Tuesday, January 4, 2011


You want an acid test for a car? Put it to work as a taxi, that'll soon tell you whether it's well built or not. A lot of cars fail to make the grade, and in several cities companies have purpose-built ultra-tough cars specifically as cabs. And so my diecast collection has to have some cabs. I know there are many missing from the collection so far – no Mercedes cabs, such as the one I had a scary ride around Amsterdam in; and no Volga cab from Moscow, either – so here are just a few cabs from around the world, what I have so far.

As a theme for my cheesy dioramas, I thought a 'food' theme might be worth a try, as cabs spend a lot of their time either delivering customers to an eating spot, or picking them up from an eatery then taking them home. Of course I couldn't resist a few twists on that theme, so here goes.

Peugeot 404 Paris taxi, an IXO model. The wonderful thing about Peugeot taxis, apart from
being one of very few cabs with a Pininfarina body, is that they were almost identical to the
sedans sold to the public, and yet they toughed out life as a taxi without complaint. Though many
cabs had the normal 1.6 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, over time the majority of Pug 404
cabs used the 1.9 litre diesel engine, which first appeared in the 403 Peugeot. Roomy inside, with
comfy seats and soft suspension, the 404 was a great way to glide home from the brasserie.

In Morocco, the best way to enjoy fish is to buy it fresh from the markets then cook it at home
yourself, for lunch. Here, this Peugeot 203 cab is waiting while the customer haggles with the
fisherman down by the dock in Casablanca.

In Sydney, Australia, in 1957, life was simpler and eating out far less flash than it is these days.
Here, this Holden FE has stopped off at the famous Harry's Cafe de Wheels down at
Woolloomooloo, on Sydney Harbour. Here, the food fare is mostly meat pies, including the
'pie floater', a meat pie sitting in a dish of cooked, mushy green peas. An acquired taste. The Holden,
a GM car, was produced from 1956-58 and got along OK with its 2.3 litre straight six engine,
but as for going around corners and stopping it wasn't so hot. But it was tough and reliable enough.
The livery this IXO model wears is for the De Luxe Red Cabs, common in Sydney at the time.
Holdens have proved their toughness as taxis over many years.

All cabbies have to eat, and this classic black London cab, an Austin FX4, is pictured outside
the cabbie's favourite 'greasy spoon' cafe. This model is made by Welly. The FX4 was made from
1958-1997, and followed on from the Austin FX3, which some aficionados love even more.
But I wanted an FX4, as that's the cab I rode in on many occasions when living in London.
Depending on which year it was made, the FX4 could have had a 2.2 or 2.5 litre Austin diesel,
a 2.3 litre Land Rover diesel, or a 2.7 litre Nissan diesel. But it was almost always a diesel,
although some petrol-engined London cabs were made. But they wouldn't have sounded right.
Of course I had to include a Checker Cab from New York, and the imposing Eveready Diner in
New York is the place to park it, for a feast of burger and fries either for the driver or the customer.
Like the London cab this American car was a purpose built taxi that changed very little down the
years. Morris Markin, the owner of Checker Motors Corporation, did sell these cars to the public
(for example, this one as the A12 Marathon), but most of his sales were to taxi companies. Engines
varied from the early 3.8 litre side-valve six, through to 4.6 or 5.7 litre V8s, petrol Chevrolet
engines mostly. However, there was a 3.8 litre diesel engine option, an in-line four made by Perkins.

And now, for a brief video interlude courtesy of You Tube, what else could I possibly include at this point but the trailer for Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver', starring Bob de Niro? That reminds me. Haven't seen it for 10 years, must get it out on DVD again.

Finally, stretching the food theme a long way this time, but the monks at this temple in Bangkok
make the best satays, they're around the back. Parked out the front is the mighty Tuk-Tuk
of Bangkok and every crowded Asian and African city and town in the world, plus anywhere
else where space and money is in short supply. You can thank the Italians for the Tuk-Tuk, as
the original version was the Piaggio Ape, powered by a Vespa engine. Engines used to be 150,
200, 250 or 350cc two-strokes, depending on the model. These days the pollution from the
massed two-strokes has become a major problem, and many now have four-stroke engines
powered by LPG or compressed natural gas. Like the rattle of a London cab's diesel, I always
remember the putt-putt of a Tuk-Tuk in Thailand.

Well, that's the very modest and inadequate taxi collection so far. I'm definitely in the market for some more. Mercedes, Volga, a Citroen DS19, more Peugeots (a 504 from sub-Saharan Africa is what I want)... hell, I might even get another Holden if the right one comes along.

1 comment:

  1. You probably know this, but Altaya's Spanish site once had the entire IXO 1/43 taxi line-up. I think there were two to three dozen different models. I can't find it online anymore. It had Toyota Crowns (Singapore), Tuk-tuks, and everything in between.