Fairway Road Tax

Percy’s road tax ran out today, so it was time to renew the tax disc. Luckily, it’s a fairly easy and painless process to do in the UK. I received the reminder letter from the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) two weeks ago and with that reminder there was a reference code, which you just enter into the website http://www.gov.uk/taxdisc

The Fairway Driver is listed under the manufacturer Carbodies and tax class is private/light goods with engine capacity over 1549CC, making the cost of renewal for 6 months £123.75 or for a full year £225.

I did contemplate getting just the 6 months but thought there wasn’t much point renewing again when we can always get a refund if Percy doesn’t make it through the year (fingers crossed he does).

This has got me thinking about the running costs for our ex London Fairway taxi and it dawned on me that we probably pay more to keep him stationary on the road than we do for driving him around. I was curious to know if this was the case and if so, how much does it really cost to keep an ex London Fairway Driver taxi running.
Note to self, do these sums BEFORE you decide to buy a car.

The parking permit to have the pleasure of parking somewhere on our road or the road behind if you’re lucky, or sometimes several roads away if you’re unlucky, costs £115 a year. MOT costs £54.85.
Classic car insurance for a Fairway Driver for 3000 miles a year in the NW8 area costs £220 fully comprehensive including roadside assistance.
Assuming average diesel price for the year is £1.50 per litre and that Percy does 6 miles per litre then diesel costs for the year are roughly £750 per year.

Road Tax – £225
Westminster Parking Permit – £115
Classic Car Insurance from Peter Best (NW8 postcode) at 3000 mile limit – £220
MOT – £54.85
Estimated servicing costs and parts (doesn’t include the ‘upgrades’ we’ve bought Percy so far) – £100
Diesel (for the year) – £750
Grand Total – £1464.85
Pleasure of owning Percy – Priceless

To put this into perspective… if we were to do 3000 miles in a Hertz on Demand car club car it would cost roughly £1750, based on 65 days of hire a year and although we moan that we sometimes have to walk to the road behind the flat to find Percy, the nearest Hertz on Demand car is a 10 minute walk away so Nina would never be able to drive to school for those early morning meetings twice a week. Maybe the sums do add up after all.

The rabbit is an optional extra…

Rabbit in Fairway Driver rear shelf

could have told me this patch was fake!

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Fairways and Tattoos

We first came to the conclusion of buying a used London taxi and specifically a Fairway largely because of the convenience of having our own car and the low cost (of the car and the insurance). Nina decided she wanted a car and I gave in so long as it was cheap. Being a major supporter/benefactor of the London black cab trade with her frequent journeys in black cabs, she suggested a TX4… and I said the Fairway (cause it was more iconic…and cheaper).

Then came the realisation for both of us of the charm of the old Fairway model, which quickly turned into pride when we finally owned Percy. However, the thought that it could be ‘cool’ in the slightest didn’t even enter our minds when we first went to see Graham, who sold Percy to us. In fact, all my friends thought I’d gone mad, and just plain tight with my money.

However, recently, Nina has been told she’s very cool for owning a taxi several times now as she steps out in car parks or petrol station forecourts. I on the other hand have just had funny looks (I have yet to see a Chinese cabbie come to think of it) and people wanting to hail Percy and I.

When Nina was driving to Marble Arch during the Cabalcade three motorcyclists pulled up at the lights next to Percy and asked Nina for directions and told her she was the prettiest taxi driver they’d ever seen, but she failed to tell them she wasn’t a cabbie and I know she had in fact unwittingly sent them towards Hackney in the opposite direction to Brighton! I was a little too comfortable in the back seat to move my arm to open the window and shout directions through their helmets before the lights turned green.I’m sure they had a nice day in Hackney though.

Fairway Driver St. John's Wood

Another time, Nina drove to the gym in Chiswick Park, reverse parked Percy and got out to go inside when a man in his mini did a double take and told her she was ‘the coolest lady ever’ (I quote). I’m not sure that was the intention of the LTI designers when they made the Fairway Driver, in fact, I’m sure they just raided the parts bin of every other British manufacturer at the time and saw what they could put together. Lovely as the Fairway looks, it’s not exactly your E-Type Jag, but I guess unusual is now somehow cool.

