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Essex Models and Miniatures archive
Ertl are probably best known for their diecast farm machinery and large diecast cars but in the 1980′s they produced what was to become a very large range of diecast trains related to the ‘Thomas the tank engine’ series of books and the later TV series.
Although not on my list of things I collect, recently I bought a massive job lot of Ertl Thomas the tank engine locomotives, coaches, wagons and vehicles and searching through them I came across this little Austin taxi produced in 2001.
Most of the Ertl ‘Thomas’ range have faces on the front either moulded plastic or earlier one’s had stickers, this taxi, listed as ‘The Sodor Taxi’ has neither and is actually a nice little model with plenty of detail.
Related posts; Dyson Lowloader
A similar model was made by Lledo, albeit a larger scale and marked as a 1933 Austin taxi.
The real taxi
The Ertl taxi is based on a 1936 Austin.
In 1936 Austin made a number of High Lot taxis, which were found to be a little unstable, because of their height. So 6 inches was lopped of the height and so produced the low loader.
The taxi cab was designed by William Overton of Mann & Overton Limited in collaboration with Austin. Austin had redesigned the back axle relocating the propeller shaft and together with height saved by the new dropped cross-braced frame something like 6 inches was able to be removed from the car’s overall height.
Again the standard body was made by Strachan of Acton. For the same price Mann & Overton would supply another by Vincent’s of Reading (famous for building the royal horse boxes) or for £5 more a better finished body by Jones Bros of Bayswater. Other suppliers included Goodland Cooper and Elkington of Chiswick.
Mann & Overton’s Austins dominated the market between 1930 and 1938 selling 5,850 cabs representing 75% of the market.
I’m not a great one for buying the newer diecast models and many have been around a few years and just re-released in different paint and decal schemes.
But a few weeks ago I bought the Corgi, London 2012 bus from a local fuel station, just because it was a Routemaster bus and don’t have any in my collection.
And yes it is still in its box, Corgi No TY82319, this bus casting goes back a way with Corgi and have since aquired the Silver Jubilee version from 1977 and numbered 471, its the same casting but has the whizzwheels of the time, it may differ slightly but until I have liberated them from their boxes I won’t know for sure, a later article will be done for this bus.
The thing that intruged me was the backing card of the box on the London 2012 bus showing not only the London taxi and the Mini, that I knew was available in the service station, but also a Concorde and a London underground train.
I have now tracked these down.
Firstly the Concorde, Corgi No TY84005.
Secondly, the Underground train, Corgi No TY88901, all are from the ‘Great British Classics’ range and re-branded to suit.
Now we have the London Taxi, bigger than I thought it would be and based on the modern TX1 built in 1997, Corgi No TY85907, about 1:32 scale.
I will be keeping my eye out now for the Mini to complete the set, but the service stations have stopped selling them, so guess the supply is nearing the end.
Updated June 30th 2013
Finally, almost a year after collecting most of this set, the Mini came my way, here it is below.
The Austin FX3, to me is THE classic taxi, with the single front seating position for the driver and the open nearside for the baggage, and although build as long ago as 1948 were still seen on the roads in the 1960′s when I was young.
The Matchbox Lesney Austin Metropolitan Taxi, No17 and released in 1960 with grey wheels.
This is one that, although not hard to find, is hard to find in good condition at a reasonable price, this is about my fourth upgrade for this model.
Watch out if buying a playworn version of this as the front window pillars tend to get broken or cracked or are completely missing rendering the casting useless. (see this article for damaged examples)
The two below are restored examples, one in the original red the other black with added detail.
Morestone (later to become Budgie Toys) also produced a version of the Austin Taxi, No13 and likely to of been released around 1957.
The big difference is the colour, the Matchbox is almost always maroon and the Morestone and Budgie versions black.
Here are the two together showing the size and scale difference.
Related articles Austin Taxi FX3
The real Taxi
In 1948 a new Austin, the FX3, built by Carbodies of Coventry and financed jointly by Mann and Overton, Carbodies and Austin appeared and soon dominated the market. It was first produced with a petrol engine but this proved uneconomical to run so in 1952 a conversion for a Standard diesel engine was made available.
Text and picture from London Taxi History
There has never been a law that says that London’s cabs should be black. A cab may be any colour, but when the Oxford and the FX3 were introduced, their makers supplied them in a standard colour of black. Few buyers were prepared to pay the extra money for a special colour and so for three decades, black became the norm. In the late 1970s, Carbodies offered a wide range of pleasing colours for the FX4 to the ever-growing number of owner-drivers and now cabs are found in a very wide range of colours, including special advertising liveries.
Probably the most famous and recognizable Taxi in the world, the Austin FX4 ruled the London streets for nearly 50 years.
The Matchbox Taxi was a later issue made in Macau in 1986 and named the FX4R.
Corgi also made a version of the London taxi FX4 with amber glass, although have seen clear glass versions and later wheel types on this casting.
Both the Matchbox and Corgi version together.
Both also have opening rear doors, and both are around 1:60 scale.
Added 24 March 2013
The Fx4 was also made by Lone Star and at a larger scale of 1:50, earlier 1960s models commonly had orange tinted plastic transparent windows, but no interior detail, of which this is one, also had separate tyres until the mid-sixties.
Lone Star No 1247
Seen here with the Matchbox version showing size difference
Related article Austin Taxi FX3
The real Taxi
Picture and text by London Taxi History
The FX4, probably the most famous of all London taxis remained in continuous production with various modifications, with five different engines, for 39 years. This wasn’t because it was such a fantastic vehicle – it had many shortcomings – but because neither Austin nor Mann and Overton could find the money to replace it. Carbodies Ltd of Coventry made two attempts of their own, the FX5 and the CR6 but in 1982 they bought the production rights to the FX4 from Austin and, as London Taxis International Plc built the final version of the FX4, the ‘Fairway’ from 1989. Production ended in 1997 after more than 75,000 FX4s had been built.
My own FX4 sitting in the storage yard waiting for me to find the time to get her on the road again.