Oldest Morris cab is last of its kind
British service: After 10 years as a taxi, it was used on a farm, to help war effort
British regulations define a hackney carriage as a taxicab that is permitted to roam the streets looking for passengers to pick up.
That’s opposed to a vehicle for hire, sometimes referred to as a minicab, that can transport only passengers who have booked a trip in advance or who visit a taxi stand.
The oldest surviving Morris taxi cab (hackney cab) was offered for sale earlier this month at the Brooklands historical spring auction in England. Despite a lot of hype and pre-auction interest, the 1929 Morris Empire did not reach the minimum reserve of $38,000.
The Empire Oxford was built specifically for the overseas market and meant to rival anything available at the time in the United States.
William Morris modified a Morris Oxford by enlarging the body so that it would fit onto a rolling chassis from a truck.
Unfortunately, poor sales resulted in more than half of the 1,700 examples produced being dismantled and returned to England. Morris solved this problem by recommissioning 840 examples and sold them as taxis to be used in commercial service.
This particular Morris spent 10 years in service on the streets of London.
You might notice that it does not have large headlights, just small sidelights. Headlights were not fitted because cabs rarely operated outside the street lamp-lit boundaries of London.
Another accessory omitted was a speedometer; it was felt that taxicabs should not travel faster than the rest of the traffic, which was, of course, obeying the speed limits. The passengers rode in protected comfort, unlike the poor driver who was exposed to the elements of inclement weather.
After its 10 years of service, this 1929 Empire was sold at an auction and purchased by a farmer, who put it into service working the land as a tractor to support the war effort.
In an attempt to gain some added traction in the muddy fields, the farmer added some weight to the back end by loading the rear luggage carrier with scrap metal.
After the war the Morris was offered for sale, and during its pre-sale preparation the scrap iron was removed. Turned out the scrap iron was two unexploded bombs and an anti-tank missile, which were subsequently exploded safely by the British army’s bomb disposal unit.
Having undergone a complete restoration, the sole survivor Morris taxi was entered in the 1975 London-to-Brighton commercial run and has spent time since being used as a for-hire wedding car.