The good old days

While living round my parents flat in Hanwell, w7, I completed the Knowledge of London, it took me 2 years 5 months , I got my bill on the 18/02/92.

My first ever cab was rented from Camberfield in the Ham Brentford, the guvnor was Malcombe Smith, his wife was named Moira, she was his book keeper and cashier, she would always be in the office high above the ground, in a portacabin.

All his cabs were old, I think the oldest was 25 years, Malcombe was a bit of a sergeant major in the cab trade, he always keep his cabs and garage spick and span, the PCO as it was known in those days used to grade the garages, his was top grade (A) he was very proud of that fact, he could also charge more then other garages with lower grades.

When renting he would make sure they were in good running order, he would have a check list for the mechanics to go over, that would include oiling the door hinges, you could always see the streak marks down the outside of the doors.

If you keep your cab clean every week when paying your rent. He would give you an extra week free at Xmas.

Before he would let me take the cab out he would tell me to check the tyre pressure, mileage on the clock and make a note of any scratches or dents in the bodywork and also check where the fuel meter was. he didn’t like his cabs with less then a half full tank.  Once that was sorted he would explain the fixed rental mileage of 120 mls a day I was allowed to do, otherwise he would charge 20/30 pence a mile more if you went over.

You had to warm up the spark plugs. Before you could start up, so you had to pull the choke for 30,60,or even once 90 seconds on one  particular cab, before turning the key, otherwise it wouldn’t start.

These old cabs were renowned for leaky windscreens, when it rained the water would run down and under the window rubber from the top, under the hire light, it would make it’s way through the fuse box and end up on your right foot, if the mechanic’s were in a good mood they would give you a carrier bag and elastic band to hold it on your foot.

I remember once taken this old Q reg cab out, it had column change and non servo assisted brakes and steering, so if you had to do an emergency stop, you would literally have to stand with both feet on the brake pedal and that wasn’t always guaranteed to stop you, my driving from those early days improved pretty quick.

My very first week, I ended up at Liverpool street, while there I thought I’d grab a bite to eat, when I came out someone asked if I could take them to Stansted Airport, I said yes, no problem, so it was on with the meter and off we went, when driving up the M11, there’s a steep incline, upwards, my foot was down to the floor boards, I think I managed to get up to about 30/40 mph, smoke was billowing out the exhaust, the cold winter wind was gushing through the badly fitted windows and doors but I was happy.

Was I glad to reach a level road, my foot still down to the floor boards, I reached top speed of 50mph, it took me ages to reach my destination.

On my way back I had less weight on so it was a bit faster, not a lot though.

When I reached central London I pulled over to check the oil, so I switched the engine off and topped it up, most of the oil came out of the filler cap and was all over the engine compartment, a total mess, when I went to start it up, it wouldn’t start, so I had to call the number on the back of my tax disk, when the mechanic arrived he tried cranking the engine but it wouldn’t have it, to much oil all over the fan belt, so he  towed back to Brentford.

The next day I called mal and he told me to come down and pick it up, he also explained if it happened again, not to switch off the engine, he said that also applies to when the battery goes dead, he said these old cabs will keep running.

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