Cabs that have made their mark: iconic symbols of the cityscape

Every traveler loves that moment when, after a long journey, they find themselves in the back seat of a cab admiring new landscapes. Behind the window we become children again and are able to spy on the movements and surroundings of a new city without being seen by its inhabitants, immersed in everyday life. The hustle and bustle of modern cities from inside a cab seems to slip by with poetry, and we are enthralled. Being transported through the streets by skilled drivers relaxes us and often the cars themselves make this journey magical. Every city has its flagship cab, and in some cases the cabs and their colors have become iconic enough to characterize a place. In New York, the yellow of Yellow Cabs lights up the landscape, while London's dark cabs give the city a refined air. In Italy as in other European countries, the light colors of cabs are highly visible and tie in with the elegance of the streets. There are countless cars that have carried the distinctive cab sign on their roofs, but only a few have made their mark for charisma, practicality and reliability.

The arrival of cabs on the roads

Daimler VictoriaAlthough it is sometimes left off without the knowledge of some distracted passenger, the taximeter is the instrument that identifies the cab inside. The taximeter is to a cab what the wing is to a Formula 1 car, essential. The first car to be equipped with a taximeter was the Daimler Victoria. On the streets of Stuttgart, Germany, in 1897, citizens began to move around no longer with our four-legged friends, but thanks to the internal combustion engine, developed a few years earlier. Cabs were not an invention, but a gradual abandonment of a means of transportation that was on the verge of extinction, the carriage.
Renault Type AGOver the years the function of cabs has been mainly to transport people of all kinds, from hurried businessmen to honeymooners. During World War I, Paris taxi drivers found themselves such unusual passengers that their Renault Type AG became famous and mentioned in history books. The German advance into France was running fast and French soldiers were far from the front, so Paris taxi drivers were hired to take the soldiers to the battlefield. The famous low-nosed Renaults managed to transport five thousand soldiers, five per cab, bringing a contribution that gave a boost of enthusiasm and pride to the French citizens.

Cabs in the common imagery

Checker TaxiIf we said to you: close your eyes and think of a cab, you would probably think of a Checker on the busy streets of New York. These big yellow cars remained in the background of very famous films of the 60s, 70s, 80s. For well over three decades this model served as a cab, but it reached its peak with the film Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro, a cult film that brought to the big screen the life of a sleepless taxi driver and his customers. The Hollywood actor took a license as a Yellow Cab driver and worked 12-hour shifts in the profession for more than two weeks.
Ford Crown VictoriaIf the movies you watch are more recent or if you have played the most popular video games in recent years, then you will still picture the city of New York filled with legendary Ford Crown Victorias. This mundane-looking car is still admired today for the starring role it has played in the american world as a cab and as a police car. Since 1992 this model has scarred several generations, and the last ones on the road were only recently decommissioned in 2023. Its simple lines and reliable mechanics made it a worthy successor to the old Checkers.
Toyota ComfortIn Asia since the 1990s there has been an undisputed queen of the cab world, we are talking about the Toyota Comfort, launched in 1995, it was immediately sponsored as a practical and comfortable solution for Japanese taxi drivers. This sedan was immediately adopted in the land of the rising sun, but not exclusively, Hong Kong has made it an icon of the city, where the different colors of this model identify the different urban areas in which they can operate. As the name implies, every aspect of this car was aimed at comfort, from suspension to steering to acceleration, which was gradual in order not to disturb the passengers. Today the Toyota Comfort has morphed into a hybrid minivan reminiscent of a Japanese version of a British cab, but if you want to know how the original fares you can read this review.

Italian brilliance

Fiat 600 MultiplaLondon still has cars designed for public transportation aka Hackney carriages, but there was a similar design in Italy as well. A forerunner of today's minivans, the Fiat 600 Multipla was able to offer limited dimensions to pass through the narrow streets of the beautiful country while maintaining exceptional capacity. The cab was not as ornate as the St. Regis version, but instead of the front passenger seat was fitted with a rubber-covered plate for suitcases while passengers could settle in the back, where four people could fit. It remained in production for a total of 11 years, from 1956 to 1967, but because of its originality it remains one of the most remembered cars by Italians along with the new Multipla, also an excellent cab loved by those who drove it for years and its passengers.
Fiat 1100 DThe 1100 D is a car that, as a cab, was quite successful in Italy but found its fortune overseas; in India and especially in the city of Mumbai it gave rise to a perfect mascot on four wheels, a souvenir for the eyes for anyone visiting the place. The "Kaali-Peeli" literally "Black and Yellow" or the colors of the livery that had been chosen, are venerated for their timeless appeal. Under Italian license, the 1100 D, not to be confused with the 1100 musone, was built in India under the name Premier Padmini and was very popular both as a cab and as a private car in the 1970s and 1980s.

Today's cabs

Today's regulations also require cabs to be less of an impact on the environment, as they are among those cars that grind out the most miles each year. The hybrid formula is perhaps among the most convenient for saving money and not wasting time at the charging stations. In the world of hybrids, Toyota has been leading the way since the introduction of the Prius, but today we also see many Auris, Rav-4 and Corolla especially around Europe.
"Chase that car" is often said by movie characters when they get into a cab, today we were the ones chasing the most well-known cabs in the automotive scene. We couldn't list them all, but if you are passionate about the subject, we suggest you follow the Instagram page @realtaxicab that posts photos of different cabs around the world.
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