It operated a coachbuilding business on Holyhead Road, Coventry. After half a century making short runs of limited demand bodies for major manufacturers it was obliged to replace these now moribund activities and in 1971 took from its former customer and supplier of taxi chassis, Austin, the manufacture of complete London taxicabs. Two years later was bought by Manganese Bronze Holdings. Rebranded as The London Taxi Company in October 2010, it was placed in administration in October 2012, with certain assets purchased by Geely to form what is now the London EV Company.
The origins of The London Taxi Company can be traced to 1919, when Robert 'Bobby' Jones, a former general manager at coachbuilder Hollick & Pratt took over the coachbuilding operations of his then employer, timber merchants Gooderhams and set up in business in premises acquired from Thomas Pass in West Orchard, Coventry.
Rather than make bespoke bodies to individual designs, Carbodies set out to produce coachwork to a number of standardised designs for car companies that did not have their own coachbuilding facilities. Their first major customers during the 1920s were MG and Alvis Cars. The scale of a new contract to build bodies for the MG M-Type Midget meant that they needed larger premises and in 1928, they moved to a larger site on Holyhead Road, where they remain to this day. In the 1930s, they supplied bodies for Rover, Invicta and Railton, but by far their biggest and most important customer in that decade was the Rootes Group.
During World War II the company made bodies for military vehicles. They also acquired press tools through the Lend-Lease scheme, which enabled them to make aircraft components. In 1943, Carbodies also became a limited company at this time, with Bobby Jones as governing director and his son, Ernest Jones managing director.
Taxicabs, Convertibles, Daimlers and other Postwar Vehicles
After the war, Carbodies negotiated with London taxi dealer Mann & Overton and Austin to make bodies for the Austin FX3 taxi, introduced in 1948, as well as finishing and delivering the complete vehicles. More than 7,000 FX3s, mainly destined for London, were produced over 10 years. They also developed a system for turning modern all-steel saloon cars into convertibles. This work was carried out on the early unit construction Hillman Minx, the Austin Somerset and Hereford, the Ford Mk1 Consul and Zephyr and, later the Mk2 Ford Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac.
BSA ownership (1954-1973)
In 1954, Bobby Jones sold Carbodies to the BSA Group, who put it under the control of its prestige car company, Daimler. Although it was intended for Carbodies to become the manufacturing plant for Daimler steel bodies, this was never fulfilled. It did, however convert the Conquest saloon into a drophead, using the same methods they used on Fords and Austin and also made a drophead coupe body for the Daimler Conquest Roadster and made bodies for the Daimler Majestic and Majestic Major saloons.
Under BSA, manufacturing facilities were extended and more plant installed. In 1958, Carbodies began manufacturing the body and carrying out the assembly, finishing and delivery of the most important vehicle in their history, the Austin FX4 taxi. Carbodies also supplied prototype bodies and tooling, projects including the Jaguar E-type bonnet and panels for Triumph, Ariel and BSA motorcycles and scooters.
Further contracts undertaken during the 1960s and early 1970s were the conversion of Humber Hawk and Super Snipe, Singer Vogue and Triumph 2000 saloons into estate cars, but gradually, as contract work on private cars and commercial vehicles fell away, the FX4 taxi would become more important for the company.
In 1971 Carbodies bought the FX4 chassis assembly line from British Leyland's Adderley Park, Birmingham factory and moved it to Coventry, making them complete manufacturers of the FX4, in actuality if not in name.
Manganese Bronze ownership (1973-2013)
In 1973, Carbodies was included in the sale of BSA to Manganese Bronze Holdings. In the 1970s, Carbodies tried to make a new taxi of their own, the FX5, but it was abandoned in 1979 because the development costs were too high.
In 1982 Carbodies take responsibility for the complete manufacture of the FX4 taxicab, after British Leyland lost interest in it. By this time, the FX4 was the company's only product, despite attempts to introduce new lines, such as a Ford Cortina MkV convertible and the Range Rover Unitruck. A new model of taxi, the CR6, based on a Range Rover bodyshell was abandoned after almost five years of development. In 1984, the London taxicab dealer Mann & Overton was bought by Manganese Bronze Holdings. Pending the development of a new model, the FX4 was further developed and became the LTI Fairway.
