Kerbside Classic: Austin FX4 London Taxi: 6th And Charnelton In Eugene, Please; Via Siberia

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After yesterday’s Checker post, it seems only fitting to take a look at at the legendary London Taxi, the ultimate living dinosaur. The Austin FX4/Fairway design was built from 1958 to 1997, a nice, even forty years. And this one, which has conveniently found its way to Eugene in very original condition, is clearly an older one. In fact, it looks like it just finished a three-decades-long trip. Why do I say that? Take a look at the ad in the passenger compartment:

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A Sharp three-band cassette radio for your Austin Allegro, mate! Let’s take a closer look at that.

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Who can place the vintage of that unit? 1982? 1985? It does give us a pretty good idea when this cab picked up its last fare, and then went into hiding or got hopelessly lost.

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The driver’s compartment looks pretty rustic, too. And obviously, that seat has seen a bit of use.

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The steering might have been unassisted, but at least the transmission was an automatic (Borg-Warner 35).

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Here’s the shift quadrant for that tough old box, which originated specifically for smaller American cars (Rambler, etc), before finding great favor in Europe; it was made for decades in the UK and powered a wide range of cars, helping to usher in the automatic gearbox there.

One of the more remarkable characteristics of the London Taxis their tight turning circle, which is very handy–indeed, necessary–in London’s streets and traffic. My first experience with it involved being picked up in a London Taxi, in front of a small hotel on a narrowish street. We were pointed the wrong way, and in order to go in the other direction the taxi driver simply pulled a super-tight U-turn instead of driving around the block. This video is the only one that I could find, and the POV is from the driver’s seat.

 

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Of course, it was the back seat that was really important, and the space afforded there by what actually was quite a compact vehicle is superb. It’s easy to just throw luggage inside, in front of one’s seat, when in a hurry.

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Needless to say, most of these London Taxis swallowed “Fuel Oil” (diesel fuel); the earlier ones used either a 2.2- or 2.5-liter Austin diesel four. After production and full control of the FX4 shifted to Carbodies Ltd. in 1982 ,an adapted Rover 2,286 cc diesel four was utilized. Later vehicles also used Perkins/Mazda diesels and, ultimately, a Nissan 2,667 cc TD27. Euro emission regs forced devoted Fairway operators to make expensive upgrades, which some chose to do. When we last visited London some 13 years ago, a good number of Fairways were still in use. Today?

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Many, like this one, have found their way to other parts of the world. I’m not sure just what kind of future it has in Eugene, but without doubt, it has one. Just hope nobody gets rid of that vintage ad inside.

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