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Claim's Cabbies Corner. UPDATE SOON

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As readers of the grumpy thread will already know I'm being forced by circumstances to return to driving a taxi for a living. 

 

The last time I drove a licensed vehicle was in 2006 so I thought I'd entertain you with a thread about the taxi shite I drove from 2000 to 2006.

 

The taxi trade and its associated vehicles fascinated me as a small child, a ride in a hack was always seen as a treat and the pleasure of sitting on an FX4 jump seat and watching the driver take us to our destination was always a joy to my nine year old self, watching him either stir the wand like gear lever and seeing the notices on the dash and their dire warnings about the dangers of not pulling off in first or on a double bonus trip the cab would be a column shift auto and have the Dyna tape notice on the instruments about never exceeding 40mph. The private hire trade were a totally different fascination though, they drove Mk3 Cortinas like there was no tomorrow and never ever washed them which was a stark contrast to the similar fleet of mk3's that the building business owned by my family ran, even a plastic wavy hand that a rep had added to his rear screen would result in a trip to Claim_Grandads office for a stern telling off. Private hire drivers seemed to live the perfect lifestyle of late nights, girls and trips to the bookies, all arranged whilst being able to understand the crackling voice on the other end of a Motorola two way radio. 

 

Anyway, back to the story. In November 2000 I was in need of work so I decided to realise my "dream" and become a private hire driver. Back then all I needed was a cleanish driving licence and the ability to pass a medical and written knowledge test and as long as your police check was reasonably clear you'd be on the road. I scraped through all of the above and was good to go, almost. I would first need a suitable car for this venture that had four seats and was under eight years old, sadly my Cavalier was just coming up to its ninth birthday so that was out which was a shame because the Cavalier was king of the taxis in my area as all the Sierras were now eight years old and forced to retire. I had to hire, or as it's locally known "settle"a car. I'd had friendly words with a local part time criminal and full time taxi specialist before I'd passed my tests and as he was helpful I thought I'd rent a car from him, I called in to see him and I had the choice between an M reg Escort Ghia 1.8i petrol, an L plate 405 1.6 petrol or an M plate 405 diesel, After careful consideration I agreed to hire the 405 dizzler for the princely sum of £70 a week excluding insurance which didn't bother me anyway cos insurance was available from the company I was going to work for anyway at £42.50.

 

I proudly hoped into my Pug and drove the couple of hundred yards to the taxi office to get my radio fitted, at this point the first problem appeared, the 405 was untaxed! I spoke to the car owner and he said it must of been stolen and not to worry about it, never mind, only a slap on the wrist if I'm caught so I went and got my set fitted. Now instead of a crackly radio my car was fitted with a data screen and GPS system that would tell me where I was to pick up and drop off so after reading all the twenty page manual I was ready to go. I dutifully logged on to the system and was given my first ever job. After the somewhat surreal experience of pulling up outside of someone's house, beeping the horn and a total stranger getting into the front of my car I was finally earning a living. Unfortunately the 405 decided it wanted early retirement, the back brakes would stick on if the car was stationary for more than a brief moment, the heater wouldn't work, the rack pissed out PAS fluid, to unlock the doors I needed to use pliers and as I later learnt it had been involved in a shunt and burned a front tyre out on a weekly basis. The rev counter never worked which wasn't a problem but when the drive from the gearbox to the speedo failed it was bad news, no speedo, no trip meter, no way of telling how much to charge. Fortunately that was sorted and I persevered with the 405 for a few months until I could afford a car of my own.

 

Enter the Vectra from hell! It was only three and a half years old and had a low mileage due to being subject to an insurance claim in the past when it was sideswiped by an errant Transit and other than squeaky nearside doors where it'd been hit it was at first glance a great little car, although it was petrol the fuel economy was fantastic and it's still probably the quickest 1.8 family saloon I've ever driven. I was a happy bunny for all of a week then the problems started. The handbrake failed, the drivers window only started working if you pulled the armrest in a certain way, the metal to rubber PAS pipe broke and was on back order from GM as apparently it was an inherent weak point and most importantly the gearbox died, not in a getting slightly crunchier over a period of time type of fail but a locked front wheels halfway around a busy roundabout type fail. As you can imagine the recovery of the dead Vectra was a total nightmare. I managed to get a second hand box from a scrappy but it seemed to be losing its synchro in third so I did the decent thing and cut my losses and sold the heap. Sadly this meant going back to a hire car so this time I asked around and went elsewhere to source a car, and this is how I ended up making history by being the last person in my area to use a Montego as a taxi.

