Thursday April 4, 2019
On Sunday 31st March, Windsor was visited by an icon of British cinema. To a casual observer, the Austin 12/4 Low-Loader with Strachan coachwork was a wonderfully preserved example of the sort of taxi that you so often see in newsreels of London.
But for the many whose formative years were spent watching Carry On films (all right, mine), this was none other than “Peg 1” from Cabby.
And the appearance of this cinematic icon was just one aspect of the day, as residents and tourists alike performed double-takes at the sight of Austin FX3s and FX3s amongst the Vauxhall Vivaros and Nissan Jukes.
The event was the London Vintage Taxi Association's celebration of the 56th anniversary of Cabby, with cabs from far and wide exploring the locations.
It was rare for the Carry On producer Peter Rogers to roam far beyond Pinewood Studios and so much of the seventh entry in the series was shot around Windsor. Charles Hawtrey drove “Peg 1” around the Arthur Road roundabout, the Austin FX3s battle for fares with the Glamcabs in Datchet Road and by Riverside railway station while the thieves are pursued along Romney Lock Road.
For me, the morning commenced in true style, with the hailing of a 1959 cab. Of course, those of us who are devotees of British cinema of the 1950s and 1960s know that just by shouting ‘taxi!’ a black cab, probably driven by Sam Kydd, Fred Griffiths or even Sid James, will screech to a halt.
In 2019, flagging down a Beardmore Mk. 7 Paramount in the middle of Thames Street had a similar result, albeit a) without the ‘where to, guv’nor?’ and b) with crowds of tourists momentarily distracted from taking photos of the Castle.
The Beardmore was sometimes referred to as the ‘Rolls-Royce of taxis’, with Windover coachwork of aluminium panels over an ash frame and when the first models debuted in 1954, the motoring press heightened their steering-column gear-change system and hydraulic brakes. Naturally, there was sufficient headroom for a passenger to don a top hat
The open luggage compartment was also a reminder of the FX4’s pioneering role as London’s first four-door taxi. However, the sales manager of Beardmore once argued ‘it is only necessary to imagine a line of taxicabs at a big railway station being loaded with luggage. When the luggage platforms are open, this can be done quickly, but to have to open and close doors to load would greatly protract the process’.
At least the Paramount and the Austin FX3 had sealed driver’s cabins, unlike the ‘natural air-conditioning’ of pre-war cabs.
Of course, much of the talk throughout the gathering was about the Carry Ons - which team members were still with us, do any Glamcab Ford Consul Cortinas survive, plus discussions of the accuracy of the famous Jack Rosenthal play The Knowledge and of the “Minicab Battles” of 1961. There were also people donning masks of Charles Hawtrey or Sid James, which did result in the occasional startled glance from members of the public.
As the day progressed, there was a photo session at Windsor’s Great Park, to the visible amazement and delight of many a passer-by, the challenge to discover five different film locations and a meeting at the History on Wheels Museum. A further talking point was provided by one of the latest acquisitions by the LVTA’s James Selby-Weatherley – a police Wolseley 6/80.
The mere sight of this magnificent vehicle was enough to conjure memories of viewing countless 1950s B-features in which the bold Inspector would bring Harry Fowler/Sydney Tafler/Michael Medwin to justice. And, yes, the bell did indeed work.
In short, this really was a day to remember. Firstly, Cabby is my favourite Carry On so the chance to see “Peg 1” after decades of seeing the film aired on television meant a great deal to me. For some, the Steve McQueen Mustang is the ultimate in filmic cars but for others it will always be the Austin owned by Sid and Hattie. Secondly, the rally was a testament to the LTVA and its members who planned the routes, arranged the cabs and who devoted so many hours of their free time to ensure it was a complete success.
I have previously written about how clubs are at the very heart of the classic movement and this was yet further proof - with or without a 6d tip.
With Thanks To: James Selby-Weatherley and everyone at the LVTA - https://www.lvta.co.uk/