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Claim's Cabbies Corner. UPDATE SOON


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Part 2.

 

The local authority I answered to was/is Wirral Borough Council. Wirral is a place of stark contrasts, we regularly hold the Open Golf Championship and have areas of green belt situated around the multi million pound homes of Caldy and Heswall which are about as opposite to the areas of mass unemployment and plethora of council estates that surround the Birkenhead area as you can get, which is less of a town and more Europe's largest open prison, Birkonians were proud early adopters of the heroin lifestyle back in the early 1980s and haven't really shaken that tag off in the following thirty years. Wirral Borough Council therefore are a bit of a snooty bunch who like to keep a tight reign on the licencing of their public and private hire fleet and have some strange regulations which beings me nicely onto the subject of the Wirral Standard Arse Measurement. Due to spiralling fuel costs and the increasing availability of five door superminis W.B.C felt that they had to do something about the number of five door Novas and 205s that were being issued private hire plates and decided to invent the 15" Wirral arse requirement. Every private hire car was now required to be 45" between the rear door handles to be licensed thus driving the cheaper cars off the road.

 

Throughout my tenure as a driver several things have defined a decent private hire car. Back in the old days a car that was fitted with 165/70/13 tyres was always considered a good bet due to the easy availability of cheap used tyres. The Cavalier and Sierra were winners because you never needed to service them because if they went pop you'd simply spend a couple of hours chucking a scrapyard engine in and be back on the road. Diesels were until about 1992 treated with suspicion with only the obvious candidates from Ford and Vauxhall given consideration, if you were feeling brave then you may chance a BX without a turbo and one fleet owner did run half a dozen Renner 18s with decent results. One honourable exception was the Bluebird Dizzler, a car even now fondly remembered for its ability to keep on living and provide its driver with reasonable economy and plenty of toys. Petrol was king and even the Talbot Alpine and Austin Ambassador were common sights on Wirral's roads until 1994/5.

 

Every model has its ideal taxi spec and even certain popular models were best avoided, the Mk2 Cavalier estate was one such car because any sort of rear end knock would result in the car being off the road awaiting parts from Australia. Any CVH Ford whether Escort, Orion or Sierra was always to be avoided unless super cheap, ditto 1.3 versions of the Sierra or Montego as they simply wouldn't last a year of fully laden abuse but the Mk2 Cavalier was usually considered just about up to the job. The lowest trim spec acceptable for taxi usage wasn't down to owners preference or budget, but the lowest spec that had a trip meter fitted as mental calculations from the badly lit odometer would give you eye strain on a dark night. Back in the old days to plate a car you only needed a fire extinguisher, a second return spring on the throttle and a drip tray under the carb to pass an inspection and as long as your seats and carpets were free of tears and burns you were away. In later years W.B.C insisted on all licensed vehicles having their windows etched with the cars registration number, this was caused by hackney fleet operators swapping their least rusty FX4 doors around on inspection day. 

 

I'll lob part 3 up as soon as I've managed to remember all the fleet I've owned!

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Brilliant thread, it's been very interesting so far. Don't have any connection to the trade other than as a punter but the cars round here never seem to be that old. Things of note from recent years included an X-Type Jag and a Rover 75 so that gives you an idea how boringly average it is. I think West Lothian council now have a policy of all minicabs being disabled accessible now so most have either moved on to LTIs or those huge Peugeot based things.

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Throughout the years there's been a few noticeable absences from my local taxi fleet. British Leyland/ARG products although plentiful on the used market several examples never made it as a taxi, a Triumph Acclaim was never plated and only one example of its replacement Rover 213 made it onto the circuit. The Volvo 240 was considered expensive and thirsty ergo only a solitary 240DL was plated for a year and I can't remember a single example of a 340 being used as a taxi either. Although Talbot found fans with the Solara and Alpine only a couple of Avengers, both estates were worked and we were never lucky enough to have a Tagora taxi either. Rear engined Skodas weren't very popular due to boot space but we did have several Ladas and quite a few FSOs, the Polonez was particularly popular back in the early 1980s. The Renner 20 managed to find a few friends in both petrol and diesel guises but nobody was brave enough to risk a 30. Italian cars were pretty thin on the ground as well with a couple of 131s, a 132 and a handful of Stradas being the sum total from the land of pasta although one driver did persevere with a Croma CHT until its eighth birthday.

