Is there anything more British than the black cab? No, of course there isn’t. Short of the Queen jumping into an Argos paddling pool full of tea, with Corgi armbands, the black cab is about as British as it gets. So why not own one?
You don’t need to be called Dave or Gary. You do not need to have ‘the knowledge’. You don’t even need a licence to be a taxi driver. You just need a few quid. The market is full of old black cabs that have been traded in for newer models. That means mere mortals like us can get our hands on one. And let’s face it, driving one of these as your daily hack is pretty much the pinnacle of British eccentricity, right?
When the idea of writing about a black cab popped into our head, we were thinking about the classic FX4. This is the car that defined the black cab image, despite not actually being the first. But first doesn’t matter, it’s longevity that carries the clout when it comes to earning your title as an icon. Longevity is what the FX4 had. The first ones rolled out of the Austin factory 1958, and despite the fall of Austin, the rise and demise of Carbodies and the creation of London Taxis International, the FX4 remained in production until 1997. That’s 39 years. That’s also impressive. Apart from perhaps a Morgan of some description, there are few cars that can boast a run like that.
Here’s a 1962 FX4, just so you know. Knowledge is power and all that.
The thing is, we’re terrible with years. We still think it’s 1998 and we will not be told any different. As such, we guessed that the ‘new’ black cab would be very pricey indeed. We were wrong. A thousand pounds will get you behind the wheel of your very own LTI TX1 or maybe even a TX2. No, they’re not imaginatively named. Yes, we will explain the difference. But before we do, we should probably explain what the LTI TX is.
The TX1 was the first taxi to take over duties in the Captial from the FX4. It was a tall order to come up with a new car, given that the cabbies were so besotted and in some cases, uncomfortably familiar with their FX4s. LTI had it covered though, by hiring a man called Kenneth.
Kenneth knew a thing or two about design. He’d designed cameras. And blenders. And the… um… Intercity 125 high-speed train. Right’o.
The TX1 was a clever design that still retained all the functionality of the FX4 without losing any of the charm and character. If you look at a TX1, you know what inspired it. There’s no grey area. It’s a black cab. It still has the driver sitting in a little perspex cube. It still has those fold-up rear-facing seats that you smashed your teeth off as a child. It still has the grab rails. The faint whiff of vomit. The big windows. It is still a black cab through and through.
Because of that, the cabbies of London welcomed it into their fleet in 1997, and while many were sad to see the numbers of FX4s thin rapidly, the consensus was that the TX1 was a worthy successor.
So what do you get? Well, you get five seats plus the driver, you get loads of luggage space, you get an incredibly tight turning circle (so it can navigate The Savoy’s entrance, don’t you know) and you get all the refinement of clattering down a cobbled street in a shopping trolley.
In the case of the TX1, you get a 2.8 Nissan diesel engine with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed auto. In the case of the 2002 to 2006 TX2, you get a 2.4 Ford Duratorq instead. Both are bulletproof, which is evidenced by the fact you’ll also be getting a car with about half a million miles on the clock. We are talking about a used taxi here, not a Nissan Micra.
So why should you buy one? Um,we don’t really know. We’re a bit weird, so we’d buy it and use it as our family car. We’d also make a point of driving through busy town centres on a Friday night just to annoy pissed clubbers. But that’s us.
Take the weirdness out of it though, and you’re left with a ridiculously reliable, practical and undeniably iconic vehicle. Why think inside the box when there are things like this out there? Parts are readily available, running costs are low, specialist insurers like our sponsor, Adrian Flux, will cover you without too much hassle, and you’ll get to drive something fun and quirky. And isn’t fun and quirky what we, the British, do best?