Top 25 Everyday Classic Cars: 24. LTI Fairway

1985_Austin_FX4Q_London_taxi

You’ll be the talk of the town in one of these!

The LTI Fairway has become an icon when it comes to London’s taxicab business, an elegant, timeless design that lasted nearly 40 years and is synonymous with the UK as a whole. However, the car is much more than just a pretty face that will whisk you down the Strand or through Hyde Park on a romantic summer’s evening. This machine was built to take on one of the toughest environments in the entire world; the narrow, winding, congested, smog-filled streets of central London.

The car’s unique body style with a huge, practical interior made it perfect for carrying both passengers and luggage with space to spare. It’s turning circle is incredibly tight, a requirement of the mighty cabbie when negotiating the small roundabout in the forecourt of London’s Savoy. Most importantly though, the car is the last word in quiet reliability; especially the later LTI Fairway.

When choosing your Black Cab you have two options, either the earlier Austin FX4; the original designation of the car upon its introduction in 1958, or the LTI Fairway; a refreshed version of the car introduced in 1984 which was visually identical but had dozens of internal improvements to make the car more reliable and efficient. It goes without saying that unless you’re an enthusiast specifically looking for an FX4 (from the two or three that are actually left), you should go for the Fairway. The replacement of its original 2.1L Austin engine with a 2.6L engine from the Nissan Homy panel van is perhaps its best attribute; upping the reliability and making it the perfect form of private transport when you wanted to get away from the sooty streets of the nation’s capital.

However, you still need to bear in mind that the car is a Black Cab, therefore the image is a touch suspect. Chances are the local authorities and the police will be keeping tabs on you to make sure you haven’t started up your very own unlicensed taxi cab service!

However, the biggest problem when it comes to buying a Fairway cab that you want to drive for your own pleasure is trying to find one that isn’t still in taxi service. The reliability and rugged dependability of these cars meant that even though most don’t work in London anymore they can still be found the length and breadth of the UK and other parts of the world.

The usual practice for cab companies is that when these cars do reach the end of their working lives and are eventually retired they’re sent straight to the scrapheap because, at the end of the day, who’s going to buy a taxi?


Scores

  • Comfort – 5/10 – Perfectly acceptable for a taxicab, but not exactly Rolls-Royce standards
  • Practicality – 9/10 – Interior space was built specifically for people and their luggage
  • Reliability – 5/10 – Depends on whether it was carefully looked after in service or just worked to death and sold for a quick buck
  • Speed – 2/10 – These cars are famous for their tepid top speed and acceleration
  • Handling – 6/10 – Not something you’d throw around corners, but the legendary tight turning circle can be useful for narrow streets
  • Looks – 7/10 – Has those classic London Black Cab looks, but may raise some suspicion among friends when you present it to them
  • Equipment – 2/10 – These were utilitarian machines, so internal equipment extends to very little
  • Price – 8/10 – There are so many cheap Fairways floating around for less than £5,000, most of which are ex-service so you’ll hopefully find some well cared for examples
  • Value – 2/10 – Who’s going to buy a taxicab?
  • Total – 46/90 – A very practical machine, but don’t look for handling or speed because you won’t find it here.

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