In our ongoing bid to bring the best of British to New York City, our co-owner Sean shipped a fully functioning, stock standard black cab from London back in 2010. He then converted the engine to run on used vegetable oil from A Salt & Battery. Here’s a little ode to Sean and the taxi.
“Some people say it smells slightly of fish and chips,” Sean says with a cheeky grin, leaning on the bonnet of the cab. “Maybe I should take along an atomizer with malt vinegar to spray out of the window.”
If you order catering from Tea & Sympathy or A Salt & Battery, chances are it will be delivered by traditional hackney carriage. A 1980 FX4D of the turbo diesel variety, with bespoke leather interior and a sun roof, to be precise.
A car of such specifications wasn’t easy to come by and Sean had to hunt high and low for the right one. Once he found it, it still wasn’t quite right and he cracked on with converting the engine to run on used veggie oil from A Salt & Battery’s deep fat fryers.
He found a company based in Massachusetts called Grease Car, who could convert pretty much any diesel engine. They’d never been asked to make changes to a London cab before, but with help from Daryl at Evergreen Motors, and a little elbow grease (pun intended), everything fell into place and Sean was ready to hit the road.
“I got the conversion done for two reasons: it’s cheaper this way, but also better for the environment. It’s greener and releases far less pollutants. You get a tax break from the US government for running your car on alternative fuel and of course it takes us away from foreign fuel dependency.”
“What’s more, at 30 miles per gallon, I get the same efficiency as diesel and there’s no discernible difference in performance.” In fact, Dr. Diesel invented an engine that ran on peanut oil for the Paris Exhibition in 1900. However, the petrochemical companies weren’t so happy and ensured the version that ran on their product came out on top.
Sean’s isn’t the only London taxi in the area. “There’s a black cab in New Jersey, another that’s used by a movie producer as a limousine, and there’s a perfume company who have a white one with ‘I love New York’ painted all over it.” But even without the adjustments to the engine, it is entirely unique: it’s the only stock standard model, it is right-hand drive, and (as you’ll know if you’ve been in it), it has a top of the range sound system.
Thanks to a friend who works at the Classic Car Club on Hudson Street, Sean’s driven around town in Ferraris, Porshes, and Bentleys. But he maintains it’s the taxi that gets him the most attention. “I get all sorts: people taking photos and running into the traffic to have a natter.”
“My favorite is when someone shouts ‘Oi, taxi, can I go to Piccadilly Circus’. I always reply, ‘Yeah sure, that’ll be about $4,500.’”
If you’re interested in placing a catering order, click here. Sean has also rented the taxi out for film, TV and photo shoots, as well as weddings and movie premieres. The taxi was converted by Grease Car, with the help of Evergreen Motors.