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