 

It was an ex British Aerospace saloon with the turbocharged Prima diesel and did a spectacular 50 mpg whilst still managing to go like a bat out of hell, albeit whilst leaving a trail of black smoke behind it. The heater was pants, the thing had done nearly a quarter of a million miles, the headlining was sagging in the usual BL way but most  importantly in my opinion it lacked that crucial feature, power steering. This coupled with the usual piss taking from other drivers and customers alike about being seen driving a very unfashionable car was something of a drawback so I emptied my piggy bank and had a look at what was available for my budget.

 

Another driver had managed to secure a P plate FSO Polonez  for a small sum of money and was getting good service from the XUD engine fitted so I wasn't going to dismiss the idea of owning an East European and as luck might have it an FSO turned up at a local dealers and I scampered around to audition it. I could of lived with the stick on wood trim and even the lack of central locking but the biggest problem with it was the engine, it was a 1.5 petrol and not exactly the most frugal car you could run for your money. A Daewoo Espero was briefly considered but after the Vectra the thought of GM mechanicals was off putting to say the least but finally I managed to find something up to the job, an ex military police Mondeo Aspen diesel saloon, 160,000 on the clock with central locking, Transit instrument cluster but no electric windows. Abargain for a '98 model as it had had a small amount of damage in the past. I had the windows etched with the reg number and fitted the fire extinguisher as per council requirements and hit the road. Other than a snapped throttle cable I managed to bodge with Meccano it behaved faultlessly, even the punters liked it. All was well with the world and I was finally happy and spending 2002 doing what I wanted to do....

 

Part two to follow if anyone's interested.

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Absolutely....my first private hire vehicle was a 1980 Mazda 626 petrol, complete with very strong air fresheners, about 300k on the clock and of course the obligatory beaded seat covers. I'm convinced they were designed for cabbies who lived on a diet of garage pasties and late night doner kebabs to break wind surreptitiously whilst having passengers on board :-)

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Given your luck with cars during your last stint surely a Laguna diesel automatic will be the natural choice for your new taxi?

 

A fella I know ran a taxi company, purchased a brand new Sierra, gave it to the driver who drove out the yard and straight into the back of a truck. It was fixed(badly) and back on the road 2 days later.

It did something crazy like 250,000 miles in 2 years and was crashed about 5 times in that time.

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Yes, very interesting. I spent a couple of years part time minicabbing in the early 90's but as a poorly paid employed driver. (made more in tips than got paid)

Our steeds were 2.3 diesel sierras. reliable and economical but so bloody slow!!

 

I never ceased to be amazed at how taxis would wear out in ways "private" cars would not. I briefly owned a 1982 Granada 2.0 ex-newport taxi. The ignition lock was so worn a house key would start it. The steering wheel covering was worn away exposing the foam and metal core. I had to replace the entire interior, the stink of sick, beer,fags and B.O would have made a seagull retch.

Incredibly I still saw it being driven around 2 years after I sold it. 

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Great stuff.

I've never had the pleasure myself though me dad got given our old neighbors mk1 Cav ex cab years back as he needed shot of it in a hurry for some dodgy reason I never got to the bottom of. It was a great car.

A mate did the private hire thing for a few years not long back and I was thinking of him today when we hired a rug doctor to clean the minibus which was stinking of sick in typical post new years cab cleaning style.

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I remember someone in the mid 90's with a blue Astra mk2 - the thing I remember was the steering wheel rubber had been picked completely off!

 

Also getting bladdered at a free bar while working for Sony in 1997, getting a taxi home through the Mersey Tunnel, vomitting at the toll gate, doing a runner, and have the police chase me. I was told this, I can't remember a thing. That was in a Granada.

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Anyway, a bit about the cars driving the roads of my town around the Millennium.

 

The 406 was still a pretty new car and was somewhat aspirational to us drivers of older tackle and when someone on the firm bought one it was truly the object of desire at the base car park. Eventually the 406 went on to be the most popular private hire car in the area ousting the mid sized Ford from its perch after thirty years. The Xantia was seen as a cheaper alternative but drivers were put off by the witchcraft suspension system.

