Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

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Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Warren t claim » Sat May 11, 2019 12:28 am

After being asked I thought I'd bring this topic over to the dark side courtesy of copy and paste. I'll also post any relevant updates here as well.


The last time I drove a licensed vehicle was in 2006 so I thought I'd entertain you with a thread about the taxi shite I drove from 2000 to 2006.



The taxi trade and its associated vehicles fascinated me as a small child, a ride in a hack was always seen as a treat and the pleasure of sitting on an FX4 jump seat and watching the driver take us to our destination was always a joy to my nine year old self, watching him either stir the wand like gear lever and seeing the notices on the dash and their dire warnings about the dangers of not pulling off in first or on a double bonus trip the cab would be a column shift auto and have the Dyna tape notice on the instruments about never exceeding 40mph. The private hire trade were a totally different fascination though, they drove Mk3 Cortinas like there was no tomorrow and never ever washed them which was a stark contrast to the similar fleet of mk3's that the building business owned by my family ran, even a plastic wavy hand that a rep had added to his rear screen would result in a trip to Claim_Grandads office for a stern telling off. Private hire drivers seemed to live the perfect lifestyle of late nights, girls and trips to the bookies, all arranged whilst being able to understand the crackling voice on the other end of a Motorola two way radio.



Anyway, back to the story. In November 2000 I was in need of work so I decided to realise my "dream" and become a private hire driver. Back then all I needed was a cleanish driving licence and the ability to pass a medical and written knowledge test and as long as your police check was reasonably clear you'd be on the road. I scraped through all of the above and was good to go, almost. I would first need a suitable car for this venture that had four seats and was under eight years old, sadly my Cavalier was just coming up to its ninth birthday so that was out which was a shame because the Cavalier was king of the taxis in my area as all the Sierras were now eight years old and forced to retire. I had to hire, or as it's locally known "settle"a car. I'd had friendly words with a local part time criminal and full time taxi specialist before I'd passed my tests and as he was helpful I thought I'd rent a car from him, I called in to see him and I had the choice between an M reg Escort Ghia 1.8i petrol, an L plate 405 1.6 petrol or an M plate 405 diesel, After careful consideration I agreed to hire the 405 dizzler for the princely sum of £70 a week excluding insurance which didn't bother me anyway cos insurance was available from the company I was going to work for anyway at £42.50.



I proudly hoped into my Pug and drove the couple of hundred yards to the taxi office to get my radio fitted, at this point the first problem appeared, the 405 was untaxed! I spoke to the car owner and he said it must of been stolen and not to worry about it, never mind, only a slap on the wrist if I'm caught so I went and got my set fitted. Now instead of a crackly radio my car was fitted with a data screen and GPS system that would tell me where I was to pick up and drop off so after reading all the twenty page manual I was ready to go. I dutifully logged on to the system and was given my first ever job. After the somewhat surreal experience of pulling up outside of someone's house, beeping the horn and a total stranger getting into the front of my car I was finally earning a living. Unfortunately the 405 decided it wanted early retirement, the back brakes would stick on if the car was stationary for more than a brief moment, the heater wouldn't work, the rack pissed out PAS fluid, to unlock the doors I needed to use pliers and as I later learnt it had been involved in a shunt and burned a front tyre out on a weekly basis. The rev counter never worked which wasn't a problem but when the drive from the gearbox to the speedo failed it was bad news, no speedo, no trip meter, no way of telling how much to charge. Fortunately that was sorted and I persevered with the 405 for a few months until I could afford a car of my own.



Enter the Vectra from hell! It was only three and a half years old and had a low mileage due to being subject to an insurance claim in the past when it was sideswiped by an errant Transit and other than squeaky nearside doors where it'd been hit it was at first glance a great little car, although it was petrol the fuel economy was fantastic and it's still probably the quickest 1.8 family saloon I've ever driven. I was a happy bunny for all of a week then the problems started. The handbrake failed, the drivers window only started working if you pulled the armrest in a certain way, the metal to rubber PAS pipe broke and was on back order from GM as apparently it was an inherent weak point and most importantly the gearbox died, not in a getting slightly crunchier over a period of time type of fail but a locked front wheels halfway around a busy roundabout type fail. As you can imagine the recovery of the dead Vectra was a total nightmare. I managed to get a second hand box from a scrappy but it seemed to be losing its synchro in third so I did the decent thing and cut my losses and sold the heap. Sadly this meant going back to a hire car so this time I asked around and went elsewhere to source a car, and this is how I ended up making history by being the last person in my area to use a Montego as a taxi.



