Find of the Week: 1998 London Taxi

The Find of the Week might be good for what ails you. Make that good for what hails you. It's one of the most recognizable cars in the world, even though it was never sold in North America. It's a London Black Cab. A 1998 TX1 taxi.

The London Taxi Company goes all the way back to 1919. When Robert Jones bought out the coachbuilding operation he had managed and set up shop in Coventry, UK.

At the time, most companies building car bodies built individual designs for individual consumers. You got the car you wanted, and it's entirely possible that nobody else in the entire world would get the same car. Jones set out to build bodies in bulk for smaller automakers like MG and Alvis who didn't have the capabilities of doing it themselves. By the 1930s, the company's client list included the Rootes Group which owned brands like Talbot and Sunbeam.

After the war, Carbodies, as the company was now known, swung a deal to build bodies for the Austin FX3 taxi.

By 1958, it was time for a new London Taxi, and Carbodies was part of the BSA Group team that designed it. The FX4 launched that year, built on running gear made by, and sold as, an Austin. And Carbodies went on to build thousands of them.

In the early 1980s, British Leyland, who had been building the chassis and had ownership of Austin, decided they wanted to discontinue the car. But There was still demand. So Carbodies bought the rights and kept production going. Much like Caterham, who have been building the Lotus 7 since that company sold the tooling and rights decades ago. They did have to swap the engine though, in 1982, because the factory that built the old engine had been sold to India. Yup, the whole plant.

Later on, Carbodies was sold to Manganese Bronze Holdings, but they still kept building the same black cab.

But that old design wouldn't continue forever. Nor would the Carbodies name. The company was rebranded as London Taxis International in 1992, recognizing what the company did more clearly. And they started working on a new car.

The TX1 was introduced in 1997 to finally succeed the FX4. The new Hackney carriage still looked like the now 40-year-old FX4, more or less, but under the skin, it was entirely new. The old-fashioned look was no accident, though. The shape was designed for London's strange cab rules. Like having a turning circle of just 8 m so that it could navigate the tiny driveway at the Savoy Hotel. They also require loads of headroom and a separate driver compartment. And before the company put it anywhere near production they made sure that cab drivers liked it.

Under the hood of just about all of them was a Nissan 2.7L diesel. The engines were far from speedy, with only about 100 hp, but the point of a London Cab was fuel economy and longevity. Almost none of the cars were sold as automatics since drivers preferred to row their own. That makes this car, for sale in North York, ON, a bit of a rarity. But one much more appealing on this side of the pond where the shift-it-yourself box is far from the popular choice.

For a car whose predecessor was built for 40 years, the TX1 had a surprisingly short lifespan. By 2002 it was replaced by the TXII. Which still looked mostly the same, meaning that the citizens of London won't be subjected to some sort of revolution in taxi services.

But forget London, how about Toronto? This 1998 TX1 has been imported, but it still looks the part. It's black, for a start, which is an essential part of the black cab. It's also got that massive interior volume with two passenger seats facing forward and two jump-seats facing to the rear. The seller suggests renting it out for film productions, but we're thinking bigger. What better vehicle could there be for ride-hailing then one that was designed from the ground up to be hailed for rides? Or you could get a kick out of picking up your carpool friends. For the first week, at least, until the joke got old. Or maybe you just want a British car that is surprisingly rare in Canada. Whatever the reason, this Find of the Week could be just what you're looking for. Now to memorize every major landmark and street in your town for a local version of the famed The Knowledge that makes getting a London cab licence such a daunting task.

Fancy a lift? 11/28/2018 8:00:00 AM