I wonder how many of the readers who say they like my posts on London taxis imagine themselves tootling around town in one–but behind the wheel, instead of sitting in the back?
The nice people at London Taxi Exports can help you with that; they’ve been refurbishing London Taxis and shipping them around the world for over 15 years.
American readers who want to import taxis will be happy to hear that the US doesn’t have any problem with you driving a vehicle with the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side of the car. On the other hand, they won’t allow you to bring in a car that doesn’t meet modern standards having to do with emissions or with reaction to impact. But if you import a classic car–over 25 years old–then your vehicle will be exempt. The cars London Taxi Exports handles are what you might call mature vehicles, but completely rejuvenated, and painted to the customers’ specifications.
The last time I rode in a taxi the driver, who was remarkably spiffy in a camel jacket and a paisley cravat, said he didn’t like the garish paint jobs you see on taxis nowadays; for him, black was the only proper colour. I think I’d prefer a black one as well, if I were going to buy one, but I do like to look at the variety of ads on the taxis going by.
I’m not sure I’d give much credence to that particular driver’s opinion on anything other than taxis, though. When he asked where I lived before I moved to England, I answered “California” and he asked “What part of California? Miami?” Right. And when I said I’d lived near San Francisco, he said he wouldn’t want to live there because of the terribly cold snowy winters. He might have mastered the Knowledge but his experience of the world outside London was…limited.
And while black may be the only proper cab colour, London Taxi Exports sent a cabriolet version (open top in the back) in pink to a Boston hotel just the other day. Before that, they sent out a couple of taxis to a California vineyard. They’ve supplied cars for celebrities but would never divulge names, of course, and they ordinarily don’t meet the famous buyers in those cases, but only someone acting on a buyer’s behalf. In any case, if you see a London taxi in the US, it’s more than likely that it’ll have a London Taxi Exports plate on the back. (But I’m going to start calling them LTE to save typing.)
And it’ll be more than likely that wherever you do see a private driver tootling around in a London taxi, that the driver will be female. Almost all of LTE’s UK buyers and most of their overseas buyers are women. Their web site reminds prospective buyers that a taxi is “built like a tank and virtually indestructible”; the cars may not have airbags, but they’ve got “acres of solid metal” between oncoming vehicles and the kids in the back–up to 6 kids, too. Or up to six adults for that matter, plus any bulky sports equipment, or maybe one of those enormous jogging strollers (UK: pushchairs). And all London taxis have childproof locks as a matter of course, or perhaps the cabbies think of them as passenger-proof locks. In any case, you can’t open the doors of a London taxi as long as the thing is moving.
Another reason women like them, according to LTE, is that it makes a mom look cool “on the school run”, that is, taking the kids to school, which is apparently a competitive sport among the mothers in this country. I’m guessing that this is an outgrowth of the paparazzi habit of snapping celebrities in unguarded moments, such as when taking the kids to school; the tabloids are forever showing this supermodel or that actress looking chic or–horrors!–looking frowsy in front of their kids’ school. A recent study found that 1 in 6 mothers gets a new hairdo–average cost £50 (over $80)–for the first day of school, just to look good in front of the other mothers. One in five buys a new outfit, with the average mom (UK: mum) spending about £60 (almost $100) on “new clothes, shoes or accessories” to look good “at the school gate”. Over half said they wouldn’t dare go on the school run without makeup, and fully three-quarters said they wouldn’t be seen dead dropping the kids off if they were wearing the same outfit as the day before–that’s the moms, not the kids. The kids wear uniforms. I think if I were one of those moms, I’d wish I could just wear a uniform and skip all the bother.
And if I dropped the kids off in a London taxi, it wouldn’t be to impress the other parents; I think the thing I’d like best about driving a London taxi is the turning radius (UK: turning circle): 25 feet. My Volvo’s turning radius is 33.5 ft. If you need more than 25 feet to turn in, then you can’t drop fares off at the Savoy; that’s why London taxis are designed with such a tight turning circle. I’d love to have that kind of maneuverability, and I don’t count on my car to impress other people–which is a good thing, because I drive a Volvo, and Volvos are terminally uncool over here.
Anyway, if you’ve always wanted your very own London taxi, now you know where to get one. And after you’ve made your purchase from the nice people at London Taxi Export, you can join the London Taxi Owner’s Club (website under refurbishment). And if anybody really does buy one, be sure to let me know!