Nina’s colleague at work was in disbelief after his questioning about whose old taxi was in the staff car park led to Nina. He said that’s exactly the quirky attitude that rebels from the expected that he wishes he had, and that she had inspired him to get a tattoo… I’m not sure owning Percy and getting a tattoo (when you’re over 50) are quite the same though, but it does remind me that his front wing needs a little paintwork.

Well, I’m yet to be told I’m cool, but I have a funny feeling that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Not when I drive around in Percy with my leather gloves, flat cap and corduroy jacket. Yes, I am going on 70 before I’m 30.

Day out in Medmenham

We decided to visit The Royal Oak pub in Paley Street near Windsor for a belated birthday meal for Nina.

It was a relatively warm day, well for the UK anyway, given the unseasonably cold weather we’ve had recently. Percy’s black paint really does help absorb the heat. So, on the way, Nina decided she wanted some window open in the passenger compartment. However, on a slightly bumpy stretch of the A4 leading onto the M4, Percy decided that he wants the windows closed instead and promptly shut them himself! A very neat trick indeed. However, from this we did find out that you can’t lock the windows open in our Fairway, only lock them shut. And I use the term ‘lock’ loosely. So, we’ll have to put up with self shutting windows over bumpy roads.

The Royal Oak is a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by the famous TV personality Sir Michael Parkinson and his son. In fact, we saw Sir Michael Parkinson in the restaurant while we were waiting for our main courses. He looked like a very cheerful and happy man. We did wonder whether he’d have a photo with Percy, but thought against asking.

As Mimi the rabbit didn’t come with us to the Cabalcade and we’d just gone to visit Nina’s parents for the weekend without her, we thought we’d bring her along with us on this trip. One of the advantages of a huge passenger compartment in a Fairway Driver is that it could be used as a temporary rabbit pen!

Mimi was given her toys, litter tray, water and food in Percy and waited very patiently for us to have our lunch. I checked on her every now and then and she looked very happy in Percy’s spacious passenger compartment.

Rabbit in Fairway Driver passenger compartment

The food was scrumptious…

Nina had the Gloucestershire Old Spot pork belly with mushy peas (a surprisingly perfect match) and I had the lamb cutlet and braised shoulder with cabbage, broadbeans and mash. We finished with a baked Alaska and an apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream.

The service was also impeccable. They remembered that I had booked the meal for Nina’s birthday lunch and they served us petits fours with our coffee with ‘Happy Birthday’ hand piped in chocolate on the plate, which was a nice touch.

Happy Birthday Petit Fours

We can highly recommend the pub, with its sunny garden and comfortable interior. It offers top class food without any pretense or pomp. After lunch we decided to go for a walk along the Thames in the village of Medmenham. Mimi came with us this time and looked like she thoroughly enjoyed exploring, after a cautious start.

We took the opportunity to take a few photos of Mimi and Percy together.

Rabbit on bridge with Fairway Driver background

Rabbit on Fairway Driver bumper

By early evening, the wind started to pick up and the temperature dropped so we decided to set off home at 5.30pm. I thought we’d be stuck in rush hour traffic, but of course they were all heading out of London, so we had a very easy run back home. Nina was sound asleep laying across the back seat, with Mimi perched on her shoulder. It was a rather funny view from the rear view mirror. Not sure many drivers of a Fairway taxi see that very often!

Percy drove very smoothly. His temperature gauge did show he was a little warm (slightly over half way) on the climb up the steeper sections of the M40, but he soon cooled down. I may just top him up with coolant over the weekend to make sure he doesn’t over heat.

Fairway Ailments

In case anyone thinks that we have miraculously stumbled across an immaculate old ex London taxi without fault, I thought I’d list a few of Percy’s current… ailments, shall we say.

Percy has a quirk with his speedometer, which bounces from 30mph to 90mph (that’s rather ironic as he can’t do 90mph!) when he’s cold. The problem soon goes once he warms up, but I suspect his speedometer cable is on it’s last legs and will need to be replaced soon. It makes going through speed camera zones early in a journey rather interesting, but luckily we have a sat nav that also displays our speed. If we ever get pulled over and the Police Officer asks “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?” we will honestly have to reply “No officer!” Interestingly, Percy seems to think he’s travelling a lot faster than he really is. 65mph on his speedo is in fact around 58mph according to the sat nav. I know all cars build in a buffer but I think Percy is a little optimistic.

