Life of a retired Fairway Driver

Percy has had a busy weekend, beginning with taking us to dinner at my colleague’s flat in Knebworth. He has also been to Heathrow to collect my Auntie and Cousin from Terminal 3. We parked him in the short-stay and wondered how many times in his life he must have waited at the taxi ranks outside T3. This time he gets his own paid parking spot.
Percy also took us and Mimi the rabbit to Regent’s Park for an afternoon walk. It was lovely and quiet in the secret garden now the sun’s set on summer, so Mimi had the whole place to herself.
Pet rabbit in basket on Fairway Driver bonnet
We’ve updated Percy’s back shelf with the addition of another model taxi, slightly larger than the one on the front driver’s dashboard. This one is so detailed it actually has working flip-down seats and a sliding partition!
model Fairway Driver on Fairway rear shelf
Percy’s recently serviced gearbox (by Carl at Globe Transmissions) seems to be holding up, even though it is technically burnt. We’re hoping it lasts as long as Graham’s gearbox on his working cab, that Carl also serviced, which apparently lasted for another 3 years and 60,000 miles! (Graham is the cabbie we bought Percy from.)

School has started again, so Percy has begun his occasional school runs with Nina and he’s definitely not as keen to get out of bed in the colder weather as he was in the warm. Everything just takes that little longer to function and even his windows have become more stubborn but luckily it’s too cold to need them open, otherwise it takes magician like skills to fiddle with the wire behind the steering column up near the driver’s side air vent to get it to work again.

He’s also taken us to Snowflake, a new ice cream parlour on Westbourne Grove, which was very pleasant. Their signature Snowflake ice cream is probably the pick of the bunch. It’s vanilla ice cream with coconut shavings, white chocolate and toasted nuts in it. My auntie is a big ice cream fan, so it was nice to be able to take her for ice cream after years of her taking me.

We had to extend Percy’s mileage with Peter Best insurance a couple of weeks ago, adding another 3000 miles to last until mid-December, and it still amuses me when I have to give them the mileage (460,000!). 3000 miles should be plenty for us, even with the school runs.
On a Percy unrelated note, I heard one of the funnier phone conversations in a while this week.The subtext of which was that Nina wanted to book a hair appointment at a local hair dressers, and the conversation went as follows:
‘Hello, I’d like to make an appointment for a cut and blow dry please?
‘Sure, what’s your name?
‘Nina Lau’
‘How do you spell that?’
‘Don’t worry no one seems to know, its L..A..U’
‘No, the first one?’
‘What, Nina? N..I..N..A’
‘Yes, then I….’
‘OK thanks, what time would you like to come in?’
‘I need to be out by 1pm, so how long do you think I need?’
‘Maybe an hour? We’ll see you at 1 then.’
‘No, I need to be out by 1, so I’ll come in at midday?’
‘Oh, OK I need to change the booking as I’ve just written it down for 1, so how do I spell your name again?’
‘ N…..I…..N…..A’
‘Oh yes, thank you’
I’m am literally in tears of laughter at this point, then the best part comes.
‘So, that’s Nina for a cut and blow dry tomorrow at midday, all done. Ah wait, would you like us to wash your hair first?’
‘Yes please, see you tomorrow.’ (Nina wondering what they would blowdry if they didn’t wash her hair first)
Nina then said to me she hopes they’re good at hair dressing.

Fairway fan

We’ve been seeing fewer and fewer Fairway Driver taxis working in London now; I saw one today in Kensington (first time in weeks) when I used to see at least 2 a day around Holborn. So, when we walked past Percy parked on the street tonight, after commuting home together following a busy day at work, we said hello to him before heading indoors. We realised that Percy has been a little neglected recently, with the rust hole under his aerial growing steadily and him desperately in need of a good clean inside and out. The recent changeable weather hasn’t helped. We decided that Percy is going to get some TLC this weekend if the weather is fairer.

A quick change out of work attire into my chef’s whites (pyjamas) and it was onto tonight’s menu- chicken fajitas. I was washing a couple of peppers at the sink and out of habit I always look out the window to check on Percy if he’s parked within sight… tonight I noticed a gentleman standing behind Percy with a smile on his face. He then decided to take some pictures of Percy’s rear shelf on his smartphone. I told Nina and we were both very proud that Percy had attracted yet more attention from the passing public. We do occasionally see passers-by either turning their heads or even taking photos but this chap seemed really quite taken by Percy, so Nina decided to take a picture (see below). I went back to chef duties and food was done in 20 minutes.

