ing a typ­i­cal Lon­don cab­bie’s cap, white shirt, and Union Jack tie. The ring fit­ted to the ra­di­a­tor grille is his own in­ven­tion for hold­ing the white rib­bon in place when the car is trans­port­ing the bride to the church. If

New Zealand Clas­sic Car read­ers in the Welling­ton area haven’t seen the Austin in wed­ding kit, they may re­mem­ber the taxi from ap­pear­ances at a cou­ple of Bri­tish Car Days at Tren­tham.

Tight cir­cle

The cur­rent en­gine is a Rover 2.5-litre diesel, which re­placed the orig­i­nal Austin 2.2-litre. Ac­cord­ing to Cass, some own­ers in the UK have fit­ted a Perkins in pref­er­ence to an Austin or Rover mo­tor.

Austin man­u­fac­tured the FX4 from 1958. The suc­ces­sor to the FX3 (1948– ’58) was de­signed by the Austin di­vi­sion of the Bri­tish Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion (BMC), Mann and Over­ton — the Lon­don taxi deal­er­ship — and Car­bod­ies of Coven­try, where the body was built and fit­ted to the chas­sis for de­liv­ery to deal­ers. Be­fore the de­sign re­ceived ap­proval from the Pub­lic Car­riage Of­fice (PCO), the taxi had to prove it could turn in a cir­cle of 7.62m.

FX4 mod­els had a sep­a­rate chas­sis, in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, and dual-cir­cuit hy­draulic brakes. A ma­jor styling change was the fourth door cov­er­ing the lug­gage plat­form next to the driver’s com­part­ment. This area had been open to the weather on pre­vi­ous Lon­don taxis. More than 55,000 Austin FX4S were pro­duced be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of the Car­bod­ies FX4R in 1982.

From 1979, the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights be­longed to Car­bod­ies. In 1984, Car­bod­ies and Mann and Over­ton joined to­gether to be­come Lon­don Taxis In­ter­na­tional (LTI), and its first model was the LTI FX4S in 1985, which the LTI FX4S Plus su­per­seded in 1987. The LTI Fair­way (1989–’97) re­placed the LTI FX4S Plus, and be­came the last model based on the FX4.

Mod­ern up­grades

Cass says his FX4 had been up­graded over the years to keep up with chang­ing le­gal re­quire­ments for Lon­don taxis. A pre­vi­ous owner had added ‘LTI FX4S’ badg­ing to the ra­di­a­tor grille and boot, but he had not changed the orig­i­nal chrome bumpers for the model’s black ones, leav­ing this for Cass to do. Cass still has the chrome bumpers, which he keeps with the Austin in the garage.

His taxi has seat­ing for five pas­sen­gers, whereas, when new, the num­ber was four. The two sin­gle seats at the front of the com­part­ment fold up, with the one at the left re­cessed to ac­com­mo­date a wheel­chair. Ac­cess for wheel­chairs is by re­mov­able ramps fit­ted to the open pas­sen­ger door frame on the left side.

The pas­sen­ger seats are up­hol­stered in medium-dark grey PVC, and the driver’s seat is in velour of a sim­i­lar shade. The driver’s seat belt and the three on the bench-type rear seat were fit­ted when Cass bought the taxi. He has since added one for each of the fold­ing seats. The mat

The two sin­gle seats at the front of the com­part­ment fold up, with the one at the left re­cessed to ac­com­mo­date a wheel­chair

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