 

Today the fleet seems to lack the cars every other town seems to have, we've only a couple of Toyota Avensii plated and the number of drivers choosing the Skoda Octavia and Superb can't be more than 20 out of a local fleet of about a 1000 cars, maybe because the first drivers who bought Octavias all seemed to suffer gearbox woes which is a shame because the Favorit and Felicia had a pretty loyal following.

 

A strange anomaly of taxi driving is our insurance, yes it's FUCKING EXPENSIVE but one thing that doesn't affect it is what car you choose to drive, even the cheaper end of the insurance market don't care unless it's over a Group 17 so as long as a car has four doors, four wheels, less than eight years old and can pass the Wirral arse test then you could plate a grey import WRX or Evo and be king of the cabbies.

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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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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 !

 

I've noticed on various trips abroad, and the pics here show, that many countries try to unify their taxis by colour if not make. One place I've seen they are all white with a black bonnet, it seems Germany are beige and so on. Why this isn't the case here I'll never know. It gives taxis an identity, easily spotted and obvious. Not doing so just adds to the 'anyone in a motor willing to drop you off' notion rather than identifiable, professional looking taxis which just by sight you know what it is and is trustworthy. Makes me wonder who it benefits really, by not doing so?

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Junkman, are all those white German taxis the equivalent of our Black Cabs (ie they can ply for hire.) To be fair the Birmingham Black Cabs, mainly TX1s or Peugeot van conversions although there are still one or two Metrocabs still working, appear pretty well maintained and immaculate inside and out; it's the private hire minicabs (booking only) that are the scruffy Avensis and Octavias with an interior like an air freshener factory(wasn't a taxi spec octavia with SDI engine available until fairly recently?)

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That Volvo 240 is bloody amazing to see, respect to the owner for keeping it going so long.

 

I actually looked at the Southend on Sea Borough Council regulations for taxis and private hire cars a while back and there are no age restrictions on cabs. Which is a shame as the town is full of Octavias and TXII's. I always thought it would be fun to run my black Austin Cambridge as a taxi, although I suppose the problem with running something like that is that if something breaks you can't easily get the parts and the car could be off the road for a few days, losing money. 

 

I do think something like a Bluebird, Sierra, Cavalier or Montego could still be used quite easily by a taxi driver today. Yes they would probably cost more to run than a VAG TDI, but the amount you'd save in taxi hire costs or the purchase price of a newish VAG must surely make it worthwhile.

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That Volvo 240 is bloody amazing to see, respect to the owner for keeping it going so long.

 

I actually looked at the Southend on Sea Borough Council regulations for taxis and private hire cars a while back and there are no age restrictions on cabs. Which is a shame as the town is full of Octavias and TXII's. I always thought it would be fun to run my black Austin Cambridge as a taxi, although I suppose the problem with running something like that is that if something breaks you can't easily get the parts and the car could be off the road for a few days, losing money. 

 

I do think something like a Bluebird, Sierra, Cavalier or Montego could still be used quite easily by a taxi driver today. Yes they would probably cost more to run than a VAG TDI, but the amount you'd save in taxi hire costs or the purchase price of a newish VAG must surely make it worthwhile.

The main problem with running older cars is other peoples ie your customers perceptions. My business is slightly different in that I only do airports and long distance work,but the average customer who gets a new company or PCP Audi or Merc every 3 years thinks that old= unreliabilty. The reality as we know is often to the contrary , but they'd still not be confident of you turning up at 04.30 for a 100 mile trip to Gatwick if you were driving a car worth less than their sunglasses!