The passenger side windscreen wiper had also stopped working, due to the grooves in the wheel of the wiper body having worn smooth. That meant that the wheel was moving inside the wiper arm, rather than moving the wiper arm itself. So we’ve had both wiper bodies replaced with new ones, costing £15 each. Wiper blades are now fully functioning.

As previously mentioned, Percy doesn’t leak anywhere inside (that we can see anyway) at the moment, but his rubber seals are starting to age and harden, given he is parked on the road without any shelter. So we’re going to replace the seals that we can do easily, but for those that we can’t (such as the front and rear windscreens) I’ll have to try to add some sealant, especially on the rear windscreen between the rubber seal and the vinyl roof. Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before it starts raining inside.

I have also in my haste cut the wiring for Percy’s horn, so he’s now less vocal on the roads than he was before. This mistake happened when I was fitting the new front foglight switch to the dashboard. In order to do this, I had to remove a ‘dead’ switch with a red light, and it had a wire leading to it, which I erroneously thought was useless, but I now suspect was for a security alarm system perhaps (hence the horn). So, I’ve got to reconnect those wires at some stage, as he certainly won’t pass an MOT without it.

So, we’re going to have to stop treating Percy to many more ‘upgrades’ for now, even though they weren’t too expensive (£60 total for radiator grille and Lucas Spotlights), but given his age, aforementioned ‘quirks’ and the visible rust patches, we’re saving up for emergencies to keep him alive.

Having said that, I may have just inquired about a wooden steering wheel…..and maybe a chrome fuel cap.

Fairway Drivers in a line Marble Arch Cabalcade

Where can we find a taxi round here?

Cabalcade 2013

The day began with the alarm sounding at 7am, a slice of toast and a large mug of tea on a beautiful Sunday morning. Then I was off outside to Percy with some Super Resin Polish from our Auto Glym cleaning kit. He had been washed, dried and vacuumed inside on Saturday evening at the local hand car wash, but I thought he deserved an extra polish for his big day.

At 8.30am, a very shiny Percy set off to Chelsea Harbour for the start of the Cabalcade. We first drove into the area reserved for only the eldest and shiniest Austin FX4s, so we quickly u-turned to find our spot amongst the more ‘modern’ Fairways.

We received our goody bag and breakfast voucher before checking out the other taxis taking part. I was glad I got up early to give Percy a polish, so he could hold his head high amongst his Fairway friends.

Fairway Drivers Chelsea Harbour

-Percy and friend

We were delighted with the goody bag, containing a special commemorative number plate, mug, key ring and briefing pack.

Commemorative Cabalcade Licence Plate

We were then given our briefing. Must obey usual traffic rules, drive with your headlights on, try to stick to the planned route… this was made a lot easier by the incredibly clear and detailed maps and instructions provided in our pack… organiser Gary had obviously put a lot of effort into planning the day.

For the first leg of the tour we managed to stay in convoy with the 47-or-so others, following the last ever Fairway to be licensed. I received a text message from a friend whose flat we passed en route, saying he had seen some vintage taxis passing that we would have liked… he was amused by my reply that we were one of those passing taxis! Our first stop was at a taxi shelter in Grosvenor Gardens, Victoria. It was quite a privilege to be able to go inside the shelter, which is normally for cabbies only. It was rather cosy inside, but I was assured 12 men can squeeze in comfortably. After some pastries and tea over chats to other cabalcaders about the highs (and lows) of Fairway ownership, we set off for the next part of the drive.

Fairway Drivers outside Grosvenor Gardens Cab Shelter

-Now, where did I park Percy?

We battled past the hoards of tourists outside Buckingham Palace and crossed the river Thames via Lambeth Bridge to our next stop at the Public Carriage Office on Lambeth Road. Here a slight mishap occurred, when an over-zealous driver reversed into Percy and their bumpers became attached. Three grown men standing on Percy’s bumper and jumping a little managed to dislodge him unscathed. We then had the treat of an informative talk from taxi historian, the authority on Percy’s past, Bill Munro…author of The FX4 Enthusiast’s Manual and The Full History of London Taxis.

