I’ll never forget the ridiculous level of excitement I felt, back in 1987, when I rode in a Metrocab for the first time…
My home town, Stockport, was one of a handful of provincial towns in the UK where ‘London’ taxis operated on the town ranks, which to a car nut was a bit of a disappointment even back then. Even today, I get a little bit excited (tragic, I know) when I’m standing in line at an airport rank, wondering what transport of delight will come along and whisk me to my final destination. The best, to date, remains a Range Rover P38 in Amsterdam, though goodness knows how the driver could afford the fuel bill – perhaps he wasn’t wearing his glasses and mistook it for a Metrocab on the forecourt?
So, much as I love the FX-4 (and would dearly love to own one), the excitement of seeing the Metrocab for the first time was only matched by the ensuing game of ‘spot the part’, with such beguiling features as Ford Granada headlamps, Escort Cabriolet tail lights and a Maestro/Montego dash moulding.
In reality, of course, the Metrocab didn’t quite meet expectations. It may have had a distinctly more modern flavour than the FX-4 (though it didn’t help that the Granada it borrowed its nose from had recently been replaced), but the fit and finish were flimsier, and traditional cabbies continued to favour the old FX-4 style cabs, not least because of their indestructible Nissan 2.7-litre diesel engines, which were doggedly reliable even compared to the Metrocab’s honourable Ford Transit sourced unit.
Yet Metrocab is a name that refuses to die – along with Frazer-Nash, which in a fairly loose sense is the owner and parent company of a new venture, launched in 2014 and developed specifically to meet the new London Transport conditions of use that come into force in 2018.
We’ve covered the new Metrocab on here before, but recently the new model has taken things to a new level, having become the first zero-emission-capable taxi to be licensed by Transport for London to operate on a trial basis as a London Hackney Carriage. And while that might not sound much, it’s big news…
Metrocab Chairman, Sir Charles Masefield, said: ‘The Metrocab has received numerous accolades and plaudits across the board in recent months, but now it is official – it is the first licensed range extended electric cab for London, and indeed the first in the world. We’re very proud, and delighted with the Metrocabs’ performance, economy and range at the hands of the first few London cabbies to be operating our range extended electric taxis.”
The Metrocab has also been shortlisted for the London Transport Awards 2015, in the Taxi & Private Hire Innovator of the Year category.
A further plaudit came from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who described the Metrocab as ‘superb and absolutely beautiful. A masterpiece of British engineering. The Rolls-Royce of taxis that can do 100mpg.”
Smoke? Mirrors? Maybe… But I have a gut feeling that it probably isn’t… While the most established taxi manufacturer, LTI, has potentially dragged its heels on this one, a new and dedicated taxi manufacturer has revived an established name, and brought it to the fore once again, but this time as an innovator. Over the next three years, taxi operators across the capital will be scrabbling to get their hands on vehicles that comply with Boris’s latest emissions legislation (before he moves the goalposts yet again, I’m sure…) and the new Metrocab couldn’t be launching, with proven capability and ahead of its rivals, at a better time.
Meantime, if you want a funky family runabout, there’ll be thousands of LTI taxis being decommissioned between now and 2018, when all London cabs must be zero-emissions capable (ie, electric or hybrid). Already, they’re popping up in the small ads for less than a grand… Surely I’m not the only one that’s tempted?