Thursday November 22, 2018
On the 25th November 1958, the British Motor Corporation introduced its latest taxi and so here are 20 fascinating facts about the Austin FX4:
20) It is a myth that the FX4 was designed to comply with the legal requirement for a driver having to carry a bale of hay. This story probably evolved from the requirement for a Victorian cabman to have enough food for his horse’s midday feed aboard his hackney carriage.
19) The BMC did not envisage the FX4 having such a lengthy production run but the proposed ADO39 replacement was cancelled followed the merger with Leyland.
18) The FX4 did not have to be specified in black. After the Second World War many operators found that black was a practical colour, so there was little point in paying extra for another paint shade.
17) The Austin FX4 was the first London taxi with four doors; the earlier Austin FL1 was a “Hire Car” rather than a cab.
16) There was originally no rear-view mirror and the back window was tinted – this was to ensure a measure of privacy for the passengers.
15) Another pioneering development of the FX4 was that it was the capital’s first taxi with automatic transmission as standard. In practice, the Borg Warner system proved heavy on fuel and many drivers were unfamiliar with self-selecting gears. A four-speed manual box became available in 1961.
14) There was no sound deadening underneath the bonnet until 1968 as the Public Carriage Office (PCO) considered it to be a potential fire hazard.
13) The FX4 was initially sold in diesel form and a petrol engine was not available until 1962.
12) The earlier Austin FX3 remained in service alongside its replacement until the very late 1960s.
11) Naturally, the FX4 complied with the PCO regulation which stated that ‘The wheel turning circle kerb to kerb on either lock must not be more than 25ft in diameter’. As the story goes, this stipulation was introduced in 1906 so that cabs were able to navigate the small roundabout outside the entrance to the Savoy hotel.
10) Pre-1969 FX4s had their indicators mounted in the roof; they are known as “Bunny Ear” taxis. The PCO further stated that the driver should be have sufficient room to ‘give hand signals on the offside of the vehicle’ – which was still a common practice in the 1960s.
9) At the beginning of the 1970s, almost 100% of all London taxis were Austin FX4s.
8) A brake servo was not fitted until as late as 1976 – and even then, it only operated on the front wheels.
7) The Austin badging disappeared in 1982 when Carbodies took full responsibility for the FX4. That year also saw the introduction of the FX4R, which boasted PAS and a five-speed manual gearbox as standard.
6) The FX4S of 1985 had a 2.5 litre Land Rover power plant and the option of electric windows. It was also licensed to carry five, as opposed to four, passengers.
5) The FX4 was also offered as the FL2 Hire Car which had a front passenger seat and lacked the “Taxi” sign. Famous owners included Sidney James.
4) An Austin FL2 served as the official transport of the Governor of the Falkland Islands.
3) Sir Nubar Gulbenkian, the oil magnate, historian, multi-millionaire and all-round socialite, favoured coachbuilt FX4s converted by FLM Panelcraft as the ideal transport for cutting a dash in town. ‘"I wanted my taxi dolled-up, more comfortable inside and more distinguished outside, without losing its mobility’. After all, the Austin cab would ‘turn on a sixpence – whatever that is’.
2) The Fairway, powered by a 2.7 litre Nissan engine, was introduced in 1989. Three years later the Fairway Driver could be specified with air conditioning and, at last, it was equipped with disc brakes.
1) Fairway production ceased in late 1997.