Though our name has changed over the decades, the core principles at the heart of our vehicles remain unchanged: purpose-built to withstand the demands of the job, focused on reliability, comfortable working conditions and the best passenger experience.
Today, the image of the ‘black cab’ is as synonymous with the UK as the Union Jack, Big Ben or red phone boxes. Proudly designed and built in Coventry - the heartland of the British automotive industry - each vehicle has always been specially created to meet the demands of their era. FX3 and FX4 combined an enhanced passenger experience with unrivalled dependability. Then we met the challenges of new environmental, safety and accessibility legislation with the Fairway, TX1 and TXII. Next, the TX4 helped the taxi trade meet the needs of 21st Century cities. Now, we draw on our rich heritage to combat global mobility challenges such as air pollution, noise and congestion with the TX, the world’s most advanced zero-emissions capable electric taxi.
Though our origin dates back to 1908, the origin of the expression ‘black cab’ really began with the introduction of the FX3 taxicab. To celebrate 70 years since the FX3 went in to service, we chronicle the most iconic taxis of the last seven decades.
Following its formal introduced at the 1948 Commercial Motor Transport Exhibition at Earls Court, London, the FX3 went in to fleet service. It featured a chassis and a 16hp, 2.2 litre petrol engine supplied by Austin and a pressed steel body built by Carbodies in Coventry. Sold in London by Mann & Overton, the cab was light and airy in comparison to pre-war landaulets, yet still ensured the privacy of its passengers with darkened glass in the small back window and no interior driving mirror.
The FX3 went on general sale in 1949, for £936 plus 33.3 per cent purchase tax. Its key selling point was its ‘enclosed-drive’ compartment – it was the first taxi with full weather protection for the driver, although it did feature an open luggage platform instead of a front passenger seat! Like all London taxis built since 1906, its turning circle of 25ft ensured the cab could navigate the tiny roundabout in front of The Savoy Hotel.
In 1954, a diesel-powered production version of the FX3 was introduced. Demand for this vehicle was driven by the unacceptably high fuel consumption of the petrol model.
Planning for the FX4 began in 1955. As development costs grew evermore expensive, the existing FX3 chassis was used as a starting point. The vehicle was fitted with independent front suspension from BMC's larger contemporary cars and with the Austin Westminster rear axle. The engine was the FX3’s 2.2 diesel, mated to a Borg-Warner automatic gearbox. Neither a petrol engine nor a manual gearbox option were offered. The FX4 was unusual for two reasons: first that a fixed windscreen was approved – until then, it was believed an opening windscreen gave the driver better visibility in the pea-soup London fogs. Second, and most important, it was the first production London taxi to have four doors, giving weather protection to both driver and luggage.
The FX4 was announced to the trade in 1958 and shown at the
Commercial Motor Show. It went on sale at £1,198 in 1959.
Over the years, several versions of the FX4 were introduced to further improve the vehicle. In 1962, a manual version was released. In 1968, the FX4 was given a facelift, known as the ‘new shape’ by those in the trade. The roof-mounted indicators were replaced by indicators mounted within the taillights and on the front wings. The battery trays were fitted with drainage channels – previously, rainwater had collected under them and in the space of a few years would rot through the metal and pour onto the driver's right foot! Under-bonnet soundproofing was fitted, making driving less tiring, which also helped with communication with passengers, as did a better design of interior partition.
In 1971, a new, 2.5 litre engine gave the FX4 much better acceleration and a top speed of over 70 mph. A special Silver Jubilee FX4 was produced in 1977 and presented to the Prince of Wales.
In 1982, the first of three models with Land Rover diesel engines was made. This was the FX4R, which was followed in 1985 by the 2.5 litre FX4S and in 1987, the luxuriously trimmed FX4S-Plus.
Released in 1989, the Fairway was the best-selling version of the FX4, and a vehicle which many still think of as the London taxi. Its name, actually taken from some special sports bodies for private cars that were built by the company in the 1930s, reflected many London cabmen’s love of golf.
The Fairway featured the TD Series Nissan engine, 2.7 litres, and was available both as a manual and an automatic. Three finishing packages were available: bronze, a basic model; silver, with a vinyl roof, sunroof and carpeting; and gold, with wood finish door cappings, headrests and heavy-duty carpet in the passenger compartment.
Wheelchair access was provided as standard – swan neck hinges were fitted to the nearside rear door, enabling it to be locked open in a 90-degree position, and the rear seat cushion could be folded up to allow a wheelchair to be manoeuvred into rearward-facing position.
In 1992 the Fairway Driver was released, with new front suspension, back axle and disc brakes. It also featured a split rear seat, allowing both a larger wheelchair to be accommodated and a passenger to sit on the rear seat. The manual version cost £19,912 and the automatic, £21,312.
The Fairway Driver 95 of 1995 featured detail improvements, including electric front windows as standard, a Clarion radio/cassette player, a finger-operated lock on the driver’s side of the sliding glass partition and red edging to the seats to aid partially-sighted passengers.
In 1997 the final Fairway was produced and presented to the National Motor Museum. At the same time, a new taxi. The TX1 took to the streets. An evolution of the Fairway, it featured a completely new body, but maintained the well-loved, traditional appearance of the earlier cabs. It took just 28 months to design and put into production, bringing saloon car standards of comfort, safety and refinement to the driver’s working environment.
The TXII incorporated a Ford engine in order to meet the emissions standards of the time. Additional improvements included a passive anti-theft system, fully integrated into the engine management system, and full width glass in the rear doors, which had restricted opening to reduce the possibility of passengers who wanted to avoid paying their fare by escaping through the window!
Introduced in 2007, the TX4 featured a more efficient
engine, updated design and suspension. There was no TX3 model - the TX4 was so
named because it was built to comply with the new Euro 4 exhaust emission
requirements. The TX4 featured in the closing
ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, alongside the Spice Girls, who performed standing
on top of specially prepared Fairways! Private
owners of the TX4 have included celebrity Stephen Fry.
The world’s first zero-emission capable electric taxi was launched in 2017. Designed, engineered and built in the Britain, its revolutionary eCity drivetrain enables zero-emissions urban operation, meeting the needs of cities and city dwellers alike.
Comfort is built-in as standard for both driver and passengers, with fast on-board Wi-Fi, ergonomic seating and stunning views of the city passing by through the panoramic sunroof.
The TX features an electric motor and petrol range-extender to maintain the charge in the battery pack, if and when required. The braking system harnesses energy that would usually be lost while slowing down, and uses it to recharge the drive battery. Even on pure electric power, the TX will go as far as 80.6 miles.
The vehicle is underpinned by a bonded aluminium body structure, a material 30% lighter than conventional steel. This choice of material is inspired by the lightweight chassis structures of British sports cars, and makes the new TX’s body stronger and lighter than any previous model.
Sophisticated driver assistance technology enables cabbies to negotiate the streets as safely as possible.
Known simply as TX, the vehicle is leading the charge for a greener future.