We travel back over 100 years for our "Classic of the Day" today, with something that was once a regular sight in major cities being used as a taxicab.
Our choice is for available at Bonhams International Autojumble Sale at Beaulieu this weekend.
1913 UNIC TYPE C9 LAUNDAULETTE TAXICAB
Registration no. BF 5545
Chassis no. 11640
Engine no. 700
When Georges Richard left the French Brasier company to set up in business at Puteaux in 1905 he called his product Unic an allusion to the fact that initially he pursued a one model policy. This policy soon went by the board and the 10/12hp twin cylinder T-head car was shortly joined on the production line by the 12/14hp four cylinder model and later by the highly successful 10/12hp four cylinder cars. Most commercially successful of all Unics was the 12/14hp model which found favour as a taxi cab in many European countries.
The United Motor Cab Company of London were major customers of Unic and Unic taxis were prolific on the streets of London.The four cylinder Type C9 Unic was introduced in 1913 by Societe des Anciens Etablissements Georges Richard and this model was supplied in significant numbers to the London taxi trade. These vehicles were supplied from France in chassis form and widely used London coachbuilders included Christopher Dodson of Hampstead, Mann & Overton and Dyer & Holton of Brixton.
The full history of this vehicle is not recorded but at some time it appears to have been the property of Imperial Palace Casino Inc. in Nevada and the quality of this now mellowed restoration suggests the hand of the American restorer. In the history file there is reference to the autobiography of VSCC Past President Kenneth Neve's book 'A Bit Behind The Times' in which he refers we think to this car as follows - 'but real excitement came when George Felton lent me his 1911 (sic) Unic taxi (which he bought from the owner-driver in London's Park Lane) to drive from Boston, Mass. to a rally in Providence, Rhode Island.' So it appears that this vehicle went straight from service into preservation in the USA. At some later stage this taxicab was on exhibition in a Dutch Museum.
The vehicle is smartly presented in dark blue livery with a fine yellow coachline. The coachwork bears the maker's plate of G.Widden of Fowell St. and Blechynden Mews, North Kensington and is Body no. 234. The lettering LGCC appears above the windscreen and the brass plate on the rear number plate further attests to its working history. The car is equipped with brass acetylene headlamps, Lucas commercial oil sidelamps and a Nonpareil brass bulb horn. It sits on 32x4 'Non Skid' tyres. A correct feature is the Brown Bros. 'For Hire' lamp, while other taxi details include the leather luggage straps beside the driver, the Passenger Intelligence Notice in the rear, the communication speaking tube from the rear to the cab driver and the extended roofline beside the driver's seat for his extra protection from the elements.
During the present ownership, in 2010, extensive work was carried out to the mechanical aspects of the car, including stripping the engine, checking, cleaning and re-setting valve timing, overhauling water and oil pumps and locating period carburettor and magneto. New rear wheel bearings were fitted and the rear brakes were set up and front axle and track rod overhauled as necessary. The invoice for all work carried out is on file. At that time the vehicle was driven to its MoT test which it passed. Since then mileage has been minimal and we are advised that recently the vehicle has been difficult to start, suggesting that further attention is required.
Taxicabs of this age are rare indeed and this vehicle represents so well the typical London taxi which served the Capital admirably during The Great War. This rare vehicle one hesitates to say unique - is offered with a small history file and a Swansea V5 registration document.