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Auction news, Motor Mouth articles 2013

Historic taxi may go for a bomb at auction

Uncle Lima, in his role as wedding car.

Uncle Lima, in his role as wedding car.

HAVING survived the Blitz and lugged about an unexploded bomb for a while, a car believed to be the last surviving Morris London Taxi is about to be sold at auction.

Originally an export model called the Empire Oxford and intended to boost overseas sales, poor uptake from abroad meant many of the 1,700 vehicles manufactured were returned to the UK, with 840 recommissioned for commercial use.

This one, built in 1929 and nicknamed Uncle Lima, saw 10 years of London taxi service accruing fares before it was bought by a farmer and adapted for use as a tractor to support the war effort.

During routine army manoeuvres the hay rake collected some scrap iron, which the farmer decided to add on to the back of the vehicle to improve its stability.

But when Uncle Lima was put up for sale again after the war, the scrap iron was removed and discovered to be two unexploded mortar bombs and an anti-tank rocket.

Following restoration and a return to its former guise, the old car made a public appearance at the 1975 Commercial London to Brighton run, and has been in constant use since, competing at rallies and events, and being put to good use as a family wedding car.

Uncle Lima was featured in a book by Bill Munroe on ‘A Century of London Taxis’ and also appears in a 1933 motoring magazine advertisement used to paint a picture of typical London lifestyle, illustrating the historical significance of the last remaining Morris London Taxi.

Based mainly on the Morris Oxford, scaled up to fit a modified 13cwt lorry chassis and running gear, most of the Empire parts were incorporated into the new cab, including the 2.5-litre engine and four-speed gearbox.

Strict regulations set by the Public Carriage Office led to a number of design peculiarities, with all cabs required to carry hay and water for a horse. Uncle Lima accommodated the hay in a box on the running board and water in the radiator. 

In order to allow passengers their privacy, the car was prohibited from having a rear view mirror, while the folding rear hood was designed as a safety feature, allowing swift escape should there be an accident, and the door handles were recessed to prevent injury in the event of a door slamming shut.

With Morris celebrating a century since the introduction of its first car, the Morris Oxford ‘Bullnose’, this unique car will go to the Historics’ spring auction at Brooklands on Saturday 9th March with a comprehensive history file and a full MoT.

The auctioneers believe that Uncle Lima will attract huge interest and expects offers in the region of £25,000 to £30,000.

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