Back on the road, we made our way to another Public Carriage Office in Penton Street. Snap-happy tourists on Westminster Bridge seemed please to be treated to a whole convoy of the iconic taxi, probably for the last time.

Fairway Drivers crossing Westminster Bridge

At the Penton Street Public Carriage Office, we were given an interesting and entertaining insight into a cab driver’s life by Alexander Kennedy.

Three Fairway Drivers Penton Street

-Percy and friends waiting patiently…don’t mind the double yellows, its Cabalcade!

The final stop-off was at the London Taxi Company showroom (previously Mann and Overton) on Brewery Road, Camden. After some welcome refreshments we enjoyed two great talks. The first was from Lord Jamie Borwick, who spoke about the history of the now defunct factory and rightly pointed out that it is the Fairway model that is the enduring icon of London taxis, despite now being outnumbered by the TX models. For media appearances it is always the Fairway that is in demand… it was the model used for the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony after all. The final talk of the day was from John Mason, who rightly said that whoever manufactures the next London taxi would be unwise not to look to the past for inspiration.

London Taxi Company Brewery Road Showroom

Nina took the wheel for the final part of our journey, in which we got slightly separated from the convoy due to heavy traffic. We made our way down Marylebone Road and circled Marble Arch three times before being beckoned in to park up alongside the others. Nearly 50 FX4 and Fairway taxis made quite a sight parked up under the imposing archway.

Fairway Driver Bronze Advantage parked Marble Arch

We had the most pleasant of surprises that Nina’s parents had come to see us at Marble Arch, but Percy also had his own special guest, all the way from France. It was ‘khabi2011’, a regular follower of Percy’s blog. Thank you so much for coming by to see us, we hope you enjoyed the day half as much as we did, and good luck with your two Fairway Drivers!

Percy actually ended up being quite an attraction as he was parked right at the front, where people were walking through from Hyde Park. I lost count of how many photos he was in, and it gave Nina and I huge pleasure seeing so many smiling faces, from toddlers to the elderly, next to Percy in photos that will be in their memories for years to come. It was great to see so much appreciation for the taxi model that we love so much.

Fairway Drivers parked in Marble Arch

It was an exciting moment when the last ever Fairway off the production line arrived, on the back of a tow-truck as it isn’t driven (proven by the 11 miles on its speedometer, making Percy’s 458,000 seem rather impressive, enough to make it to the moon and back).

Last Fairway Driver produced

-Spot the appropriate number plate of the last Fairway produced

After presentations and speeches we were left with mixed feelings, of sadness that the iconic Fairway will no longer be licensed, but also of pride that we and the other members of the LVTA are dedicated to keeping their legacy alive. The care and love invested in their upkeep was evident from the immaculate examples on display at the Cabalcade. It was a fantastic day, thanks to the hard work and vision of Gary Zylberszac, and we felt proud to have been a part of it.

Two Fairway Drivers in Marble Arch

Fairway friends

Seeing Percy parked at Marble Arch with so many ex-cabbies, some of whom just came to see these old cabs and share their stories with us, really made us appreciate the history not just of these Fairways and FX4s, but of Percy’s own life in London and the stories he must have from his 20 years of working life. It only confirms that there was no other car we could possibly own whilst living in central London… this is where Percy belongs.

Day out in Old Amersham

As Percy needs a longish trip every now and then to fully charge his battery and ensure all fluids are given a chance to flow through thoroughly at the optimum operating temperatures, we decided to take a day trip to Amersham (the old market town) in Buckinghamshire.

‘We’ decided that I would drive Percy on the way out and Nina would do the journey home, so that I could sample the local ales (Nina had already had a weekend of celebrating so she didn’t take too much persuading).

There’s another perk of owning an ex London taxi in London and that’s the courtesy shown by many other cabbies while we’re driving around town. We always seem to be let into traffic by them. I’m sure it’s because they think we’re fellow cabbies, rather than the fact that we drive a Fairway Driver.

Traffic was very light and we made it to Amersham in under 40 minutes. One thing we noticed on our way was the terrible condition of the roads, there are potholes everywhere, and Percy definitely didn’t enjoy those. Also, being the size that he is, almost the same dimensions as a Range Rover, Percy really does catch the wind and being very front heavy, with the big Nissan 2.7L diesel engine, the back is quite light in comparison, so it does take some concentration to stop him from swerving too much when there’s a crosswind. We fed Percy at a petrol station en route and were asked by the cashier if we had a garden growing on our backshelf… I had to explain that they were artificial flowers.