 

Some of the more unusual stuff on the roads were Rover 800s, Volvo 440s, Kia Rios and a BMW E36 328i Estate.

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Sweet! I've never driven a Taxi driver or been in the Private Hire business, but I have driven a few Private Hire cars to and from the workshop I used to (and sometimes still do) work at. Its an interesting story and knowing/dealing with a lot of taxi drivers, this gives me an insight into what they do.

 

It's been suggested to me in the past go become a Taxi/Private Hire driver, but I really cant be arsed with all the bureaucracy that surrounds it.

 

Whats interesting is the laws surround Private Hire vehicles. Seemingly you cant use a vehicle over 8 years old, but I've seen a couple of 16 year-old Toyota Carinas and a couple of Rover 600s still plying for trade. Fully licenced and plated up cars too.

 

I remember as a child when Fatha_Sterlings car was in for repairs, we went to his work in a Black MG Montego Taxi that belonged to a driver who lived on our estate in Telford.

 

A few years ago on the other, more posher side of my local area, there was a Red K-reg Rover Sterling sitting on someones drive, it was a Private Hire vehicle as it still carried the rear stick-on phone number, but it has since disappeared. I would have loved to have been a passenger in a Private Hire Sterling. I did get catch a lift in a Private Hire Rover 75 Estate recently, that was nice.

 

Speaking of 406s, there was a Private Hire 406s plying for trade around Halesowen around 2006/7. His car was White and bodykitted up to mimic the car heavily kitted-up Taxi 406 in the original French film 'Taxi'.

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My mate does loads of paint work for taxi drivers. They all seem to lease them from specialist taxi lease company's (Octavia's,  Berlingos etc) and they're all getting massively bummed by the lease companies when theyy're giving them back. They've got them for 2 years, the have 180,000 or so miles on them and they're picking them up on little scratches on the bumper and charging them fines for having holes with arials in them!

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During my fairly brief stint as co-owner of a minicab firm, our chaps (and a couple of laydeez, too) had your usual mix of VAGSHIT and Mercs. We had a few left-field choices, though: a Honda Accord 2.2 diesel, a minty Lantra 1.6 pez and a Hyundai Accent saloon. Some of the older drivers talked fondly of Bluebirds, JDM Camry diesel autos and of course the Montego Prima. Our eldest driver, James, first started taxiing in a Marina.

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I did a spot of private hire in 1998/1999 using a trusty Cavalier with the 1.7 Isuzu lump.   Must have put 50000 miles on it in that time, changed the oil every 5000 miles, usual service items and that was about it.   I remember being put out that i had to get a new clutch at about 180000 miles but really couldn't fault it.   Probably the best car i ever had.

 

I remember the data system for fares divided the city up in to different zones, no one would identify themselves as available in certain zones as you just knew it would be a shite fare with a drunken idiot or a quick run to pick up an eighth and straight back.   Some good fares, driving groups of 19 year old students wearing next to nothing was always a little treat.

 

Mostly cavaliers, vectras, 405s and 406s.   I remember one bloke had a E34 525, I always reckoned he just did a few hours to provide a cover for his real 'job'.

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Slightly off topic, but whilst engaged in Lightning Rod racing we sourced an ex-minicab Sapphire, with, at first glance 42k on the clock. The mileage was never going to be a problem, we only wanted the rolling shell, but on closer inspection of the mileometer, the last two numbers ie. the tens and units of miles had completely worn out. The car was an '89, this would have been '95-'96, and whilst stripping the shell we found the last mot certificate quoting the mileage as 285k. The MoT had expired by 3 months when we got it, so it had covered 57k during the last year of use. To say everything was a bit "loose" was an understatement.......

