Urban landscape — 09 December 2011
Sherbets lose their fizz

By the end of next year the archetypal cabs both loved and loathed in equal measure by the drivers will not be seen plying for hire in London. The FX4 first appeared on the street in 1959, its shape beloved of tourists, has sold more than 75,000 vehicles and was the first diesel cab with an automatic gearbox. Later rebranded the Fairway, along with Leyland’s original Mini has become the longest lived of British car designs and remained in production for 38 years.

Now due to stringent emission restrictions this iconic symbol of London is due to go the way of the Routemaster Bus. As drivers we won’t lament its passing with its leaking roof due to the hire signage not having sufficient waterproofing and the contrary nature of the brakes exhibited when approaching a width restriction, pulling to the left or right depending on how she felt that day.

Tourists love them, my modern vehicle has been dismissed in favour of an old fashioned Fairway behind me on Harrods rank. So could there be a case for a select few converted vehicles ferrying tourists around London much as with the Routemaster’s two remaining
bus routes?

The modern successor to the ‘classic cab’ is the German built Mercedes Vito, which in years to come will almost certainly not arouse the same degree of nostalgia, looking as it does a van with windows.

Which brings me very neatly to the 2012 Olympics and the vehicles of choice to convey the Olympic Family around London and in so doing advertise the very best of our capital city to a worldwide audience estimated to number in the billions.

And the vehicle of choice showcasing London is – BMW – a solid piece of German engineering certainly, but not remotely connected to London or Britain for that matter. Some 4,000 vehicles including the BMW 520d one of the most powerful cars seen on public roads will be used during the Games. Driven by “volunteer” drivers in a £200 million sponsorship deal, the vehicles are rumoured to be left hand drive, but that of course is irrelevant as using the dedicated Olympic Lanes the drivers are never going to encounter any other vehicle.

Even our own modern taxis are regarded to have too higher emissions for their use in transporting officials around London next year. While the old classic cab might have emissions enough to give the vapours to our green guests next year, the utilitarian German vehicles don’t give that little fizz of nostalgia that the old sherbet (dab) the FX4 generated.

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Gibson

(11) Readers Comments

  1. I own a J reg Fairway Driver for private use in North West London, with almost 500,000 miles on the clock. It is an absolute pleasure to own such an iconic vehicle, even with their leaks and temperamental steering as mentioned in this excellent blog. The London Vintage Taxi Association is a great source of help and information for anyone looking to own or even just learn more about all variants of the FX4.

    • At half a million miles on the clock ‘Percy’ the Fairway Cab has just been run-in he should (or should that be she?) give many miles of motoring pleasure. Thanks for your comment and I look forward to reading your blog of Percy’s adventures.
      http://percythelondontaxi.wordpress.com/
      Incidentally I Googled paulandninalau and received only one result – never had that before.

  2. This news makes me terribly sad. Can the retired vehicles be purchased for private use?

    • Yes there are many websites selling old cabs, but be warned many have over a third of million miles on the clock and still keep going

  3. My taxi blog that is.

  4. I’ve never been to london but I hear it is a truly amazing place, everyone strikes me as quite cordial. And the taxi’s, now those have style, unlike our old beat up Ford Crown Victorias. Not sure how often American cars show up over there – less and less though here in the states.

    I do enjoy the blog, if you have the time here’s one about driving taxi in California –

    http://corruptionincortez.blogspot.com/

    Take care, Henry

    • Thanks for your comment, I’ve had a quick look look at corruptionincortez interesting and amusing tales

  5. My first cab was a fairway…. and I loved it to bits. So, so sad that they will no longer be plying on the streets of London.

    Oh well, at least the TX4 bears some resemblance to this iconic vehicle.

    • My first cab was a very old FX4 (NYK 818Y) which had been in the same family for two generations. No power steering, hardly any brakes and cantankerous steering. I was very proud to drive it in London.

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