Wednesday, October 30, 2013

And now, for something completely different: A thing of beauty is a Jim Thomas

We've had a lot of talk about a new purpose built Taxi for London. Manufacturers such as, Nissan, Peugote, Ford and Frazer Nash, have all shown interest in producing a new London Cab.

The only vehicle that seemed to comply fully with the conditions of fitness and looked ready to go, was the Nissan. Unfortunately the NV200 appeared to have dropped out of sight for a while after certain problems in New York with the "Taxi of Tomorrow". But finally it was given the go-ahead

Although it looks the part complete with turning circle and wheelchair access ability, many London cabbies seem disappointed with the size of the engine. Would a 1.5 petrol/deisel be powerful enough to get a full payload of 5 passengers plus luggage, up Highgate West Hill?

Truth is, the answer lies in the vehicles weight. What most drivers don't realise, it's been done before and quite successfully with the wonderfully eccentric Winchester cab which sported just a 1.5 lump.

But reports in the press today state the NV200T went into service in New York this October 23rd, powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine

When I got my badge in 1973, I like 90% of the trade drove an FX4. There were still a few old Beardmores around, plus 3 different versions of the Winchester Taxi. 
After I had been driving for about 6 months, the fellow I was renting my FX4 from offered me the chance to drive his Petrol/Gas Mk11 Winchester. Similar to this one below

Garages that sold LPG were few and far between in the 70's, so I ran the cab on petrol for most of the time I had it. The model I drove was manual and had a 1.5 ford Cortina engine which was an absalute dream to drive. 

The most amazing thing about the Winchester Taxi, although the last one produced was built over 41 years ago, if put on the road today, it would be more economical to run and less polluting than the any current model.

Below is a piece I managed to find online about the 9 years the Winchester was in production. 
Makes interesting readin.

In 1963, the Winchester MkI was the first taxicab to feature fibreglass bodywork. It was the brainchild of the managing director of Winchester Automobiles (West End) Ltd (a subsidiary of a specialist insurance group which had been formed in the late 1940s specifically to cater for the insurance needs of owner-drivers). 

The deisgn had been developed in consultation with a team composed of cab drivers, opertors and mechanics, with the aim of producing a design which would excel in all areas. The plastic bodywork, initially built by West Drayton-based fibreglass specialists James Whitson over a chassis constructed by Rubery Owen (best known for their classic “Rostyle” wheels), gave the cab two key advantages over the FX4 and Beardmore Paramount MkVII: lower weight and panels that couldn’t rust.

Originally launched with the same Perkins engine as used in the Beardmore, the launch of the MkII version in September 1964 saw this give way to the much quieter and brisker 1.5-litre petrol unit from the Ford Cortina, with the cab’s lower weight ensuring that performance remained adequate. From 1965 the bodywork was made by Wincanton Transport and Engineering (who also built milk floats for their parent company, the United Dairy Group), and MkIII version followed, with minor modifications.

In 1968, the Winchester MkIV appeared, with an all-new body design giving it a much more modern appearance. Chassis production moved to Keewest Development Ltd in Hampshire, who also carried out the necessary modifications required for it to accept the new bodywork (which was still produced by Wincanton). The Winchester MkIV remained in production until 1972, before the laws of economics proved it to be unsustainable, due to its pitiful 2% share of the market. Indeed, total production for all versions failed to reach 200 over the 9-year run.


1 comment:

DoctorBastardo said...

Awesome! Just need 1:76 scale model one now...
Great Blog.
By the way why anybody anywhere would think its a good idea to get rid of Londons famous black cabs is totally beyond me. To be honest a trick was was missed a decade+ ago when all the retro-futurist cars started appearing. Like the Mini, Beetle, Fiat500, Mustang, Dodge Charger etc etc. We could/should have had a mildly updated FX4. Stick a future proof duel fuel Electric/LPG system in and Bobs yer aunties sibling. If every Govt. since the 80s, and BMW, had not trashed the British car and lorry industry it could even have been designed and built here.
Also did no-one tell Boris the "Uber" was a word and prefix very much loved by certain chaps in Europe a little while back! Actually I bet he knew full well...