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My dad works as a cabbie in Nottinghamshire. Classed as self employed but hires car from the company. Insurance,servicing etc included and car gets changed every so often. Currently rocking around in a 56 plate ford tourneo. 320k on clock and i think its on its 3rd engine. started off in 1997in a g plate ford sierra 1.6 which at every bump or pothole the central locking would go nuts. That was replaced by a n plate vectra GLS 1.8. Temperamental alarm and electronics. Next in line was a p plate Mondeo Verona. I remember something about a part of wiring loom was damaged and when he went to start it,it just kept cranking over while the lights went mental and the horn kept beeping every 30 seconds. Good fun at half 10 at night. Tried removing battery terminal but nut wouldn't come loose. I think battery died before he hacked through the battery leads. A t plate Mondeo Ghia in a rather weird purple was next. Rather short lived as a 2.5 v6 with auto box didn't make for economical service. Didn't speak to him for a few years after that. Next i knew of was a 52 plate transit and the tourneo he has now

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This is a great thread.

I saw this in my local city a few months ago. I find it ridiculous that this is still working as a taxi at 27 years of age.  A petrol too.  I bet it's much more reliable than all the modern stuff though!

 

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I was just thinking a volvo 240 would make a great indestructable taxi, even if the fuel economy was a little shit.

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Tip-top thread, MOAR PLZ.

 

My uncle bought OTS 968R, a Ford Cortina MK4 1.6L or GL in 1987, red with beige vinyl roof for £350. It was an ex-taxi and was extremely worn out. I recall that selecting third gear caused a massive vibration through the transmission tunnel. Finally died in 1990 when the ball joint collapsed on the front suspension.

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When I was growing up working on shite, I often helped do jobs with my dad and uncle on a local private hire firms cars which were worn out mk4 and mk5 cortinas, my first "paid" job was on a 3 year old Sierra sapphire taxi when I was 13 the shockers were bolloxed, when the driver bought it up he was surprised to say the least to see a 13 year old lad waiting with tools and parts to do the job as he sorted the job to be done with my uncle, the driver left a very happy chap

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Still earning a living in Berlin:
alter-taxifahrer-1_34246428.jpg
 

PeugeotTaxe_20110604_001.jpg

 

764122d75f4410cdf6392f98198b915ev2_max_4

 

There are also surprisingly high numbers of /8, W123 and W124 Benzes still kicking about. This is similar in other German big cities. In Frankfurt there still is an Opel Admiral B, in Munich a Ford Taunus P7. Stuttgart is infamous for several ca. 1980 Oldsmobile Diesel taxis.

The record holder used to be Hamburg, where Germany's oldest cabbie recently retired at age 91. He was driving a 1928 Hanomag Taxi.

However, if you call a taxi in .de, you can expect a reasonably newish and clean dizzler Benz in RAL 1015 to show up.

 

800px-Taxis_at_EDDT.jpg

 

I never understood why in England I have to pay higher fares to be ferried around in substandard beaten up stinking worn out dirty shit and thus avoid it as much as I can.

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I was walking into town a couple of months ago when I came across a taxi that had caused a right foul up ouside the novotel on broad street. The driver of the Toyota Avensis was turning right into sheepcote St when his front left suspension decided to detach from the rest of the car, leaving him stranded broadside across the main road.

 

Too much bouncing your cab up kerbs will have consequenses.

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I would first need a suitable car for this venture that had four seats and was under eight years old

 

Was this personal preference or the rules? Just wondering as another poster showed a D plate OVLOV still in service?

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I've mentioned it before and still haven't managed to get a snap, but here in Barrow there is a bright red Merc 190 working as a cab, on an E prefix.  We also have at least one Saab (9-5 I think) and one Jag X-type, plus Rover 75s, a Honda Accord auto and a selection of Berlingos, Zafiras and other more usual suspects.  The Merc caught my eye for many reasons, not least its age.  I, like WTC, am familiar with the 8-year rule prevalant all over Merseyside, so anything older comes as a bit of a shock.

In Cyprus, at least 99% are Mercs, it isn't unusual to see w123 and w124 models lined up at the airport.  In a coastal village I've seen a fintail at the side of the road, still wearing a taxi sign, but whether it actually goes out working any more, I can't say.

There was a private-hire operator in Southport that would take you on with your own car, or supply a car for you.  It was easy to spot the company cars, they were white Lada Rivas.  For years!  They must have had a hundred or more, in batches.  I suspect they were worn out and thrown away quite quickly though, I don't think any of them made it to 8 years.

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Was this personal preference or the rules? Just wondering as another poster showed a D plate OVLOV still in service?

