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Steve Suttle

1920s taxi cabs

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Hello.

I am a film historian - of no little repute - and I watch a lot of movies made in the 1920s and early 1930s. Over the years I have noticed that certain taxi cabs, largely in NYC, but elsewhere as well, have the headlights mounted on the cowl and no lights on the front. This configuration is on any make, Checker, Yellow, Green Stripe, it doesn't seem to be company specific.

Can anyone tell me why this is and can anyone identify the make of these cabs? I checked out the illustrated history of Checker on the Internet and they don't seem to have this unusual headlight configuration.

Any help appreciated.

And a side note. Have you ever noticed that Warner Bros. used the same DeSoto cab over and over in the late 30s and 40s?

I think it's a '36 model, could be a '37.

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Don't have a clue about your question but it did remind me of what I thought was an odd clause in the California Motor Vehicle Code which led me to wonder what vehicle(s) had headlights at locations other than the front of the vehicle and where those headlights might have been mounted. From V C Section 24400 Headlamps on Motor Vehicles:

...and, except as to vehicles registered prior to January 1, 1930, they shall be located directly above or in advance of the front axle of the vehicle...

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That seems to "grandfather" in any older style with large cowl lamps as the primary source of illumination.

Some trucks are like that as well.

I've seen early Mack Bulldogs with cowl mounted headlights.

I'll try to find a photo of one of those taxis.

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Here you go. And nicely restored as well (I think I would've passed on the whitewalls, however!)

I have no idea what make this is. Could be a Checker Motor Co. vehicle as they sold cabs to all sorts of taxi companies.

post-73194-143138751242_thumb.jpg

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Here you go. And nicely restored as well (I think I would've passed on the whitewalls, however!)

I have no idea what make this is. Could be a Checker Motor Co. vehicle as they sold cabs to all sorts of taxi companies.

Interesting.

Don't see how that would work with a one piece swing out windshield. The car in the photo appears to have a two piece windshield, so the top could hinge out without hitting the lights. But that type windshield was out of style by 1930 or so. A car with the more typical late 20s and early 30's swing out windshield would require moving the headlights to a different location.

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Correction:

In the original post it should read

"a film historian - of NO GREAT repute"

Excuse me on that. Indeed, you've never heard of me, nor are you likely to!

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Well, I mentioned cabs in 1930s movies only because this configuration was still in use on older cabs. I don't much imagine it survived for cabs made after 1930 or so.

I might also add that I've never seen a Ford taxi, Model T or Model A, with these cowl lights so I am still guessing Checker or maybe another similar company that specifically supplied cab bodies. I know that Checker was always a 'cabinet' company, i.e., assembling vehicles from outsourced suppliers. I don't know if they produced their own bodies, however.

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I'm pretty sure Yellow-cab had the lights mounted up-high. There was also a radiator shell on e-bay several years ago that had the radiator emblem mounted to the right hand side of the shell so i could be seen from the curb. It may also have had a plate attachment there as well - I wish I'd kept pictures as it was unique to say the least...

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Well, I've got a partial list of companies that built cabs, altho in looking at it I see I failed to note whether it was a car company that built a few cabs or a company that specialized in cabs....

There're probably fourty or so altogether, but no way to tell how many were actual body builders or who might've had bodies built to their own designs...

I always assumed the car companies donated cars to get the exposure; lots of B movies had the cops in Nashs for the 50's...

I haven't heard the "cabinet" term for cars/trucks built from vendors components; in my experience the term "assembled" is genereally used--live and learn.

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Hi Steve! I am starting to get an interest in Taxis myself and was wondering if you could post a photo (video grab) of the 36-37 DeSoto cab you were speaking of from the Warner Brothers movies? Any help would be appreciated.

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There was a cab manufacturer started by Mr. Hertz, of the car rental fame. It was called Yellow Cab cars and trucks. They had some models with headlights mounted on the cowl. Larger International Harvester trucks of the 1920's had cowl mounted headlights.

-M

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