In the 1980s anything was fair game for an upgrade. Elsewhere on Below The Radar you can read about the Metro that was upgraded by Tickford, the Honda Accord fettled by Rapport, the Triumph Acclaim given a makeover by Avon and Glenfrome's magnificent Range Rovers. And then there was the Carbodies FX4 taxi that was heated up by Tickford.
For some reason this particular Tickford confection is now all but forgotten, whereas the same company's Metro and Capri are still well remembered. But the Tickford Taxi has all but slipped from view, perhaps because even in the brief period that it was current, this weird limousine got very little coverage in the press.
The Tickford Taxi came about when in spring 1984 the Connoisseur Club on London's Kensington High Street commissioned a pair of limousines with a difference. Tickford took a Carbodies FX4 taxi, cut it in half then inserted a 16-inch section of bodywork between the axles, all of it behind the two front seats to create a much more spacious rear compartment. In place of the occasional rear-facing seats fitted directly behind the driver, Tickford slotted in a fixed bench seat which took up those extra 16 inches of interior space.
Usually the FX4 was powered by a Land Rover diesel engine; a 2.2-litre engine from 1982 then in 1984 a 2.5-litre unit took over. This was swapped for a petrol engine mated to an automatic transmission but it seems that Tickford didn't disclose which powertrain was used. Whatever it was it clearly wasn't up to the job, as Motor's review makes clear in a few paragraphs.
Tickford was going through a period of expansion at this point and it was sending out a press release on everything that it did, even if it was a private commission as the FX4 project was. It didn't take long for other wealthy clients to get in touch asking for the same. After all, if you want to move around London discreetly but in luxury, what better way than to do it in a tarted-up taxi? By the start of 1985 Tickford had produced a sales leaflet for the Taxi and it started to take orders from interested parties.
The original Tickford Taxi was trimmed in grey leather with pink piping, but of course buyers could choose whatever colour scheme they wanted, for the bodywork as well as the cabin. Both front and rear compartments got the full luxury treatment with lashings of Wilton carpeting, wood trim and a wool headlining.
A console in the middle of the forward-facing rear seat was fitted with a TV, video recorder and hi-fi, while there were curtains for the rear side windows, air-con and an electrically operated sliding glass partition between the front and rear compartments. For those who needed one, a radio telephone could also be installed, along with a drinks cabinet, fridge, boardroom table and even a fully installed computer for those who needed to work while on the move.
Whereas the standard Carbodies FX4 was priced at £10,084, the Tickford edition weighed in at a hefty £33,000 before taxes at a time when a range-topping Ford Granada Ghia 2.8i Ghia Xi Executive was just £15,442. A Jaguar 4.2 Sovereign could be yours for £18,995 while a Daimler Double Six was £25,995 – even a Mercedes 500 SEL was a mere £30,655. Obviously none of those offered the space or luxury of the Tickford Taxi though; this was a car that as Motor pointed out, was as wide as an Aston Martin V8, an inch longer than a Jaguar XJ12, while it was two inches taller than a Range Rover.
When Motor tested a Tickford Taxi in spring 1985 the review was less than enthusiastic:
A gap opens up and I accelerate into the traffic stream. Oops – did I say accelerate? This is not a vehicle that accelerates. It does get faster, but very slowly. After 50 yards there is already a traffic queue behind me.
Although the Tickford will round hairpin bends with effortless ease, there is no particular feeling of sticking to the road as you do so. This is also a car that has an inability to go faster than 20mph up hill, which means that I soon acquire a brightly lit string of Cavaliers, sticking like leeches to my tail. I know they hate me. I would hate me if I was them. A rough stopwatch test has revealed that accelerating from 0 to an indicated 30mph takes about 7.8 seconds. By way of comparison a Citroen 2CV, the slowest car tested by Motor in recent years, is a whole second faster to 30mph as it takes 'just' 6.8 seconds.
Driving along the M4 my petrol-engined beast will do an indicated 55mph fairly comfortably as long as there isn't a juggernaut overtaking me. The slipstream from a large artic bombing along at 70mph is enough to send me skittering helplessly towards the hard shoulder, again with that alarming feeling that there's very little connection between the steering wheel and the road.
At the end of my journey I get out to find myself crippled from the agonisingly uncomfortable – albeit green plush-upholstered – driver's seat. It has two kinds of height adjustment but no recline at all, and about as much lumbar support as a park bench.
If someone gave me £33,000 to spend on a car I cannot say that I would buy a Tickford Taxi. But then it's not designed to be enjoyed by private individuals, and it's certainly not meant to be enjoyed by the driver. Tickford hopes to sell its taxi to customers who need to carry half a dozen passengers in sophisticated style a short distance in an urban environment.
Bearing in mind those first two Tickford Taxis were built for a UK client, have they survived? At least four are known to have been built, one finished in maroon paint; they didn't all end up being destroyed in banger races did they?