It’s not hard to figure out the reasons behind the apparent incongruent needs of a new second car and the big black monster that has sat in my garage for the last six days, largely immobile.
A second car for our family of four should logically be a daily driver, able to take the kids to school, and to occasionally drive clients to show them homes. It should be at the shallow part of the depreciation curve (cheap) and ideally economical and reliable (Japanese). Four doors are a must as is ample seating and probably something safe would be ideal.
Poring over craigslist and eBay day after day, three cars suggested themselves after the first week. One was a wholly inappropriate Rolls Royce Silver Spur, which even the seller said would probably not make the 200 mile drive back to Austin. The second was a 1994 Jaguar XJ12 – a beast of silver ladies, birds eye maple and a cheery fuel economy gauge which revealed a lifetime average of 6 luxurious miles to the gallon. The third was a newer 6 cylinder Jag which sold before I could make a move.
A week ago, discouraged, I was thinking of getting a truck from the Texas State surplus store. And then I saw it. A rare ad in craigslist. A rare ad anywhere. A 1967 London Taxi – the original FX4 black cab. For sale. For just $100 over my budget.
My brain went out of the window as I saddled up the minivan to investigate. I am not so dumb to buy a car I’ve never driven in the dark for the asking price. Normally. This was different. A car that had sat in a museum for 25 years. Or so the owner said. This was an icon, and my heart ruled my wallet and I agreed to buy it on the spot.
Picking the car up the next day involved a tow-truck. The owner suggested it, and I agreed, and about the time I got it into our garage, I realized that the only second car criterion it met was having four doors.
But dang, it’s iconic.
It has a 2.2 litre diesel engine – the same one they use in tractors. They are typically not shut off except for oil changes in the first 500,000 miles of use. It has a four speed manual transmission and suicide doors.
It’s 42 years old and weighs 3260 pounds and holds 5 people “comfortably” in the back. Compared to my 2008 minivan which seats 5 people “comfortably” in the back and weighs 4340 pounds. Progress eh?
I wanted this post to be about what an absolute spanner I was to buy the thing, but in trying to describe it, I can’t get past the word iconic, which brings me back to the original idea of this piece – why I did it.
Part of it is surely that I’m a terrible show-off and want to rail against the tediously bland sensible Japanese cars that people like me are supposed to drive. It’s hard not to get noticed when you’re driving a classic car that is as loud as a F-14. Then again it’s also hard to drive in more ways than one. It took a friend of mine 10 years to start his for example. (I know, in trying to be different, it turns out that someone I know in Austin has an identical one – out of only 2000 produced. In England. A long way away, where people drive on the left)
I think another part of it is that I’ve lived in Austin for just a hair over seven years, which is an awfully long time to do anything for one who practices as much inconsistency as I do. Call it home sick (though London isn’t home to anything more than memories, a few great friends and the best part of my twenties), call it ex-pat fever. Part of me wants to be recognized for not being totally American, and the FX4 is a great way of achieving that.
Even if it is only recognized in my garage. I fixed a few things, took a few pictures, showed it off a bit, and it appeared on the cover of a magazine. Here are the only cab photos I had before that. Then I sold it.
If you know anyone looking for a museum condition London Black Cab, I have unfortunately sold mine. The good news is that because I blog about taxis, occasionally people contact me and ask me to share their cabs for sale – like this other 1967 Black Cab.