If you were to ask most Generation X and Y Singaporeans what the most popular taxi they’ve seen is, chances are, they’ll tell you it’s a Hyundai Sonata. Or a Toyota Prius. But show them a picture of the Toyota Crown, and they’ll instantly recognise it. Even if they don’t remember what it’s called. That was how popular the Toyota Crown taxicab is.
The Toyota Crown Comfort was first introduced into Singapore’s Taxi fleets way back in 1982. And as more taxi companies adopted this model, the number of Toyota Crowns taxis expanded further. Back in its heyday, there were so many of these cabs that every 8 in 10 taxis were Toyota Crowns. Such was the extent of its popularity. Back then, the easiest way for people to differentiate between the various taxi companies was by identifying the colours of these cabs: Yellow and Black for Yellow-Top Taxis, pale mint green for Smart Cab, bright yellow for CityCab, and of course there was the classic blue livery of Comfort Taxis.
Though not unobtrusively large on the outside, these taxicabs boasted surprisingly spacious interiors despite their relatively compact size. These cabs were often outfitted with black leather seats, but drivers tended to affix beaded seat covers and little neon green air fresheners in the air con vents. With ample legroom in the back and a cavernous boot, it really was the most practical taxi of its time. And taxi drivers could attest to the Crown’s reliability and durability. According to some drivers, it never broke down despite clocking high mileage figures.
As a child, I was rather impressed with the skill at which these old school taxi drivers shifted gears, a testament to the relationship between man and machine. Transitioning to lower gears as they approached steeper inclines or bends, without once stalling or shuddering as the driver set off from a standstill. It was almost seamless, although some of the less well maintained cabs vibrated a little while idling. And there was the cluttering noise from the diesel engines.
Sadly, the Toyota Crown was taken out of service as it was unable to meet Euro 4 diesel emission standards, which were imposed on vehicles registered after September 2006. And thus, the reign of the mighty Toyota Crown on our shores came to an end.
However, these workhorses are still a common sight on Japanese or Hong Kong roads. Flag a cab down in either of these cities, and you might just be greeted by its familiar boxy shape.