It was an ex British Aerospace saloon with the turbocharged Prima diesel and did a spectacular 50 mpg whilst still managing to go like a bat out of hell, albeit whilst leaving a trail of black smoke behind it. The heater was pants, the thing had done nearly a quarter of a million miles, the headlining was sagging in the usual BL way but most importantly in my opinion it lacked that crucial feature, power steering. This coupled with the usual piss taking from other drivers and customers alike about being seen driving a very unfashionable car was something of a drawback so I emptied my piggy bank and had a look at what was available for my budget.



Another driver had managed to secure a P plate FSO Polonez for a small sum of money and was getting good service from the XUD engine fitted so I wasn't going to dismiss the idea of owning an East European and as luck might have it an FSO turned up at a local dealers and I scampered around to audition it. I could of lived with the stick on wood trim and even the lack of central locking but the biggest problem with it was the engine, it was a 1.5 petrol and not exactly the most frugal car you could run for your money. A Daewoo Espero was briefly considered but after the Vectra the thought of GM mechanicals was off putting to say the least but finally I managed to find something up to the job, an ex military police Mondeo Aspen diesel saloon, 160,000 on the clock with central locking, Transit instrument cluster but no electric windows. A bargain for a '98 model as it had had a small amount of damage in the past. I had the windows etched with the reg number and fitted the fire extinguisher as per council requirements and hit the road. Other than a snapped throttle cable I managed to bodge with Meccano it behaved faultlessly, even the punters liked it. All was well with the world and I was finally happy and spending 2002 doing what I wanted to do....



Part two to follow if anyone's interested.
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Warren t claim » Sat May 11, 2019 12:30 am

Anyway, a bit about the cars driving the roads of my town around the Millennium.



The 406 was still a pretty new car and was somewhat aspirational to us drivers of older tackle and when someone on the firm bought one it was truly the object of desire at the base car park. Eventually the 406 went on to be the most popular private hire car in the area ousting the mid sized Ford from its perch after thirty years. The Xantia was seen as a cheaper alternative but drivers were put off by the witchcraft suspension system.



Some of the more unusual stuff on the roads were Rover 800s, Volvo 440s, Kia Rios and a BMW E36 328i Estate.
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Warren t claim » Sat May 11, 2019 12:30 am

The local authority I answered to was/is Wirral Borough Council. Wirral is a place of stark contrasts, we regularly hold the Open Golf Championship and have areas of green belt situated around the multi million pound homes of Caldy and Heswall which are about as opposite to the areas of mass unemployment and plethora of council estates that surround the Birkenhead area as you can get, which is less of a town and more Europe's largest open prison, Birkonians were proud early adopters of the heroin lifestyle back in the early 1980s and haven't really shaken that tag off in the following thirty years. Wirral Borough Council therefore are a bit of a snooty bunch who like to keep a tight reign on the licencing of their public and private hire fleet and have some strange regulations which beings me nicely onto the subject of the Wirral Standard Arse Measurement. Due to spiralling fuel costs and the increasing availability of five door superminis W.B.C felt that they had to do something about the number of five door Novas and 205s that were being issued private hire plates and decided to invent the 15" Wirral arse requirement. Every private hire car was now required to be 45" between the rear door handles to be licensed thus driving the cheaper cars off the road.



Throughout my tenure as a driver several things have defined a decent private hire car. Back in the old days a car that was fitted with 165/70/13 tyres was always considered a good bet due to the easy availability of cheap used tyres. The Cavalier and Sierra were winners because you never needed to service them because if they went pop you'd simply spend a couple of hours chucking a scrapyard engine in and be back on the road. Diesels were until about 1992 treated with suspicion with only the obvious candidates from Ford and Vauxhall given consideration, if you were feeling brave then you may chance a BX without a turbo and one fleet owner did run half a dozen Renner 18s with decent results. One honourable exception was the Bluebird Dizzler, a car even now fondly remembered for its ability to keep on living and provide its driver with reasonable economy and plenty of toys. Petrol was king and even the Talbot Alpine and Austin Ambassador were common sights on Wirral's roads until 1994/5.



Every model has its ideal taxi spec and even certain popular models were best avoided, the Mk2 Cavalier estate was one such car because any sort of rear end knock would result in the car being off the road awaiting parts from Australia. Any CVH Ford whether Escort, Orion or Sierra was always to be avoided unless super cheap, ditto 1.3 versions of the Sierra or Montego as they simply wouldn't last a year of fully laden abuse but the Mk2 Cavalier was usually considered just about up to the job. The lowest trim spec acceptable for taxi usage wasn't down to owners preference or budget, but the lowest spec that had a trip meter fitted as mental calculations from the badly lit odometer would give you eye strain on a dark night. Back in the old days to plate a car you only needed a fire extinguisher, a second return spring on the throttle and a drip tray under the carb to pass an inspection and as long as your seats and carpets were free of tears and burns you were away. In later years W.B.C insisted on all licensed vehicles having their windows etched with the cars registration number, this was caused by hackney fleet operators swapping their least rusty FX4 doors around on inspection day.



