x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

My Car: Property boss puts his black London cab to work in Dubai

Adam Price owns two hackney cabs, with one of them having served in the British capital, then on a tour by the British singer Robbie Williams.

Adam Price enjoys the attention his taxi attracts. Jeff Topping / The National
Adam Price enjoys the attention his taxi attracts. Jeff Topping / The National
Everyone has some sort of claim to fame; a story that gets used time and again at parties when the subject of celebrity comes up. But Adam Price's story is one of the more unusual tales, especially for the UAE.
The 28-year-old Middle East managing director of Select Property, a British company that specialises in selling apartments in Dubai Marina, didn't meet anyone famous, but he does own a once-famous black hackney cab.
"This black taxi was once pink and Robbie Williams took it on tour with him around 1995/1996," he explains. "He drove it across Germany and he even used it when his tour came to Dubai in 2006 - and I was there."
Six years later it would be he and not the Take That star driving the classic 1992 Austin FX4 London taxi around Dubai.
A business associate made him aware that the black cab, as well as a white 2005 LTI TXII version, were available to buy. The black one had been a working London cab in a previous life and the white TXII had been built to a Spanish spec, so it already had a good A/C unit. When he saw them, Price says he just couldn't resist buying them both.
"My company combines British practices with what works best in the UAE, so I saw the vehicles as an opportunity to be innovative when it comes to marketing and PR," he says. "I've owned both of them for about six months and they're great. Everyone who's owned these cars, you know it's been a labour of love.
"The old one I paid Dh25,000 for but I've probably spent another Dh20,000 on it, getting a new gearbox, air conditioning, wiring and some engine work.
"It's only done 29,000km but that's with a newer Nissan engine that the previous owner put in it. How many engines it's had, I don't know. The white one cost about Dh60,000 and I've probably spent about five or six thousand on that too, but it's only done 18,000km."
In addition to using the cabs for marketing stunts, Price picks up clients from the airport and uses the black hack as a daily driver on his short commute from the Marina to Media City.
"When we have a client from Saudi, or somewhere in the GCC, we pitch up to collect them from the airport or hotel in a London cab and most of them absolutely love it," he says, beaming. "People's reaction is great to see.
"And it's great fun to drive. My commute to work is about six or seven minutes so she can just about manage it, if you push her."
It may be a short commute but Price still has to contend with plenty of interest in the car from passers-by. "You almost feel like a celebrity as you get so much attention in it," he explains. "I drove a friend down to JBR at about 6pm, when it is very busy, there's loads of people leaving the beach looking for taxis, and you can flick the switch so that the taxi badge illuminates. The reaction we got was amazing. There were people trying to flag it down and waving at us.
"We didn't have it branded up at that time so people were probably thinking: 'Who are these two characters driving about the Marina?'. Now that they're branded up I think it's a great PR tool for the company as it's an iconic British car."
Price believes that there are only about four or five of the cars in the UAE, which explains some of the hassle he had when registering the cars at the RTA in Al Barsha. "They didn't quite know how to classify them so we had to come back the next day to give them time to investigate what they were."
And once registered and out on the open road, Price found the novelty value of the cars meant that they had many suitors. "I've had many offers on them," he says. "People come up at the petrol station and ask about it and one guy stuck a note on the windscreen offering Dh50,000 for the black one."
Despite the offers, Price won't be parting with either car anytime soon - he loves driving them and he appreciates the interest they create in his company, which has sold more than 6,000 properties since its foundation in 2004.
There are one or two bugbears, particularly with the black FX4. "It drives fine but it's not the comfiest, and the metal frame where the taxi metre used to be blocks the air conditioning, which can be annoying."
When the summer fully kicks in, Price's A/C issues might just mean that he's having to park up his cab for a few months and flag a proper Dubai one for himself.