The five greatest taxis in the world
The humble taxi is one of the unsung heroes of the car world - largely unloved and thrashed mercilessly for many hundreds of thousands of kilometres, the taxi is rarely thought about by the average motorist, apart from being annoyed by one being driven erratically and in third gear on the motorway.
That is until a need to get to the airport or after a big night out - then the taxi is the single greatest car on the planet. Even with that unpleasantly sticky patch on the armrest and the slightly distressing burning smell.
This Thursday we celebrate the humble taxi with five of the greatest taxis from around the world.
The New York Checker Marathon
The iconic Checker Marathon is pretty much the alligator of the automotive world - it tried this “evolution” business once early on in its life and decided it wasn’t really its thing.
Largely unchanged for its entire 22 year production span, the Marathon was a dream come true for any director making a movie based in New York as it meant that pretty much any time between 1960 and 1990 could be accurately represented by having it hang around in the background.
The Big Apple legislated the last Marathon out of service in 1999 and their reputation for doing huge mileages and being virtually indestructible has, ironically, worked against them, making them a relative rarity these days.
The Mexican VW Beetle
Much like the Marathon, the ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle lived far, far past its use-by date as a taxi in Mexico. Actually, come to think of it, scratch that - the Beetle really had no business being a taxi in the first place.
A two-door car with the engine handily placed in the back and only limited luggage space in the front is not the sort of thing that generally springs to mind when you consider the ideal taxi. However their sheer vast production numbers, relatively low cost and the fact that they were almost indestructible made them more appealing.
Also their ability to run on any fluid that is vaguely flammable and the 12 moving parts in the engine could be fixed on the side of the road with a bent spoon probably held appeal to taxi drivers in Mexico as well.
That appeal, however, was probably lost on the passengers...
The London Black Cab
While being instantly recognisable and utterly iconic, the “classic” UK black cab has probably changed and evolved more than almost anything else on this list.
Starting life as the Austin FX3 in 1948, the classic Black Cab has actually been through many, many incarnations, while still remaining instantly familiar to pretty much anyone with eyes.
Now entirely owned by Chinese car manufacturer Geely, The London Taxi Company (formerly known as Manganese Bronze) still pumps out around 2,000 cars a year from its factory in Coventry, the majority of which go into London.
While the current model runs a VM Motori diesel engine, Geely has been in talks with the UK government over possible plans to convert the existing taxi fleet to use electric motors. Ah, yes - silent, black, death-from-behind electric motors...
The Japanese Toyota Crown
Forever associated with necessary curtains and overly-ornate lace headrest covers, the Toyota Crown is the ultimate Japanese taxi. Although Nissan - manufacturer of the equally ubiquitous and brilliantly-named Cedric - would almost certainly disagree.
Between them the Crown and the Cedric have dominated the Japanese taxi fleet, although the Crown has had the upper hand over the last decade or so thanks to the evolution of a specific taxi model - the Comfort Crown.
Basically a smaller version of the big, square and sedate classic Crown, the Comfort Crown was a conscious move back to the taxi-basics after the ordinary Crown moved down a more, well, Lexus direction after the creation of the original Lexus LS for the US market.
While the Crown may well be the ultimate winner in the Japanese taxi wars, the Cedric still has a far better name...
The Australian Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore
No taxi list would be complete without the two big Aussie cars that have ruled the local taxi scene forever. Generations have grown up with the Aussie taxi traditions of massive drivetrain shunt, a saggy headliner, rattling interior trim and big sixes that have done half a million kilometres, sound on the verge of death but just won’t die.
With unidentified fluids (both under and inside the car), the unmistakeable smell of vomit, body odour and, strangely, fish and that one window that never winds up properly that seemingly comes standard with every taxi-spec Falcon or Commodore from new, the big Aussie taxis are, sadly, on their way out following the demise of both cars.
But never fear - an equally crappy replacement is already steadily taking over; the ten-year-old Japanese import Toyota Prius, complete with an on/off switch for a throttle and a desperately strange sound coming from somewhere in the drivetrain.