28 January 2019

More than an old car #92: Nissan Cedric Y31 taxi

It is common knowledge that Singapore is not a good place to own cars, partly due to out efficient public transport system. Naturally, this includes the many taxis that we have, from the aforementioned Hyundai Sonatas, Renault Latitudes and more recently, Mercedes E-Class cars as well. When I was growing up, taking a taxi was a big deal because it was more affordable to travel on buses and our MRT trains. I have fond memories of sitting in them and also remembering some of the advertisements on them. Some time back, I got wind of an old taxi that was still around from this video, and it was pretty nostalgic to see this 2004 Nissan Cedric Y31 taxi again!

The Nissan Cedric is a large car produced since 1960 and was designed as a mode of upscale transportation. Its name is derived from the main character in the novel Little Lord Fauntleroy, and was chosen by the then-CEO Katsuji Kawamata. Over the years, it has been used as a taxi in Japan, and the Y31 generation was no exception. The Y31 generation, first produced in 1987 was popular among consumers at that time due to the robustness of the Japanese economy. 

For the taxi version, cheaper plastic fittings were installed and the seats were replaced with PVC. Sound proofing was also removed and taxi-related equipment were also installed, such as a radio and tachometer. Over the years, changes were made to both the exterior and interior. It was powered by a 2663 cc TD27 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 185 km/h, with an acceleration of 10.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. However, all taxis had a speed limiter, where a bell would chime (annoyingly) at speeds above 100 km/h. It was 4690 mm long and weighed 1380 kg

Somehow, the Y31 Cedric maintained its boxy look throughout, but despite the poor aerodynamics, it served its job of carrying passengers and cargo comfortably. This is a feature that is missing in taxis today: many have griped about the lack of leg room available. This unit is made before 2005, since the side indicators are still located at the front instead of being further behind. It was previously used as a form of rehab to the elderly, by training them to get in and out of a car. As mentioned in the notice stuck to the window, it was donated after it had run down its 8-year lifespan on the road, which feels too short in my opinion.

SMRT is recognizable to us as our train operator, but it also runs a fleet of taxis up till today. The door could be opened and I recalled the feeling of being in this type of taxi when I was younger. I could almost smell the generic 'taxi smell': a combination of air freshener and PVC I think. For some reason, this taxi has not been used for quite a long time: compared to the view in the video, what I saw was a lot more run-down and dirty, along with mosquitoes inside. 

The steering wheel was quite well-worn: how many taxi drivers have sat behind the wheel? According to the odometer, this unit has clocked 660,034 km: this is pretty amazing even if we consider its role as a taxi! How many places has it been to and what adventures/close calls had it experienced? The car interior may look dated with the angular dashboard, but it is something you won't get to see in cars these days...

Production of the Y31 Cedric taxi ended in 2014, some 20 years after the end of the passenger Y31 Cedric. However, Singapore stopped using Cedrics some time in 2012 when they did not comply with new emissions regulations. This was the last unit remaining in Singapore as all others have been scrapped. I have heard that this has been removed, and with it an icon that was used by people of all walks of life. I hope that with my documentation, future generations will be able to read up on this unique vehicle that brought us wherever we wanted to, before the days of Grab/Uber. Come to think of it, I should have taken more pictures as well, but I would like to credit the videographer who covered the car in more detail. Hopefully, this has brought back some memories as well for you!


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