CABCHARGE

> DID SOMEONE HAIL A TAXI? WE GET READY TO CRANK SOME BOOST INTO A HIGH-MILEAGE CLUNKER

CARNAGE STORY SCOTT TAYLOR PHOTOS ELLEN DEWAR & ST

BUILDING a sleeper means finding the most innocuous-looking ride on the street and then giving it oodles of horsepower, and we reckon there’s nothing more invisible than a taxi. They are everywhere, but unless you’re actually looking for one to get you home, it’s a good chance your brain is telling your eyes to ignore it. Which means a taxi could make the perfect sleeper.

We have been aching to do our own Roadkill-style web series for ages, and while we were kicking around ideas for it one day, I said: “What we should do is buy an old Falcon taxi and turbo it.” Editor Telfo liked the idea so much he jumped on Gumtree and started looking at taxi prices. At the time taxis were both cheap and plentiful, but with no time to take on new projects we shelved the idea for a rainy day.

Well, it must be raining, because we’ve just bought ourselves a genuine taxi to turn into the ultimate 10-second sleeper. With Street Machine Drag Challenge and our Project Torana giveaway car both out of the way, we found our chance. It was time to kick off our web show, which we are calling Carnage. The first episode is online now; you can find it at streetmachine.com.au and on our YouTube page.

Checking the internet to see what was about, we found that ex-taxis are nowhere near as abundant as they once were. That’s because the Victorian government used to mandate the maximum age for a taxi was 6.5 years from the compliance date, but recent changes have scrapped that limit, meaning taxi operators can now hold on to their cabs longer and keep going until the car reaches a point where it costs more to maintain than it’s worth.

So I wandered into TaxiLink at Huntingdale to see what they had, and was told there were three cars for sale, which would probably be the last ones they’d sell. Of the three, one stood out. It only had 576,000km, most of the panels were straight and it looked to be all one colour – the standard Victorian taxi yellow.

The other two looked like they had done a tour or two in a warzone – faded paint, primer patches, enough

kays to do a round trip to the moon and more hits than Elvis, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga combined.

We took the ‘low-kilometre’ unit for a test drive, and surprisingly it drove very nice. No brake shudder or thumping suspension, the fake leather interior smelt okay and it seemed to accelerate smoothly, although the standard ‘taxi whine’ was constant. The trouble began when we returned to the taxi base and heard a subtle but persistent knocking noise from the bottom end, so we chose to test another car. The difference was chalk and cheese; this one banged and thumped, warning lights flashed on the dash, it didn’t accelerate very well and the battery was dead, requiring a jump-start from another taxi. The options were $2900 for a taxi that needed a new engine, or around $2200 for a taxi I definitely didn’t want.

at SM HQ we talked through the options. “Will he take any money off it?” Telfo asked; $50 was the answer. “What about the other one?” he queried. “I don’t want it,” I replied.

So I rang the owner of the better car to tell him the bad news. He said: “If we’re talking cash in hand in the next hour you can have it for $2750; any cheaper and I might as well put it back on the road.” So I bought a taxi.

Now $2750 might seem like a lot for a car with 576,000km, and it probably is, but we had a plan that called for a genuine taxi and this is the real deal, right down to its rubber floor mats, diff whine and thick faux-leather seats. Sure, we could have bought a G6E for less money with fewer kays, but where’s the fun in that?

The idea for our Turbo Taxi is to take a genuine old cab and make Back atSM

it run 10-second quarters while still running on barbeque gas. That’s right, we’re going to keep it on LPG!

To that end, we’re going to enlist the services of Tunnel Vision Turbocharging, the experts on LPG performance and Falcon sixes, and by the end of it we should be making 500hp at the treads and running 10s down the quarter.

First up though, it was time to lay down some baseline numbers. On the dyno at MPW the 2010 FG Falcon spun the rollers to 191.2rwhp (142.6rwkW), which surprised just about everyone. Then we headed out to Calder Park for a run, but we were late due to heavy traffic, and a couple of oil-downs meant that things weren’t moving too well out at the track either. Our first and only run came at 10pm, so I stalled it up against the converter and left on the last amber.

Bad move. From our experience with the XR6 Sprint at Drag Challenge, I should have remembered that standard late-model Falcons hate getting loaded up against the converter. Torque protection mode came into effect, and with absolutely no power happening at the startline the taxi crawled away from the lights. “Go, go, go,” I cried, but all I could do was sit there and watch as the FG XR6 turbo in the other lane went screaming past for a 10.7, whereas I was travelling so slowly I could read the timeboard as I went past – 17.2@83mph. Bloody hell!

In all honesty, I think the car is good for a low 16, or even possibly a high 15, but we’re not going to wait around to find out. It’s time for the spanners; let’s see if we can carve seven seconds off the timeslip.

Did someone call a cab? s