Rebranded as London Taxis International
In 1992 the company was rebranded London Taxis International with three divisions: LTI Carbodies, LTI Mann & Overton and London Taxi Finance.
In 1997, a new model of taxicab, the TX1 was introduced as a successor to the FX4. Further development resulted in the launch in 2002 of the TXII, powered by a Ford Dura Torq 2.4-litre diesel engine and featuring an integral fold-down ramp for wheelchair users. It also has an intermediate step and swivel-out seat for passengers with moderate walking difficulties. For people with hearing problems it has an induction loop incorporated in the intercom system.
In October 2010 the London Taxis International was rebranded as The London Taxi Company. A joint venture with Chinese car maker Geely, who already held a 20% interest in the company through its Manganese Bronze shareholding, was formed to build a factory in Shanghai to manufacture London taxis for the export market and to supply components to the home factory in Coventry. In 2010 the Mann & Overton trading name was dropped.
In October 2012, following a suspension of sales due to the discovery of a serious flaw with vehicle steering components and having failed in an attempt to obtain new financing, the company was placed in voluntary administration. The quite recently specified faulty steering components had been sourced from Geely supplier, Gang Yang in China.
In February 2013, certain assets of The London Taxi Company were purchased from administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers by Geely. It continued to trade as The London Taxi Company until rebranded as the London EV Company in September 2017 developing electric commercial vehicles at a new plant near Coventry, the first into production being an electric taxicab - the LEVC TX.
They provided most bodies for the separate chassis cars
Carbodies' prewar sports bodies
Carbodies' postwar drophead coupés and estate cars
Ford Zephyr convertible
Ford Consul convertible
Ford Consul MkII convertible
Ford Zephyr MkII convertible
Alvis TA 14 drophead coupé
Austin Somerset drophead coupé
Triumph 2000 Estate
Singer Vogue Estate
Humber Hawk Estate
Humber Super Snipe Estate
Daimler Conquest drophead coupé
Carbodies' taxis, hire cars and commercial vehicles
Austin FX4 1962
- Bill Munro, Carbodies: The Complete Story, Crowood, UK 1998, ISBN 978-1-86126-127-4
- London Taxi Company press releases
- David Thoms, Tom Donnelly, The Motor Car Industry in Coventry since the 1890s Croom-Helm 1985 ISBN 0-7099-2456-9
- Companies House extract company no 382553 Companies House
- BSA assemble taxis The Times, Wednesday, 12 May 1971; p. 18; Issue 58170; col F
- MBH to buy taxi group The Times, Wednesday, 11 April 1984; p. 20; Issue 61803; col F
- Manganese Bronze boosted by exports The Times, Tuesday, 14 February 1984; p. 20; Issue 61757; col D
- London taxi parts to be made in China Sydney Morning Herald 21 March 2010
- Manganese Bronze to seek funds from China's Greely China Daily 16 October 2010
- London Taxi eyes Australian market Go Auto 1 October 2012
- Manganese Bronze to call in administrators BBC News 22 October 2012
- Lynch, Russell (22 October 2012). "Manganese Bronze calls in administrators after crisis". Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
- Manganese Bronze taxi steering fault solution found BBC News 15 November 2012
- Black cab fix on the way ‘within weeks’. The Times, Friday, 16 November 2012; pg. 59; Issue 70732
- Coventry taxi maker LTI sold to Chinese firm Geely for £11.4 million BBC News 1 February 2013
- China's Geely buys black cab maker Manganese Bronze Reuters 1 February 2013
- London Taxi Company to change its name after 69 years Coventry Telegraph 12 July 2017
- B.M.C. Claim 53 Per Cent. Ignore Strike. The Times, Tuesday, Jul 24, 1956; pg. 8; Issue 53591