What’s it like to drive a 1969 AUSTIN FX4 LONDON CAB? Cool, that’s what…

It boggles the mind when you realize how similar and how different people are. Similar in that we all want the same thing, but we go about it in infinitely different ways. One example is that we all want cars to get around in — most of us — but our tastes are as diverse as you can imagine. 

The other week, I was at my show Wheels and Waves, admiring the cool rides like the muscle cars, exotics and customs. And as much as I appreciate them, it’s always nice to see something unique. And what was it that caught my wandering eyes? 

John DeRoy’s 1969 — maybe 1970 — Austin FX4 London taxi. Yes, a taxi. And a green Taxi, at that. So the question popped into my pea brain, “Why would someone want to collect a London cab?” Now, they are very cool, but that’s a given. So are Ferraris. But John’s kills it.

“As a kid, I went with my family on a European vacation,” John said. “In London, I went nuts over these and when we got home, I badgered my parents to get one. But they nuked that idea pretty quick…” 

“Fast forward several decades to 2012, my wife and I took our 10 year old twin daughters to Europe. We were riding around in London and Edinburgh in the newer version of the taxi, and all of a sudden I was 12 years old again. So when we got back I started poking around and found that I could have my fantasy — aka, mid-life crisis — at considerably less than the cost of a Porsche — and finally bought this 3,500-pound hunk of steel.” 

Ah, this must be AutoTherapy.

In the past, John was a business analyst — “number cruncher” — for a large biotech/pharmaceutical company, but became a licensed marriage and family therapist while attempting to become a social entrepreneur. 

“I realized I wanted to help people parent better, deepen and improve their relationships with their kids, and impart those kids with the kind of emotional intelligence needed to thrive in today’s world.” Part of that is taking them for a ride in a cool car, I always say. Nothing that wind in your face and your tongue hanging out won’t solve. Wait, OK, that’s about my dog, but kid’s love cars too.

But John has had this gem only about a year and bought it from a guy in St. Louis, who ironically had purchased it a few years earlier from a guy in California. Nearly all the mods were done by the two of them. Wait, mods on a taxi? Let’s get into this. 

RHD, 4-cylinder diesel BMC engine, automatic Borg-Warner 3-speed transmission, drum brakes, Lucas (“Prince of Darkness”) wiring, 15’ L x 5.75’ H x 5.75” W. But it’s been modified and now has a Chevy Blazer V6 Vortec with the accompanying automatic transmission, Edelbrock manifold and Holley 4160 4-barrel carb, Proform 67080 distributor, new plugs and wires, Carter GP4594 electric fuel pump, Lokar throttle cable, new radiator, rear end gears of 4.00 to replace the 5.00 ones, rebuilt front end, top-of-the-line radial tires, seat belts, dual exhausts and some “mellow” mufflers. Power brakes and an extra cooling fan sits in front of the condenser. 

John drives around town 3-4 days a week and has the time of my life. “It never fails to get a lot of smiles, waves, thumbs-up and great conversation with total strangers. And I love taking it to car shows and letting people climb in and sit in the back. I say, ‘Touch — have fun — but please be gentle.’”

“I used to drive it to my last job which was on a big corporate campus. To get into the parking structure, you’d have to swipe your badge by a reader for the gate to open. But the reader is on the left side. I solved that by buying a 4’ long grabber, and all I need to do is lean over and shove the end of the grabber with my badge out the window and up against the reader.”

My final question to John was in regards to dark or milk chocolate. He had this to say, “Ah — another trick question. Average dark is like a Ford; good dark is like a Porsche; great dark is like a Maserati or a Lamborghini. Milk is like a Yugo.” 

That would be a pretty awesome answer if I didn’t love milk chocolate so much. And with that notch coming down one, the car is still too cool to ignore. 

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