By Sue Tiffin
Published June 8 2017
A ride in a taxi during a visit to London England almost 30 years ago was more meaningful than Kevin Shea intended.
He ended up bringing the cab home.
Shea a former broadcasting executive visited England with his brother in 1988. While waiting for their hotel room to be ready they decided to take a tour of the city.
“We were no sooner in the taxi my brother turns to me and says ‘we have to get one of these’” said Shea. “Our entire trip changed.”
Shea and his brother headed to Coventry where the London Taxi Company was manufacturing the iconic black cabs.
“We show up and say ‘we’re interested in buying two’” said Shea. “And they say ‘that’s terrific but get in line because you can’t get them into your country.’”
At that time import laws only allowed the cars into Canada if they were 15 years or older. Undeterred Shea phoned his friend a regulatory lawyer in Ottawa to determine what could be done.
“I said ‘there’s got to be a way around this’” he said.
Shea’s friend called back the next day with good news. He’d discovered that in Britain the age of a vehicle is stamped on the chassis (the frame of the car) as opposed to the dating process in North American production which puts stamps in a few different places.
“We went back to the factory and we said ‘we have an idea’” said Shea.
The brothers outlined their plan to buy two “wrecks” and put just the chassis of the old cars through the production line to be fitted with a new body.
“At the factory they said ‘If you look over there there’s five different taxis. Sammy Davis Jr. bought those last year and he can’t get them into the States. Maybe he’ll do a deal.”
So Shea and his brother were able to import two brand new 1988/89 black cabs that were dated as being 1972/73.
“They’re such a unique car” said Shea. “They’re incredibly roomy. There are very few in North America and I thought it’d be cool to have it.”
The car is so rare in Canada that Shea a Halls Lake resident has had the opportunity to drive it in remarkable situations.
“I’ve done a lot of fun stuff with it” he said.
He and his brother escorted Canadian athletes in the cabs into the Air Canada Centre prior to the London Olympics in 2012. The car has been featured in commercials and films including one starring Ann-Margret and has been used by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario during royal visits. Shea has also driven the car in the Haliburton Rotary parade though he said “when you drive it through Haliburton it’s sort of a parade onto itself.”
The car which seats six gets a lot of comments especially from British fans.
“I call it the happy car” said Shea. “People see it they all wave and smile – and Brits go crazy.”
He once even had someone try to hail it when he was picking up a friend at a hotel.
“There was a lineup for taxis so the very first guy in line was saying ‘it’s mine it’s mine.’”
Shea is renting the car out by the hour to those in need of a notable car for a special occasion. It’s already been rented for a wedding in Haliburton during the second week of June. In the meantime when he’s not taking it to the grocery store it’s parked next to a British telephone box in his driveway waiting for its next chauffeur opportunity.
“My plan is one day for the Queen” he said.
If you are the Queen or if you are interested in renting Shea’s London Cab he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-886-5110.