LET'S TALK ABOUT TAXI VEHICLES. -Fred Stock
Considering the vehicle; Most any vehicle will suffice as a taxicab IF it is
in good condition (maintenance costs skyrocket if it isn't because taxis are
USED to death). A taxi cab needs to be large... that is, spacious. If the
passenger is cramped and folded in the rear seat, he won't book you for the
return trip. Lincoln Town Car (NOT the Continental - too small and and electronically impossible), Cadillac
DeVille, larger Buicks, Chevrolet Astro Vans, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand
Marquis, Chevy Caprice (if you can find one), Chrysler Company vehicles like the Caravan/Villager/Town&Country line, all
good choices. Lincoln Town Car and Ford Aerostar - good. Ford Windstar/Freestar - bad choice - they
have possible transmission and brake problems in our experience. Toyota Sienna
is a good vehicle but like any foreign car, parts may be more difficult to get.
There are those who love almost any car... we have made taxis from VW Rabbits, a
VW Micro-Bus, very old Volvos, Mercedes (very difficult to install), Chevy Celebrity, Mercury Tracer, Yugo... good grief! In
Mexico City they used many VW Bugs at one time!! Oiii! Remember, if you invest money, time,
effort and maybe TLC in a vehicle making it a Cab, you are making a mobile ROOM
in which you will probably spend the greater portion of your next several years.
If it's too small, too uncomfortable, too whatever, your customers will detect
that and NOT be back. If it's too expensive to pay for, you'll run it into the
ground trying to make the payments without maintenance. Bad plan. If it's an SUV
that guzzles gas, drives like a truck and takes up two parking slots, you'll
hate it in a month. An older clean car with meticulous detailing and no smoking
will work better as a starter. You can get the latest Lincoln Extra Extra model
later on. Also look carefully at insurance costs. You may find there is a
substantial difference between older and newer cars, certain brands, even the
location of your office!
There is an on-line service that lets you discover the history of used cars by their VIN Vehicle Identification Number. That's on the door frame and in the window in front of the driver, visible from the outside. You can also find it on the engine.
Go to www.carfax.com Well worth your time and money! Also note that when you register your vehicle as a "Taxi", it appears on Carfax and other agency reports as a taxi. That means it will resell for less later because we beat them up in this industry! No, WE don't sell Vehicles or Insurance, but this information may help you get them.
Let's Talk About Electric Vehicles: The advent of electric vehicles for common distribution to the consumers instead of just experimenters, has presented a whole range of new challenges for our industry. There is often NO place to get a dependable VSS signal at all, or the signals are so weak they are nearly un-usable. You can try to get a reasonable signal from the ABS system, but that is so high in frequency that a pulse divider is mandatory, and I know of one installation where two pulse dividers were seried to get the count down to a uasble level for an old Pulsar taximeter. Yes, we do sell a device which plugs into the car's On Board Diagnostics connector, reads the computer and creates a pulse for our meters... but ... that OBDII jack is meant for emissions control, and all-electric vehicles like the Leaf from Nissan and the Tessla S don't emit. The OBDII adaptor doesn't work on those cars... we've tried it! .
Now, there is a company which specializes in after-market cruise control systems, which offers a kit for creating your own (quite acceptable) pulses. The system places magnets on the rotating portion of the drive shaft or perhaps the axle of the non-drive wheels. Then a sensor coil is placed in a position which allows the magnetic fields of the magnets to "cut" the wires as they rotate. That generates a small electric pulse which can be used by our meters for distance information. As long as the shaft and wheels are mechanically "true" (they always are) the output string of pulses will accurately reflect your travel distance. The catch is this: you have to "erector set" mount the coil in such a way as to cause it to stay put. I never have used this system without seeming endless adjustments... because the vibration from the road, and the shock from bumps and potholes throw them out of adjustment on a regularly unscheduled basis. All is well until you hit a speed bump in the country club entry road... then your meter quits working until you crawl under the car! Yikes!!
This portion of this lesson was composed in early 2014 and the subject of electric vehicles is a rapidly evolving technology... suffice it to say, before investing the considerable funds in an electric vehicle for a taxi cab, be sure to do your homework. Does this vehicle have a usable speed/distance pulse source? Is this car designed for constant traffic in the rear seat? Can I get replacement parts for reasonable cost and availability if there should be an accident? There ARE working electric taxi cabs of reasonable size (not big golf carts) out there, but they require very careful care and feeding, if indeed they can be roped and branded at all.
