History of London Minicabs & black vehicles

London minicab history

Port of Old cab

The black vehicles have been an important part of the public
transportation system of London since several
centuries ago. Despite the introduction of other
forms of public transportation over the years,
such as the double-decker bus and the Underground,
they are still one of the most preferred commuting
options among residents and tourists in the British
capital today.

Their distinctive appearance and long history have made them one of the most recognizable symbols of London, and taking a ride in them can be considered an attraction in itself.

There were private hire vehicles in London as early as the 17th century, but these vehicles for hire came in the form horse-drawn carriages. To ensure the safety of passengers, the British government imposed the Conditions of Fitness in 1679, which required all vehicles to undergo inspection before they could ply their trade. These requirements were modified over the years, but they are still being enforced today by the Public Carriage Office in London.

The first motorized version of the London vehicles for hire was introduced towards the end of the 19th century. This electrically-powered cars was a 1897 Bersey, and it produced so little sound that it was nicknamed the “Hummingbird”. Due to its limited range, it was replaced by the gasoline-powered French-built Prunel in 1903. In the following years, many British and foreign auto manufacturers came up with cars that conformed to the Conditions of Fitness, including Renault, Vauxhall, Rational, and Unic. From 1930 onwards, all London black vehicles have been built by British manufacturers such as Morris, Austin, Winchester, and Beardmore. The best known among these taxis are the FX3 and FX4 from Austin.

The Austin FX3 was introduced in 1948, and it was 3-door vehicle with a 2.2-liter engine and manual transmission. One of the notable features of the car is its rear-hinged doors. More than 7,000 units of the FX3 were produced within a 10-year period, and the car was eventually replaced by the FX4 in 1959. The FX4 was largely similar to the FX3, but it had one additional luggage compartment door. It also featured fully hydraulic brakes and better instrumentation, as well as “bunny ears” turn indicators. The FX4 was renamed the Fairway after a local organization assumed responsibility of the production of the car. Presently, this organization still manufactures about 80% of all purpose-built cars for hire in the UK.

In 1987, the Fairway had a new competitor in the London black vehicle market. Metropolitan Cammell Weymann introduced the Metrocab, a modern vehicle with a fiberglass body, power steering, and disc brakes, as well as wheelchair access. Today, this new car holds the portion of the vehicle market that is not dominated by LTI. With a production period of about 40 years, the FX4 established itself as the second longest surviving British vehicle, behind the Land Rover. In 1997, it was replaced by the TX1, a completely modern car that continues its unique shape and many of its styling cues.
This new minicab provides better accommodations for driver and passengers, as well as wheelchair access.

The service life of London taxis is usually between 10 and 12 years. After retirement, they may continue to provide transportation service in other UK cities where taxi regulations are less stringent, or they may end up in the garages or showrooms of classic car collectors.

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