Sixty years ago, sales commenced of a taxi so radical in design that not a few cabbies in the capital regarded it with a degree of suspicion. Where were the running boards? Why was there no opening windscreen, so essential for ventilation, demisting or for assisting visibility while driving through the stereotypical London fog?
Furthermore, how would the automatic gearbox cope with the rigours of urban motoring? And where was the luggage platform alongside the driver’s compartment?
The new Austin FX4 was not just the first London taxi to be fitted with four doors for, together with the Routemaster bus, it was symbolic of post-war change in the capital.
In the late 1950s, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) boasted of the FX3 that “You see more Austin taxis on the streets of London than any other single make of cab”.
Work on its successor commenced in 1956, and the FX4 would use the chassis and the 2.2-litre diesel engine of the older model together with coachwork that managed the difficult achievement of combining the traditional with modernity – the Austin FX3 may have debuted in 1948, but its appearance still harked back to the late 1930s while its successor looked as up-to-the-minute as a Soho expresso bar; albeit with a slightly more dignified air.