Friday, April 28, 2006

A question

One of my readers asked a question: What is all that stuff inside the door?

That stuff is the window and door latch mechanisms. Both are different than a typical car.

Taxis have simple slide windows. There is no crank. You just push them up or down with a handle attached to the top of the glass. The bomb has rare power windows. There is a motor and a system of cables to raise and lower the window.

In the early 1960's there were several incidents where passengers trying to roll down the windows unintentionally opened the rear doors. A child was killed in 1961 while trying to roll down the windows with door handle. When another child fell from a cab and was killed in 1982, the PCO mandated window stickers showing that the windows are opened by pulling them down. The PCO also required that the door handles be covered with a plastic shield.

In 1983 Carbodies added a mechanism that prevents opening the rear doors from the inside while the taxi is in motion. Additionally the rear doors remain locked if the driver's foot is on the service brake. Passengers had been known to open the reverse hanging doors into bicycles, passing cars, and pedestrians. Giving control of the door locks to the driver reduced the number of accidents. A lot of the bits on the left side of the door are part of the door release. Unlike a typical power door lock, the electric locks on a taxi only block the inside door handle. The outside door handles can be locked with a key and are usually left unlocked.

The electric lock mechanism is fairly simple. The doors will be unlocked if the cab looses electric power. I don't trust the electrical system one bit. A short or stuck relay could keep the door locks on. In normal taxi a passenger could always slide the window down and open the rear door with the outside handle. The bomb has power windows however. If the windows stop working a person could be trapped in the back compartment. I will install an emergency hammer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Let the Good Times Roll

My tyres arrived at 2PM Friday. The rain started at 5:30PM. Severe thunderstorms were enough to keep me and the bomb inside. By mid-morning Saturday the storms had settled down to a steady rain. I was not about to be put off by a little water. I put the right side of the bomb on one of HF dollies and dragged the bomb out. The left wheel lug nuts were close to seized. A lot of WD-40 and jumping on the end of my flex handle got them free. I was of course thoroughly soaked by the time I got both wheels into the trunk of my BMW.

I didn't want to risk damaging my hard won Michelin taxi tyres on the HF manual tire changer. I drove to a nearby tire Kaufman Tire store. That's where I found out that Kaufman Tire will not mount tires purchased elsewhere. A trunk full of impossible to obtain taxi tyres didn't change matters. Slipping one of the mechanics $30 to do the job on the side did.

The wheels went on with little drama and lots of WD-40. I got soaked again. The winch pulled my newly mobile taxi into the garage easily. It took maybe 10 minutes. The rain stopped as soon as the rear bumper cleared the garage door.

The tyres have TAXI molded into the side wall. I believe that is a PCO requirement. Leave a comment if I'm wrong.

Sunday I pushed the bomb out to work on it. Not even pushed really. The garage floor has a slight slope and the car rolled most of the way out.

I started taking the doors apart. The right passenger door is rusted at the bottom. I had hoped that I could save the inner part of the door and just replace the skin. Power windows were a rare factory option. I'll figure out what I'm going to do with them when the replacement doors arrive.

A recent post in the London Taxi Cabs group listed the number of FX4R vehicles still registered for on-road in the UK. The numbers shocked me. 1982 - 8, 1983 - 5, 1984 - 11, 1985 - 17. Another 60 are listed as SORN. Most or all of those 60 will never drive on the road again. Only 19 of the 2151 FX4S taxis from 1986 are still licensed for use on the road.

Although my Sterling is 1986 MY, the chassis number (616xx) puts it near the end of 1985 FX4R production. I know of 3 London Coach cars. I've seen 2 on eBay. Both ran. Then there is mine. A Sterling is in the LVTA roster but I think it is one of the two cars I saw on eBay. And there are the 17 cabs in the UK that run. Of the all the units Carbodies made in the last year of FX4R production only 19 are currently road worthy. I will make it 20. The rest of you: Keep after the rust!

EDIT: 2 London Coach owners have posted comments. There are at least 5 or 6 London Coach cabs still around, including mine.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tyred Out

After waiting a few weeks, I emailed Longstone Tyres to find out why they hadn't charged me yet. I waited a day and had no response. Then I checked the spam folder. Emails from Nigerian bankers wanting to give me a million dollars make it to my inbox. But Longstone Tyres asking if I really want to put taxi tyres on my vintage car. Well that must be spam. Thanks yahoo.

Most of Longstone's customers have true vintage cars. They used to sell taxi tyres as a stop gap until suitable tyres became available. Turns out I'm their first customer with an actual taxi. Longstone has been great. Simon just sent me the photo of my new tyre. We have a few more hurdles to clear but I'll get them eventually.

I decided to stop waiting for the new tyres and figure out what is wrong with the space saver on the right rear. A soapy water test showed the tire was leaking along the bead. Made me wonder if the problem was the rim, not the tire. I needed to pop the tire off and have a look. Harbor Freight had a manual tire changer on sale for about what it would cost me to have a shop mount and unmount the tire.

The tire changer has to be bolted to a solid surface. Whoever owns our house next will be wondering why there are so many anchors in the garage floor. I'm up to 11 now.

This was the easy part.

The Manual Tire changer works like any other Harbor Freight tool. They are cheap. You have to shove on them so hard you wonder what is going to break first. In my case it was the tire bead. That's a good thing. It was supposed to break. Once the tire was off, the problem was obvious. The wheel was full of crud. The sort of stuff you'd expect on a wheel that had been in a barn for 15 years. The guy at the used tire store hadn't cleaned it off. The tire bead wasn't making a good seal.

After cleaning, I discovered the rim is bent. It is ok for now. I will have to replace it before I can drive the bomb. Three taxi rims just sold for 99p on eBay. Pick up only. Somewhere in North London. I was not able to remount the tire. It was the end of the day and I was already worn out from getting the tire off. I'll try again soon. Beats lifting weights.