News

Pop on over to Piccadilly Circus

Summer entrepreneur Sean Fraga will take islanders for a ride in his 1973 Austin FX-4 taxi-cab. The curious – and those actually interested in London-style transport – can find the cab parked outside Gallery Fraga. Call (206) 295-0823.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Summer entrepreneur Sean Fraga will take islanders for a ride in his 1973 Austin FX-4 taxi-cab. The curious – and those actually interested in London-style transport – can find the cab parked outside Gallery Fraga. Call (206) 295-0823.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Or at least use your imagination, in this English cab.

Surely it shuttled tourists from Big Ben to Piccadilly Circus.

But it also could have hosted more colorful clientele. Along the blustery banks of the Thames, Mick Jagger might have howled through its window at the Tower Bridge. Or a young Prince William might have joined his brother for a ride through the country, in a backseat big enough to fit all five Spice Girls and a Beckham to boot.

Other than all over the streets of London, Sean Fraga can’t be sure where his family’s 1973 Austin FX-4 taxi-cab has been. And that, he said, is all part of the fun.

“Unfortunately we can’t track this particular cab to see if the queen ever rode in it,” he joked from the driver’s seat, which is, of course, on the right side of the car.

For 26 years the Fraga’s cab plied the streets of London. It was retired in 1999 and bought by the family four years ago. Shipped west via container ship, it has since been rumbling around the roads of Bainbridge.

“It’s a great summer car,” Sean said. “You can’t blast any tunes because there’s no radio, but you can get a good breeze going if you roll down the windows.”

So Sean, a Bainbridge High School graduate home for the summer after his freshman year at Yale University, wants to take islanders cruising.

He’s offering chauffeur service for point-to-point transportation, narrated sightseeing or historical tours and shuttle service for off-site event parking.

Rides can be booked by the hour or half-hour by calling (206) 295-0823 or emailing british.taxi@gmail.com.

The cab seats up to six passengers, but Fraga said it’s most comfortable with four or five. Flowers, food and even dogs are welcome to come along for the ride.

The service is available on nights and weekends and during the day on Wednesdays and Thursdays, when Fraga isn’t in Seattle serving an internship.

So far business has been good, he said. He did a shuttle service for a recent Bainbridge Performing Arts-sponsored event, and has a deal with a local guest house to take passengers to and from the ferry terminal.

He sees the venture as more of a novelty chauffeur service than a taxi service, but he isn’t restricting himself to any one niche. He’s willing to dress for any occasion, and even promises to affect a British accent at his passengers’ request.

“I’d really love to do a wedding,” he said. “Get some flowers in this thing.”

The cab runs on diesel and has an automatic transition. Aside from upgraded seatbelts – required to meet safety standards – the cab is nearly in original condition.

Perfectly intact in its roomy backseat are advertisements, affixed to the bottom of two pull-down seats, and a fare chart from the cab’s last year in service (for the record, the minimum cab charge in 1999 was 1.40 British pounds).

Because the odometer is permanently frozen at 57,000 miles (or is it kilometers?), Sean doesn’t know for sure how far the cab has traveled.

“I’m assuming it’s either 157,000 or 257,000,” he said.

Calling it a “workhorse,” he said the car still runs well, though not without the occasional rattling at speeds above 55 miles per hour.

“It’s an old car,” he shrugged. “It’s perfect for when you don’t need to be somewhere in a hurry.”

Rattling aside, the cab’s interior remains perfectly tidy, in accordance with its British roots.

So far Sean’s most effective advertising tool is taking the cab for a spin downtown. He often parks in front of Gallery Fraga, which is owned by his parents, and leaves a business card on the dashboard.

“This car just attracts attention,” he said, as right on cue two curious onlookers surveyed his ride.

Still, to promote his service, Fraga printed a brochure and business cards. His hope is to keep busy for the summer before he heads back east for school in August.

After that, the car will return to relative obscurity, but not before a few islanders get to sample a small piece of British culture.

“I just get this feeling that I’m going to be sitting in class in September and October getting calls on my cell phone from people needing rides,” he said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Jul 25 edition online now. Browse the archives.