Let's Talk About Mercedes: I have a number of issues with Mercedes Benz vehicles as taxicabs. These are only my opinions and you should make your own observations and decisions. First, MB uses an outrageous amount of padding under the dash and throughout the car. Every place they can, it seems, they put thick foam padding and sound insulation. That's fine for quiet comfort, and a beast for installing equipment while you are outfitting your cab. Especially difficult are older MB's which use a mechanical speedometer cable. They do not have electronic speed pulse generating devices, and so, in order to outfit your meter, you need to provide one. The transducers you need are inserted into the mechanical cable harness. If there is room to actually mount the transducer at the transmission where the cable is plugged in, you can just get the proper part... perhaps $160.00 to $170.00 these days... plug it into the tranny and screw the original cable to the other fitting on the transducer. Great! Except nearly every MB I have ever worked has NO ROOM near the tranny for the part. Just can't fit it in there without a welder and a cutting torch. Solution: cut the aged rotating cable, have it fitted hydraulically with the proper hardware, and insert the transducer into those fittings. However, you have just taken a cable nearly two decades old and placed greater strain on it... as well as modified its length. That's asking for problems. Next, try as you may, there isn't enough room for it under the dashboard, since the voids are full of foam padding. Solution, gouge out a hole in the padding for the transducer and cables. Oh, be sure to get it in exactly the right position, since any distortion of the mechanical cable will soon wear it out and you'll be off the road whilst replacing same. (And replacing those hydraulically fitted connections too! That process is spelled $$$$$.) Next, many MB's have a sunroof, and as I have said elsewhere, when it comes to a taxi, sunroof is a four letter word. Putting a little skinny toplight in front of the sunroof just above the windshield seems to be the answer... until the first time you try to drive at night. Since the light is right over the glass, every pit, bug and bit of dust on the windscreen glass will glow, effectively opaque-ing the windshield. Like trying to drive looking through a bathroom windowglass. Or, you can drill tiny toplight mounting holes through the roof behind the sunroof, run the cover back, measure the distance between the roof surface and the retracted sunroof cover, and cut-off the screws just long enough to go through the roof but not scratch the sunroof panel. Yikes!!! You could use a magnetically mounted toplight.. seems like a good idea, except you are trying to outfit a high-end vehicle which will have snob appeal... not all bad ... and of course, a lamp cord running across the roof and through the door seal to the cigarette lighter jack. Ick! Next consideration: Even the newer MB's have factory wiring in difficult places under the dashboard. you will end-up disassembling half the dashboard in some models in order to run your wires to the proper connections. Now, in fairness, one client has outfitted his MB with a roof rack like you would use for a surf board or skiies, then created a "floor" across the span. On that floor, he mounted a permanent toplight with the electrical wiring secured neatly to the struts of the rack. Only a small hole was drilled into the triangle piece at the upper right corner of the driver's side door for the wiring. The moonroof now operates normally. That solves one MB problem!. My opinion; if you can avoid this brand of vehicle, for our purposes, you'll be making a good decision.
On Vehicle Signs identifying you as a Taxi Cab are sometimes painted on the car, but more often a vinyl lettering system provided by reputable sign shops can give you a very professional look for not too much money. Some areas allow magnetic signs. We can supply those for an unreasonable cost if you need them. You'd do better to get those from a local sign shop where you can control colors and fonts etc. Ask us. firstname.lastname@example.org is our e-mail.
Roof Signs, Toplights, Lighted Signs, Car-top Markers, Domes, Toppers, call them what you will. you will need one of these to look like a taxi! They are the universally recognized symbols of our industry. We have them too, in a large variety - over 50 models. We can even custom make them, pre-letter them, supply them in colors and more. Ask us. email@example.com is our e-mail. See "toplights" below
Advertising signs mounted on your roof - usually two sided or 3-sided triangular units with vinyl billboards - Ad Carriers - will make you money and provide a moving signboard for your sponsors. We carry those too. Ask us. firstname.lastname@example.org is our e-mail. Ask us. email@example.com is our e-mail. Oh, regarding roof-top signs, remember of you plan to use a VERY TALL vehicle like a Ford E350 Van, and you plan to put a 18" sign or larger on the roof, you are also planning to avoid those hotels and medical facilities that have "bridge" type canopies, overhanging roofs and certain very low under-passes. Parking structures can be a challenge too. There is nothing attractive about a broken ad sign, especially where it slammed into a hotel's rain-roof! Might upset customers too! Caution your drivers - perhaps with a Dymo-label at the base of the speedometer display; "This vehicle is now 8 ft 7 in. tall. Use a shoe-horn for carports!"
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