Old Amersham

Old Amersham is a market town by the River Misbourne and made for a very pleasant day out, with some lovely shops on the High Street and old pubs/coaching inns. We had lunch in the Swan Inn. Although we only had toasted sandwiches, we can thoroughly recommend the pub, with its cosy modern interior and friendly service.
Fairway Driver Taxi outside Swan Inn Amersham

Percy waiting patiently outside the Swan Inn

We then walked a couple of miles along the river from Amersham to Little Missenden, stopping at the Red Lion pub for a drink before heading back to Amersham.
duck on a bridge

-The Red Lion’s resident duck

A couple walking past Percy on the High Street stopped to take photos of his parcel shelf garden… it seems to be quite popular today! On the way home I also noticed an elderly gentlemen who was a passenger in a passing car taking photos of Percy whilst overtaking. Percy wasn’t looking his best though with the recent snow and rain leaving him covered in a layer of grime.
View from Fairway Driver Passenger Compartment

I didn’t realise Nina had switched on the solar powered daisy lights, which charge up in the sun but come on automatically when it’s dark. As soon as we entered the A40 underpass tunnel all the modern cars with automatic headlights came on and then Percy’s daisy lights had the passenger compartment lit up like the stage for a West End play. It was rather embarrassing actually, but by the time I found the solar panel switch we were out of the tunnel again and the lights were off.

Happy Fairway Easter

Percy the London taxi visited Danny the mechanic this weekend for his new stainless steel radiator grille and some new chrome effect window fittings to replace his brittle and bleached ones.
Fairway Driver stainless steel radiator grille

Retirement badge and shiny stainless steel grille

The radiator mesh isn’t original as LTI (London Taxi International), the manufacturer of the Fairway Driver, don’t make them anymore. So our mechanic Danny had them specially cut from a sheet of stainless steel mesh. He seems to have spare parts stored in his garages for anything you could possibly think of! Our rubber window seals had eroded, and out Danny comes with a new set from the attic of his garage. All for the very reasonable sum of £4.

Some of you may also have noticed Percy’s new LVTA badge proudly displayed on his new radiator mesh. Again, just to differentiate him a little more from his working cab days. We like to see it as the official retired London taxi badge. You’d be surprised how often he still gets hailed whenever we are around town.

There’s also an update on Percy’s facelift a few posts ago. He was treated to a pair of Lucas spotlights a few weeks ago that I installed without connecting them to the wiring loom, as I know nothing about electrics (or anything else mechanical for that matter). The good news is that there’s already a relay and wires for front fog lights in the wiring loom and behind the centre dashboard switches. The wires are red and orange (tracer). So all Percy (or any Fairway Driver that wants fog lights fitted) needs is another dashboard switch to replace the blank switch in the console.

You can see the blank/dead switch in the picture below (it’s the one with the red light between the driver interior light and the hazard light):
FX4 Fairway Driver model
Well, Graham (oldlondontaxis@yahoo.co.uk) the London cabbie whom we bought Percy from very kindly dropped off a set of dashboard switches for us in the middle of his night shift. I won’t go into detail in public here, but one unlocked passenger compartment window is all you need to get in!At the bonnet end there should also be the other end of the loom where the fog lights plug straight into. This is where Percy had an issue… the wires on the Lucas fog lights were too short and wouldn’t reach the loom, so he needs wire extensions, which we didn’t have. Percy almost has working fog lights, just in time of British Summer Time.

Percy needs a good clean inside and out before the Cabalcade next Sunday, beginning at 9am at Chelsea Harbour. However, we’re visiting friends in Oxford next Saturday and may not have time to clean him, so I went to enquire about prices at a local car wash around the corner. Advertised prices started from £12 for a saloon, £14 for a large saloon and £18 for 4X4/MPV. I brought Percy with me and asked how much it would be to clean a London cab, to which I received a very pleasant reply of “£6 boss.” That must be their trade price for London cabbies… I probably should’ve said Percy was retired and I’m not a London cabbie but he didn’t ask so….

Percy Pig Easter Egg

Happy Easter!