Most of us know and recognise it as a London Taxi, or Hackney Cab, or just Black Cab, and so it was until this year.
Most of us have ridden in one and often remember our first encounter, mine was the red door locking lights coming on and a sharp intake of breath from the driver as he said “are you sure mate, you know that”s sarth of the river“.
They are as iconic as the old London Routemaster Bus or the Red Telephone and Post Box – they are the FX4 Fairway Taxis.
The Fairway was introduced in February 1989 and fitted with a 2,664 cc Nissan TD27 diesel engine, (known as the indestructible) making the FX4 a faster and more reliable cab. It had full wheelchair accessibility, in line with a new law that came into force in January 1989. The Fairway was the best version of the FX4 ever built.
Now as part of the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Strategy, the 15 year age limit, which was introduced on 1 January 2012 for London Taxis has seen almost all of them being taken off of the roads as working taxis.
Several celebrities, notably Stephen Fry have had one and some of you may have seen Top Gears” video of the Stig giving celebrity DJ Chris Evans the most frightening ride of his life in a specially modified 400 bhp Fairway.
But what of the rest, well fortunately a couple of thousand or so are being kept on the UK roads by a group of enthusiasts, who just love driving this iconic, soon to be classic car. Ask them why and you”ll get a couple of thousand different answers.
Not built for speed, but for space and headroom (high enough for a Top Hat to be worn when seated) and maneuverability, (the ability to turn through 180° on either lock between two walls 8.535 m (28 ft) apart).
The extra tip up seats in the back, (I have Beryl Cook Taxi Posters in mine, always gets a laugh from friends and family) means it can legally take 5 passengers. Oh, and a couple of dogs, the pushchair, (no need to fold it up) and all of your shopping or luggage.
As a removals van it”s brilliant, an upright piano or sofa is no problem.
When designed amongst the requirements was the need for separate passenger and driver compartments, it is possible to fit a small seat in the front passenger side, but a lot of private owners said the single front drivers” seat was a top reason for owning one. Yes, they were men and yes I”m sure you”ll guess why they said it.
Another attraction for amateur mechanics is the bolt on accessibility as the Fairway is mainly made from spare or stolen (donor) parts, for example:
- Steering Box – Land Rover
- Heater – MG
- Instrument Cluster – Metro
- Rear Lights – BMC 1100/1300
- Door Handles – Ford Transit
- Engine – Nissan Terrano
- Brake Master Cylinder – Austin Healey 3000
- Brake Light Switch – Ford Mondeo
- Rear brakes – Ford transit
- Fuse box – Classic Range Rover
- And – Floor boards- (Yes it really has some wooden floor boards for underfloor access) any good DIY shop.
As part of a programme to develop a replacement model, AP Lockheed were commissioned to design and develop front disc brakes, and in conjunction, GKN designed a new suspension system to allow disc brakes to be fitted whilst maintaining the mandatory, famous 25 feet diameter turning circle. This new model with the modifications, the Fairway Driver, was introduced in February 1992. (below is shown on the right)
In the hands of Taxi Drivers a lot of these de-regulated vehicles had done over a million miles, but what with the “indestructible” Nissan engine and the strict MOT Regulations governing London Cabs (2 MOTs a year) thankfully there are still plenty of good examples in private hands and although, a few specially made parts are scarce, most are readily available. You can still pick one up for less than a couple of thousand pounds, it”s cheap to insure, does about 30 miles to the gallon, and will cruise happily at 70 mph (wind and incline permitting). Nearly all are automatic, (there are a few manual around), mine has electric windows in front and the original drivers seat with inflatable lumbar support. As some owners bought two to make one as original body panels are scarce and prone to rust they are becoming harder to find in good condition.
Worthy of the the classic car status? Well that”s up to you, I think so and will do all I can to keep mine on the road. I know it”s not a classic Aston Martin or Bentley car, but it has a certain beauty and charm which cannot be denied, it was and to some still is a London Icon. But most of all, and every owner agrees, it makes us smile, we smile when we look at them. We smile when we drive them. We even smile when we”re fixing them.
People smile when they see us pass (some also wave frantically for some reason). Some of my family and friends thought I was mad driving a taxi as a private car, but I can honestly say this car has been more fun than any we”ve ever had, ask my wife, daughters, friends neighbours and dogs.
Want to know more?
The new club is opening in October, for Private Owners and Drivers of FX4 Fairway and Fairway Driver Taxis with plenty of merchandise, members discounts, events and advice as well as games competitions, photo albums, live members chat, manuals, handbooks and of course, lots more Fairy Tales.
This article was written by the Fairway Owners Club and published by Emma Jones. Emma works for Trade Classics as an in-house journalist and copywriter and has many years” experience in the classic car sector. Why not write a reply on this article below – she”d love to hear your thoughts on her thoughts!Also, don”t forget to check out the classic cars for sale here on Trade Classics.Google
n.b. All images above have permission of owners and are attached separately as well as in the main body all Beryl Cook images on fairwayownersclub.com are by kind permission of Beryl Cook and used under written license to that site. Man under bonnet is Baconsdozen, a founder member and forum member and font of all Fairway knowledge. See his blog at http://www.baconsdozen.co.uk/londontaxi.html
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Categories: Classic Car Blog, Classic Car Chat, Spread the Love