Fairway Driver London Taxi admirer

I was setting our meal down on the table when, again out of habit, I just glanced down at the street and… the same gentleman was still there! He’d worked his way to the side, and was taking pictures of Percy’s interior (cushions, blanket, rug and fairy lights). Now we felt really bad that we hadn’t given Percy a clean, he still had shavings from Mimi the rabbit’s travel cage on his passenger compartment floor.

Fairway Driver London Taxi admirer

We turned back to our supper and watched the news on TV, before getting up to clear the table and glancing out of the window… to my surprise, the gentleman was still there! He was taking photos of Percy’s front end now and admiring the LVTA badge on his grille. If I wasn’t in my ‘chef’s whites’ I’d have gone downstairs to introduce him to Percy properly and perhaps persuade him into buying one too (Graham, the cabbie we bought Percy from, currently has one for sale for less than £900).

Fairway Driver London Taxi admirer

Finally, the gentleman looked like he thought he should go home and he started off down the road but kept turning back to look at Percy over his shoulder every two paces. Well, we know the feeling is mutual, as Percy hasn’t had the same attention from his owners recently. Oh, and one more thing… that chap has good taste.

Fairway Fixed

With Percy finally home, no thanks to the AA, we had to take him to an auto-transmission specialist to be looked at. Both Danny, our mechanic friend, and Graham; who sold Percy to us, recommended Carl at Globe Transmissions on Cudworth Street in Bethnal Green, East London. I called ahead and spoke to his lovely wife Elsa, who knew more about transmissions than I will probably ever learn, and she told us that Percy would be looked at if we could get to them by 10am.

We drove tentatively round the ring road (Marylebone Road and Pentonvilled Road) and even saw a fellow LVTA member Gary on the way. He honked his horn and waved- his passengers looked like they thought we were all bonkers.

We arrived at Cudworth Street and were treated to an entire street of London cabs.The street runs beside a railway bridge and under each archway is a different garage specialising in taxis- everything from meter repairs to paint work and everything in between.

Fairway Driver Taxis London Cudworth Street

Where can you find a cab in London…

We found Globe Transmissions at the end of the street, where we were greeted by the experienced Carl, a fountain of knowledge on taxi transmissions.

Fairway Driver taxi Globe Transimissions Cudworth Street

In fact, I’ve decided he is the Yoda of London taxis. He explained how we didn’t need a lot of the things in our engine bay as they were all put in place to reduce emissions and as a private car Percy didn’t need to worry about that. He also immediately spotted that one of the vacuum pipes from the gearbox had come away and so the vacuum was no longer sealed- this could be the cause of our problems. However, he still took Percy for a ride with us in the back to gauge and feel the extent of Percy’s woes himself.

Fairway Driver Taxi vacuum pipe

Should have spotted the disconnected pipe, d’oh!

He felt it was best to give Percy’s gearbox a service and dropped the sump. There were already three cabs in his garage but some skilful manoeuvring (you could tell he’d done this a million times) and Percy was on the ramp and being lifted skyward. We actually wondered if Carl’s worked on Percy before and we strongly suspect he has, as he seems to be the go-to man for gearboxes, working on all ages and models of taxis, from Fairway Drivers to TX4s and has been for many years.

Fairway Driver Taxi inside Globe Trasmissions Bethnal Green

Mind your head

So, Yoda and his apprentice took out Percy’s gearbox and found that it was sadly burnt. He showed us black sediment from the friction of the parts grinding together and the burnt transmission fluid. He said he was surprised that Percy even changed gear at all, as they normally just get stuck in 1st at this stage- Percy’s a determined taxi. Carl suggested that he service the gearbox change a few parts and after a few weeks of driving we should see how Percy feels… if he struggles again, Yoda would find us a replacement second hand gearbox but at a reasonable price, because he knew that we only own Percy privately and as an old retired man it wouldn’t be worth a full reconditioning or new gearbox for Percy. So, the bill settled with Elsa, who was looking forward to seeing her grandchildren this weekend, and we were off home.

The result? Percy’s gearbox feels fine. Smooth gear changes, no juddering, just perfect… as long as you treat him gently. We know it might not last but we do know that Yoda is on Percy’s side and we’re very happy with that.