1996 London Taxi International Fairway Driver Review

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The Black Beauty

Here is another older review for you to enjoy via the We Try Anything review platform.  This was written in 2009 so please bear that in mind when reading the review.  Also, there is a hindsight section at the bottom of the review to see what we think nine years later since Tony wrote this article below.  Hope you enjoy the article!

Well, I did it, I finally did it!!!  Never did I think that when I passed my driving test all those years ago I would be driving a London Taxi as my own private car.  Madness you may say, but it was the obvious choice at the time.

Got kids, check, need a diesel car to travel to work, check, need something that is reliable, check (well it had done 350,000 miles when I had picked it up) and want something that is a little out of the norm and puts a smile on my face every time I drive it, CHECK!!

I will never forget my girlfriend’s face and reaction when I had got it home.  Parked outside my house I was never so excited to drive a car as I was with my P reg LTI Fairway Driver.  Luckily for me, my girlfriend is from Newcastle and when she starts shouting about what a stupid idea it was to get one and couldn’t we get a normal car, her Geordie accent really kicked in… …it was like listening to Snoopy’s teacher.

What influenced my decision was a blog website I had found one night whilst surfing for ideas for a car  A great resource if you are thinking of buying an ex-London Taxi and running it as a private car plus judging from most of the replies on the blog there are a lot of private Fairway Driver drivers out there, so it’s a popular alternative car.


The review….

What can I say about a car that most of the general public has experienced at least once in their lives.  With copious amounts of space in the back. Enough seats to comfortably seat 5 people and even a facility for wheelchair users to get in via a tailor-made ramp, there are even fittings to fix the wheelchair securely in place, this car was designed for one job and one job only and that was for ferrying people about to their destination.

The driver’s area of the car is a very different kettle of fish.  The word ‘cosy’ would spring to mind when thinking about getting into the driver’s seat.  You have your usual dials, indicator/light stalks etc but you also have on the dashboard an area for passenger comfort such as lighting and heating.  The all-important ‘For Hire’ light button was missing on my model, which is normally located with the meter, as the previous owner had uninstalled it.  I have read that these are easily hooked up but I had decided to leave it off.  Other than that the creature comforts are really kept to a minimum.  Which surprised me a lot as taxi drivers can be sat in the front of these vehicles anything up to eight hours a day.

The driver’s seat wasn’t the most comfortable of seats that I have sat in over the years, but just like the rest of the car, it is practical and with a little bit more foam here and a car seat cover there it had improved immensely. The electric windows worked, which was a bonus.

Firing up the Nissan “Bulletproof’ 2.7ltr diesel engine I was ready to roll.  Not the quietest of engines you might think but its sound is synonymous with plenty of drunken nights out and that fateful taxi ride home, it sounded welcoming, like an old friend.

Into first and then off…

The Fairway Driver isn’t the fastest vehicle I have ever driven but the torque from the diesel engine gives the car a very powerful urgency to it. It’s a weird feeling.  It will not press you against the seat with power or grunt but you know that if you need to power up a hill with a full load of people and luggage in the back – you have the power in reserve to do it with ease.  Its surge of power did put a smile on my face I can tell thee.

The handling’s quite sharp and direct and the party trick of this vehicle is its very small turning circle.  Three-point turns are a thing of the past.  For such a big vehicle, it share’s a lot of dimensions with the Range Rover, it has such an amazing turning circle.  I made use of this on many occasions and I can tell you and when you get back into a normal car you soon miss this unique ability.

On the motorway, this car is suited to cruising along at 60-65 mph and will do it all day.  Though it will go faster, 80mph is not unheard of, you know you are pushing the car and with 350,000 miles on the clock, I was worried about something very big going very wrong.  Staying at 60-65mph in the London Taxi Internation Fairway Driver is a very pleasant experience, watching the world go by and being slightly higher up then other cars you got a very good view of the road plus driving any further north than say Weatherby you always got admiring glances from other drivers as they are not as common up north as they are in the southern parts of England.

Fuel economy did worry me at first, but as most taxi drivers will tell you it’s reasonable for such a big engine and because of its gearing ratios I was looking at about 33 to 40 mpg, especially on the motorway.  The 200 mile drive up to Newcastle cost around £20 (based on 2009 fuel prices) and that was driving at about 65mph so I would say it is very fair indeed.

Costing around the £40 mark to get all the fluids changed, new air filter, oil filter and so much more servicing was very cheap indeed.

Overall this is a car that I will never forget about driving and above all owning. It’s a British motoring icon and one I have been proud to drive along the streets of Great Britain. If you’re looking for a cheap low-cost MPV that would put a very big smile on your face then you couldn’t go far wrong with an LTI Fairway Driver.  Get one that is in great condition and you have a very reliable motor that will last for years and reward you with an unforgettable experience.

Hindsight part, nine years on…  As we have mentioned earlier it has been nine years since Tony wrote the above article and would he go through the experience of owning such an iconic piece of British motoring?  Yes and no.

The yes part is the fun of driving such an unusual vehicle for personal use.  The way his kids loved being in it and how maneuverable it was in and out of traffic.  It was an experience like no other.

The no had to be simply down to the running of such an old, high mileage vehicle.  When Tony finally had to sell it on he had to get a fresh MOT and that was a mission in itself.  The MOT failure list ran into four pages and while it was very cheap to fix and run the fact that it was rusting so bad just tempered the whole ownership experience.  Also if he knew now what he knew then he would have got it from a garage that restores these vehicles as there were a lot of problems inherited from its previous owner, one of which were brake lights that decided to not work in the dark, during winter at 70 miles per hour on the busy part of the M6.

To summarise Tony said that he wouldn’t give up the experience of owning such a distinctive vehicle for anything.  In years to come, these classic vehicles will be very much a part of modern British history but as we head to an era of electric cars and the removal of diesel-powered vehicles over electric the LTI Fairway Driver, in our eyes, will be seen as a much loved British classic and should be cherished while they are around.


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