Each local licensing authority,usually the council ,has slightly different rules. In Milton Keynes ,where I've operated for 20 years, cars have to be under 7 years old when first licensed. But once licensed as long as they pass the plating test each 4 months they can go on for ever. I ran an e39 530d up until it was 9 years old for example.i think more people will run older cars longer as the tests ,which mirror an MOT start fIailing cars for things like tyre pressure monitors etc

 

 

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However, if you call a taxi in .de, you can expect a reasonably newish and clean dizzler Benz in RAL 1015 to show up.

 

 

I never understood why in England I have to pay higher fares to be ferried around in substandard beaten up stinking worn out dirty shit and thus avoid it as much as I can.

.

 

I think part of the reason is that in most European countries, cab drivers are seen as valuable members of society and the Government help ,with tax breaks,grants, low interest loans for drivers to buy new vehicles. Whereas here,we are seen as scum of the earth,dole scroungers, illegal immigrants working for cash in the Black Economy. How many people think that the episode of Minder where Terry worked as a minicab driver in an old A60 Cambridge,ducking and diving,shagging strippers and not having insurance, was a fly on the wall documentary that reflects the trade today ?

I'm not saying that the dodginess has gone completely ,but the licensing and enforcement by local councils,VOSA and the Police means that dangerous old heaps should be a thing of the past. The week before Christmas my car was checked at LHR T5 by VOSA and I was spoken to by a HMRC woman to check I was in the system.

Admittedly there were a couple of Previas with beaded seat covers being loaded onto tilt and slides though. The drivers sitting in the back of an Immigration Service Transit. I think they could have been from The North !

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I've mentioned it before and still haven't managed to get a snap, but here in Barrow there is a bright red Merc 190 working as a cab, on an E prefix.  We also have at least one Saab (9-5 I think) and one Jag X-type, plus Rover 75s, a Honda Accord auto and a selection of Berlingos, Zafiras and other more usual suspects.  The Merc caught my eye for many reasons, not least its age.  I, like WTC, am familiar with the 8-year rule prevalant all over Merseyside, so anything older comes as a bit of a shock.In Cyprus, at least 99% are Mercs, it isn't unusual to see w123 and w124 models lined up at the airport.  In a coastal village I've seen a fintail at the side of the road, still wearing a taxi sign, but whether it actually goes out working any more, I can't say.There was a private-hire operator in Southport that would take you on with your own car, or supply a car for you.  It was easy to spot the company cars, they were white Lada Rivas.  For years!  They must have had a hundred or more, in batches.  I suspect they were worn out and thrown away quite quickly though, I don't think any of them made it to 8 years.

Spencer&Gilbert autos ran the white rivas, they used to have 10 stacked up in yard as parts cars. Phil Gilbert was mates with my dad.

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I think part of the reason is that in most European countries, cab drivers are seen as valuable members of society and the Government help ,with tax breaks,grants, low interest loans for drivers to buy new vehicles. Whereas here,we are seen as scum of the earth,dole scroungers, illegal immigrants working for cash in the Black Economy. How many people think that the episode of Minder where Terry worked as a minicab driver in an old A60 Cambridge,ducking and diving,shagging strippers and not having insurance, was a fly on the wall documentary that reflects the trade today ?

It doesn't look like the trade is in any way bothered to shake off that image, rather to the contrary.

 

I'm not saying that the dodginess has gone completely ,but the licensing and enforcement by local councils,VOSA and the Police means that dangerous old heaps should be a thing of the past. The week before Christmas my car was checked at LHR T5 by VOSA and I was spoken to by a HMRC woman to check I was in the system.

Admittedly there were a couple of Previas with beaded seat covers being loaded onto tilt and slides though. The drivers sitting in the back of an Immigration Service Transit. I think they could have been from The North !

It looks like these measures finally show some effect up here. Last time they sent me a fairly clean Skoda Superb driven by a local.

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Whats interesting is the laws surround Private Hire vehicles. Seemingly you cant use a vehicle over 8 years old, but I've seen a couple of 16 year-old Toyota Carinas and a couple of Rover 600s still plying for trade. Fully licenced and plated up cars too.

 

Varies depending on where you are. Here, it must be no older than five years old when starting life as private hire and, in theory, no older than 15 years old in total. There's a 1995 FX4 (the only one I've seen here) plying its trade though, so I suspect special cases can be made if you buy the licencing office a tin of biscuits or something.

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