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My Austin FX3

What stories it could tell. The odometer on this 1956 Austin FX3 reads "92434" miles (148,758km)", most of which were done in service as a taxi in London until 1971 when it was decommissioned. 

Rolls-Royce engineer Rainer Keissling bought the taxi in 1971 for 120 pounds (about $177) and drove it to Germany where he lived. He then brought it to Australia in 1984 when he emigrated with his family. 

"He just had a love of vintage cars," says one of his three sons, Chris. "Every time he went to England on business, he'd come back with spare parts like a starter motor in his luggage." 

When his father died about five years ago, the car was given to the three sons - Rainer, Christian and Bernard - who set about restoring it to its original condition. 

"It had been sitting in a shed and just slowly fell into disrepair," Keissling says. "Dad couldn't do any more to it because his health was failing. 

"So we took it upon ourselves to restore it. Bit by bit we've repaired it and put it back into running order." 

Keissling also ran an engineering business like his father, so most of the spare parts that were unavailable were fabricated by him, right down to the steering box bushes. 

One of the biggest jobs was replacing the notorious "Prince of Darkness" Lucas Electrics. 

"They never really worked properly from the start, but we've got it working properly now," Keissling says. "Over the years we've spent at least $5000 to $10,000 restoring it. It's hard to say just how much we've spent. It's been a passion thing rather than a cost thing." 

Current value is estimated to be between $15,000 and $20,000. "It's hard to find an accurate value. It's not super rare, but has a lot of sentimental value." The brothers have used the car for family and friends' weddings, including Chris and his wife, Emily. 

"It drives really well," he says. Like all London taxis, the front wheels turn almost 90 degrees giving it a small turning circle of 7.6m diameter so it can negotiate tight London streets and tiny parking spaces, but it has no power steering. 

A unique feature is the built-in Jackall hydraulic jacking system which is similar to the on-board system used by V8 Supercars. There is also a mechanical override to pump up the jacks by hand. 

The FX3 is fitted with mechanical drum brakes with rod operation and is suspended by beam axles on leaf springs. It was the first model with a separate driver compartment with the luggage riding shotgun. In the back is a bench seat with two single rearward-facing seats. 

Keissling says the taxi meter was unhooked from the gearbox when it was decomissioned, but has now been reconnected to drive the meter which ticks over at six pence for every one and one-third miles. He says fuel economy is "pretty good because it's a low rpm diesel" and the car has a top speed of 100km/h. 

"It's not fast, but it has good pulling power in first and second gear," he says. "It's hard to drive with no synchro on the downshifts and no power steering, but once you get the hang of it it's not too bad."

Austin FX3

Year: 1956
Price New: 1010 ($1500)
Price Now: $15-20,000
Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel
Body: 4-door, 5-seater (plus driver)
Trans: 4-speed manual with no synchro in first.

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