I'll lob part 3 up as soon as I've managed to remember all the fleet I've owned!
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Warren t claim » Sat May 11, 2019 12:31 am

Throughout the years there's been a few noticeable absences from my local taxi fleet. British Leyland/ARG products although plentiful on the used market several examples never made it as a taxi, a Triumph Acclaim was never plated and only one example of its replacement Rover 213 made it onto the circuit. The Volvo 240 was considered expensive and thirsty ergo only a solitary 240DL was plated for a year and I can't remember a single example of a 340 being used as a taxi either. Although Talbot found fans with the Solara and Alpine only a couple of Avengers, both estates were worked and we were never lucky enough to have a Tagora taxi either. Rear engined Skodas weren't very popular due to boot space but we did have several Ladas and quite a few FSOs, the Polonez was particularly popular back in the early 1980s. The Renner 20 managed to find a few friends in both petrol and diesel guises but nobody was brave enough to risk a 30. Italian cars were pretty thin on the ground as well with a couple of 131s, a 132 and a handful of Stradas being the sum total from the land of pasta although one driver did persevere with a Croma CHT until its eighth birthday.



Today the fleet seems to lack the cars every other town seems to have, we've only a couple of Toyota Avensii plated and the number of drivers choosing the Skoda Octavia and Superb can't be more than 20 out of a local fleet of about a 1000 cars, maybe because the first drivers who bought Octavias all seemed to suffer gearbox woes which is a shame because the Favorit and Felicia had a pretty loyal following.



A strange anomaly of taxi driving is our insurance, yes it's FUCKING EXPENSIVE but one thing that doesn't affect it is what car you choose to drive, even the cheaper end of the insurance market don't care unless it's over a Group 17 so as long as a car has four doors, four wheels, less than eight years old and can pass the Wirral arse test then you could plate a grey import WRX or Evo and be king of the cabbies.
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Warren t claim » Sat May 11, 2019 12:35 am

This post from Feb 2014 really does seem dated now in 2019!

Update time. My local authority has finally moved into the 21st century and realized that maybe a car isn't totally fucked when it hits eight years of age as is sick of issuing discretionary six monthly extensions after eight years. Now we can plate a car until it's tenth birthday I've got a bit more choice on what to buy and I've got a couple of favorites. I require your bigoted opinions on running either a Jag X Type 2.0 dizzler or a Project Drive 75 Rover with the BMW lump. I'd prefer a manual version unless I'm advised otherwise. Your thoughts please!
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Warren t claim » Sat May 11, 2019 12:37 am

THREAD FROM THE DEAD



I'm not sure if this'll interest any of you but the national taxi trade magazine has at long last produced a list of vehicle age requirements for all local councils.



https://www.phtm.co.uk/vehicle-age-and- ... y&filter=A



So if you fancy trying your hand at minicabbing in a 1979 Granada 2.1 diesel in taxi trim you can see where you can get it plated.
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Uncle Albert » Sun May 12, 2019 1:14 pm

Excellent stuff, loved this thread first time round on the other channel so looking forward to hearing about more adventures.
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner EXCLUSIVE DARK WOB UPDATE

Post by Warren t claim » Wed May 22, 2019 2:24 am

I thought I'd bump this thread and lob another tale up.

Now my current taxi is a Hyundai Ionic as most of you from the censored forum know. Some may consider that a tad small for a 6'2" driver but trust me I've owned smaller which brings me onto this chapter.