I've experienced this myself a few years ago when a good customer asked me if I could get someone else to pick up an important client because 'I know your old BM's ok , but it is an old car now isn't it!' This was my immaculate 03 e39 in 2009.

On the other hand you're never going to get much extra work getting strapped up for new S Classes etc, the sensible middle ground is 3-4 year old Octavia/Avensis for general work and EClass/ A6 for airports.

I have a customer who drives a Phantom every day and a SWB 250 California in his Marseille garage, he's not going to be any more impressed by a £50k Audi A8 than a Skoda Superb. In fact he often mentions how nice the ride was on a V reg Volvo S80 I had years ago compared to the M spec BM's and a Merc I've had since.

The one area that old cars can come into their own is weddings, not emulsion Shadows but any old large saloon , JagsRovers, DS' etc they don't have to be licensed and £2/300 for 2 hours on a Saturday is nice work if you can get it.

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I remember when loads of taxis were petrols, hardly ever see them now, assuming its because 15-20years ago petrol was so cheap cabbies didn't see the point of an extra £1200 for a diesel car.

 

I've noticed there's hardly any Vauxhall taxis either, you always had Carltons, mk2 Astra estates, Belmonts, Cavaliers, Omegas and Vectras, even the Vectra C despite being utterly shit (from first hand experience of my old man running one as a taxi) was quite common but since they brought out the Insignia and stopped making Vectras you hardly see vauxhall cabs now, Skodas took a nose dive round here for a while, they did make the original shape until 09 in TDI Classic spec alongside the newer shape but once it was just th newer shape most cabbies took a while to take to them with only recently the newer shape ones becoming common.

 

A lot of the drivers round here now run the Seat Toledo/Skoda Rapid which have decent boots but space in the back is rubbish, and they run 1.6 TDis which IMO aren't big enough engines for taxis, and it seems cabbies are all like sheep, one driver bought one and the rest followed, best thing a car manufacturer could do is give a handful of taxi drivers a free car to use, if it was good they'd tell all their pals, good publicity then they'd sell a shitload of them.

 

In the Glasgow area the drivers who don't buy their own car from a dealer all go to The Taxi Centre at Glasgow airport, its just an office building, they don't have any cars or a showroom, they buy cars from the main dealer then sell them to drivers, they always send my dad leaflets advertising like Octavias and Avensis for £62.99 plus vat per week so not sure if that's on HP finance to buy th car outright or if that's contract hire/lease.

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Junkman, are all those white German taxis the equivalent of our Black Cabs (ie they can ply for hire.)

 

All taxis in .de can ply for hire and all of them are required to be RAL 1015 in colour. Most of them are just foiled for resale value, but if you order a car with 'taxi package' from the factory, the car will automatically come painted in that colour.

You will need a special permit to run a taxi that's still black, which they all were required to be prior to 1971, when it was changed to beige. I remember that for a few years there was a gradual take over of beige vs. black taxis and by the mid-seventies there were hardly any black taxis left. If you spotted one by 1980, it was considered a luck bringer, like seeing the chimney sweeper, or finding a four leaved clover.

However, this is weakening up, since some states now allow you to run your taxi in any colour you like, but a federal legislation of this is still pending.

You must also have the standard black taxi sign with yellow letters on the roof, crosswise to the direction of travel, which must be illuminated when you are ready to take on a fare, and the standard yellow sticker with your permit number in the back window.

 

In Germany, a taxi is a taxi is a taxi, there are no different categories of them.

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In the mid '80's I was a student nurse at a hospital in London Colney. I used to hang round with the girlie general nurses and we used to go to Edgware and so on. This one evening I was driving my '78 2.0 Granada (silver and blue with the bonnet painted dark blue) through Shenley approaching a very sharp R hander near a pub when this drunken bird ran out into the road and tried to flag me down. How I never killed her I'll never know but as I drove off I realised the taxi's in St. Albans and locally all had black bonnets and boot lids. She obviously thought I was a taxi and would stop for her. Stupid cow.

