Lot 226 - 1929 Morris London Taxi
|Estimate||£25,000 - £30,000|
This is the only known survivor of a total production run of 840 cabs.
Back in 1926 Morris decided he would offer an export model car to boost overseas sales. The Morris Oxford was scaled up until it fitted a modified 13cwt lorry chassis and running gear. 1,700 cars were built and offered for sale around the world as the Empire Oxford. In retrospect it was an excellent vehicle, comparable to anything made in America.
However, due to poor sales, many were dismantled and shipped back to the United Kingdom to be rebuilt as Taxicabs. Most of the Empire parts remained unchanged and were incorporated into the new cabs such as the 15.9hp engine (2513cc), the four-speed gearbox and the overhead worm drive rear axle. Headlights were not normally fitted to the new cabs as it was not normal to operate beyond the street lamp area for city cabs. Likewise speedometers were not fitted because taxicabs could not go faster than the rest of the traffic which was, of course, obeying the speed limits!
Although the passengers were well catered for, very little comfort was afforded to the driver with only a small gutter above his head to keep the rain off. It is believed that a small tin box was fitted on top of the exhaust manifold to dry the driver's spare pair of gloves but was also excellent for warming pies.
This super-rare example was first discovered in a barn by a friend of the current owner. It came out of service in 1939 and was bought at auction by a farmer who converted it into a cheap tractor where it served long and hard throughout the war. Eventually the farmer decided to sell it and as it was loaded onto the lorry, the vendor attempted to take the stones and scrap iron out of the back of the vehicle and was told that they were added to the rear for extra weight when the taxi was used as a tractor. He was told to take them back to Wales to dispose of as the farmer did not want them where it was discovered that the scrap iron was in fact two unexploded mortar bombs and an anti tank rocket - the farmer said that they were just blank rounds picked up in the hay rake after army manoeuvres and that they should be thrown in the trash collection. But after the police were contacted, the bomb disposal unit confirmed that they were still live and took them away for detonation.
The very strict regulations for London cabs have led to many peculiarities of design meaning that this cab was not allowed to have an inside rear view mirror thus preventing the driver from watching the back seat. All cabs had to carry hay and water for a horse; this one has a hay box on the running board and water in the radiator. As a recognized 'controller' of a taxi cab, the driver is allowed to relieve himself against the rear nearside wheel only, in a public place, providing he keeps one hand on the cab thus remaining in control of the cab. The Morris cab drove, cost and ran like a commercial vehicle whereas the Austin was basically a private car with a low purchase price and running costs.
The folding rear hood section was another safety feature, which was supposed to allow easy escape from a crashed vehicle. Even the window winder handles received special attention from the Public Carriage Office; these were partly recessed into the door trim to ensure no one was injured with a slamming door. So many of the original city cabs were destroyed during the Blitz that the Public Carriage Office had to relax the 10 year rule and many licences were allowed to continue for another 10 years after they should have been withdrawn from service.
The first outing, post restoration, was the 1975 Commercial London to Brighton run and it has been in constant use ever since, competing in many rallies and appearing in most of the families' wedding albums. Apart from the history file and its feature in Bill Munroe's 'A Century of London Taxis', there also exists a 1933 motoring magazine in which this actual cab can be seen in the background of a general London view used to advertise a completely different make of vehicle. Fully MoT'd and with plenty of life to live and fares to take, this 'one-off' opportunity is of significant importance to the history of the London Taxi.