Back in early 2003 a mate handed his Peugeot 306 hatch back to the garage he was buying it from. Now he always spoke highly of the car so I thought I'd step in and buy it as I reckoned that it'd be ideal for my mum to drive as she had just got her badge and was currently driving one of my 2.0 petrol Mk2 Mondeos. Sadly she hated the (admittedly) very heavy clutch in the 306 so stuck with the Ford leaving me with no choice but to drive the little Pug so I could make my money back on it. IIRC it was five years old at the time and had been repaired after a heavy collision to a slightly less than reasonable standard, the automatic wipers didn't work to the point that the wipers were only one speed and even lacking a self park function. Also the front spoiler had been replaced with one off a later model with round fog light apertures which naturally I failed to fill with fog lights. Despite all of this I bought it unseen and undriven for £4000 which was cheap for a five year old 306 Diesel back then. Within a minute of turning the key for the first time I knew I should have asked for a test drive, this particular 306 lacked something I thought it would have especially after Colin telling me how rapid it was and that's a turbo. Yep, I'd bought a 306 lxd non turbo! OK, although it wasn't the blown 306 I hoped it was it still had a decent amount of pull as thrilling*any N/A XUD owner knows and it also was super economical on fuel, nearly as good as my old Montego Turbo Diesel mentioned earlier. All seemed well for a few weeks, I even got used to the clutch until I needed to replace the front tyres. Only after the tame rubber fitter had put new front boots on that another problem became apparent. The alloys fitted didn't have centre caps or even a hole in the middle to balance them! As my tame (read cheap) supplier of previously cherished tyres lacked any sort of facilities to balance wheels on the car I had to hope for the best and as luck might have it I wasn't stuck with a 306 with wheel wobble so awful it could go on Stars In Their Eyes as a 1974 Avenger and finish at least a credible third. Despite all of this I didn't hate the car, some younger punters loved it's hot hatch looks and 50+ MPG made it cheap to run so despite some reservations I persevered with it. Sadly it decided to throw another hissy fit and blow most of it's instruments. I'm talking speedo, rev counter and fuel gauge. Fortunately, even though the fuel gauge was FUBAR the low fuel light still worked meaning I knew when to fill up. Fast forward to August 2003 Mutha_Claim is pulling out of the local hospital junction traffic lights on green (or at least that's what she adamantly said) In my/her Mk2 Mondeo 2.0LX when a P reg VW Polo driven by a 20 year old lad en route to his shift at McDonalds runs into the offside rear of the poor Ford. Obviously this leaves her without a car or job. Now even though I had a few Mondeos out on hire as taxis at the time I was reluctant to take a car back off another driver for her as the other lads I had in my cars were decent payers. Sadly for mummy dearest this means she'll have to work the Peugeot that she hates on days while I work it nights. A few weeks pass and I get a phone call saying that she's stranded at Sainsbury's petrol station and the 306 won't start. I scamper over there to discover that despite the vendor's assurances that "I'm sure I changed that cambelt for Colin" he clearly hadn't I was left with one dead 306.

What did I do next? Stay tuned for my next thrilling* instalment and I promise it won't take me five years to write it!
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner (Again)

Post by Undercover Shitter » Thu May 23, 2019 12:03 am

Nice, I loved these stories of your past escapades over on the other site and am happy that more will be appearing in the future.

Talking of the Hyundai, how is that going so far? Surely the miles are really starting to pile on now.
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Re: Claim's Cabbies Corner 13 YELLOW 1 DRIVER REQUIRES URGENT HELP

Post by Warren t claim » Thu May 23, 2019 9:58 am

Last night I had to attend an emergency call off another driver who's passenger was threatening to set him on fire. Myself and a friend were first on the scene followed by another six cars, in fact the only drivers that were unable to attend were the four Asian drivers working so presumably they must of all been out of the area. Anyway, while Evil Warren was sorting out the miscreant and his exceptionally gobby woman I pondered over emergency calls I've attended in the past. One particularly springs to mind which I'll tell you about now. Barry (RIP) was a hard working driver's driver, both friendly and willing to help as well as being well known and popular with the punters. One Saturday evening he put out an emergency call which was a first for him and obviously we all scampered over to help. Unfortunately another driver called Andy was a bit enthusiastic in thrashing his 65bhp Skoda Octavia SDi to the scene and in a locked up front wheels moment he drove into Barry's 51 plate Passat (the first of that type plated in our area) ripping the front bumper of the poor VW. On the plus side Barry was saved a beating but sadly the damage came to hundreds.... Andy's Skoda was remarkably unscathed, not unsurprising as I shall tell you now. Picture the scene, it's Thursday, not just any Thursday but the day before the last Friday before Christmas and Warren is running passengers home in a Xantia turbo diesel when the engine starts clanging and then dies. Yes, I'd managed to kill another XUD engine. Being a Citroën towing can't be done on a rope but fortunately there's a DIY straight bar in the office and Andy comes out in his Skoda to rescue me. We make it about a mile when the well breaks on the scaffolding straight bar while slowing down for a red light. My Citroën had used up all of its power for the brakes and plows into the rear of the poor (brand new) Octy. The Xantia wasn't a pretty sight with cracked bumper and a smashed headlight but full marks to the Skoda as it only suffered a scuffed bumper. I really was embarrassed especially as Andy refused to let me pay for the damage. I was left needing wheels urgently though which will be my next installment. ENTER THE 306 SEDAN.
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