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As a quick diversion I thought I'd ask my knowledgeable fellow shiters what they thought of this;

 

post-3910-0-72707000-1389310272_thumb.jpg

 

First registered 1/9/07 so I'd get until it's eighth birthday plus a six month "beggars plate" taking me up to March 2016.

 

160,000 miles.

 

£2000 before negotiation.

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2007-SKODA-OCTAVIA-1-9-TDI-PD-Classic-/370922319579?pt=Automobiles_UK&hash=item565cb16edb

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There used to a metric tonne of Toyota Carina II taxis here in the West Midlands. Then the Avensis became a popular choice. However, now the choices have panned out to all sorts of different cars. I've been a passenger in a Rover 75 Estate, Peugeot 406, VW Passat TDi, Suzuki Liana, Vauxhall Vectra Estate, VW Sharan TDi, Toyota Avensis, BMW E60 5-series, Citroen Xantia etc...

 

I've seen; A Rover 45, Rover 600, Toyota Prius, Volvo S50 (which I drove whilst at the garage) VW Golf TDi, Mk3 Ford Mondeo, a couple of Proton Wiras, Hyundai Getz, Mercedes C and E class, BMW E46 3-series, some Skodas, previous shape Vauxhall Astras, lots of Toyota Previas and the Saab 9-3 etc....

 

A real variety. I guess most drivers will take whatever suits thier budget, image and something they might feel comfortable sitting in for long hours.

 

Oh yeah, and here is a pic of that former Private Hire Sterling that used to live a few streets from me:

 

SterlingnearHarborn2.jpg

 

Unlicenced since April last year :( I should have knocked thier door....

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All taxis in .de can ply for hire and all of them are required to be RAL 1015 in colour. Most of them are just foiled for resale value, but if you order a car with 'taxi package' from the factory, the car will automatically come painted in that colour.

You will need a special permit to run a taxi that's still black, which they all were required to be prior to 1971, when it was changed to beige. I remember that for a few years there was a gradual take over of beige vs. black taxis and by the mid-seventies there were hardly any black taxis left. If you spotted one by 1980, it was considered a luck bringer, like seeing the chimney sweeper, or finding a four leaved clover.

However, this is weakening up, since some states now allow you to run your taxi in any colour you like, but a federal legislation of this is still pending.

You must also have the standard black taxi sign with yellow letters on the roof, crosswise to the direction of travel, which must be illuminated when you are ready to take on a fare, and the standard yellow sticker with your permit number in the back window.

 

In Germany, a taxi is a taxi is a taxi, there are no different categories of them.

 

/\ what he said. When I was posted over there, I picked up a mid-70's W114 220d ex cab for a few quid. It was still in beige and all they had done was remove the taxi stuff and put black rubber bungs in the holes. 250,000km on it and I ran it for two years with just a set of tyres as expense. even put it round the Nurberg with four semi-pissed squaddie mates in it, I believe we posted the slowert time of 1996 that day.

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In Medway the latest weapon of choice are white Toyota Prius,mostly driven by our friendly Asians.

 

I have no idea if its a local council thing or just a good deal to be had somewhere as the indians are no mugs where money is concerned.

 

Been to a few that refuse to run after changing a flat tyre,when the spare is lifted out of the boot its easy to knock and disconnect the bright orange 12v power plug from the hybrid battery pack shutting it down and giving you 12v power only.

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From extensive research of your posts in this thread,it's unlikely to be a Skoda or Avensis . I'm going with what looks to me the cheapest way to put a viable cab on the road these days and say Mondeo- nasty 1.8 TDcI's Edge's appear to be worth feck all at 3 or 4 years old and should make good workhorses. These come with Poundshop wheeltrims from the factory ,as a bonus.

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