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Last of New York City’s classic taxis to be retired

Once the Ford Crown Victoria ruled the roads of New York City, now the last two roaming the streets of the Big Apple as taxis are set to be forcibly retired.

The Crown Victoria ended production in 2011, and with a seven-year registration limit for all taxis set by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), it’s a small wonder the Crown Vic is still able to pick up and set down passengers to this day.

According to The New York Times, one of the remaining Crown Victorias is a 2011 model owned and operated by Ravinder Sharma with around 885,000km on the odometer, and the other has 790,000km and belongs to Haroon Abdullah who bought his car in 2013 after it had sat on a dealership lot for two years.

Both vehicles are still operating as taxis as they were given pandemic extensions. Recently both owners have skipped their allotted taxi inspections, where it’s more than likely officials would have taken away the cars’ meters.

They have not been summonsed for administrative hearings, which, if lost, could result in their taxi meters being shut off remotely. Not showing up to a hearing could lead to a fine, and a suspension of their licences.

Jason Kersten, a spokesperson for the TLC, admitted to the newspaper these two Crown Victorias were “the last of their kind”, but added that “as it was with the Model Ts, Checkers and Caprices before them, their final act of safety must be a well-earned retirement”.

Launched in 1991, the Crown Victoria replaced the LTD Crown Victoria as Ford’s full-size body-on-frame sedan. While its predecessor had boxy styling punctuated with sharp corners, the Crown Victoria had a rounder body more in line with the Taurus of the day.

Although the coupe and wagon body styles were ditched, the Crown Victoria retained the Panther platform which dated back to 1979.

The second-generation Crown Victoria was launched in 1998, and included a new long-wheelbase variant targeted at the taxi market, which measured 5563mm long with a 3066mm wheelbase. This second-gen Crown Vic stayed in production, albeit with substantial under-the-body changes, until 2011.

All Crown Victoria models had a 4.6-litre V8 driving the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic. The V8 made 142kW/353Nm at the start of its life, and finished its days rated at 178kW/389Nm.

When this writer moved to New York some 11 years ago, the Crown Vic was still ubiquitous in both taxi cab yellow and police white, but their hold on those two key markets was already on the wane.

According to figures obtained by The New York Times, in 2011 — when production ceased — there were 7400 Crown Victorias plying New York City’s streets as taxis, and the model accounted for half of the city’s cab fleet.

Today, no one model dominates the taxi fleet with Nissan NV200 and Ford Transit Connect vans common, as are Toyota Sienna people movers, and hybrid Toyota Camrys, Priuses, and Ford Escapes.

Official numbers show active taxi driver numbers fell to around 10,000 in 2022, down from around 36,000 in 2013. This is due in part to the rise of ride-sharing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, but the sharpest fall came during the pandemic.

All images courtesy of Jason Lawrence via Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0 licence)


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