In days of yore, checking out local taxis would be a priority for the globetrotting car enthusiast abroad. Being able to look at - or even ride in - an automotive curiosity you’d never seen or heard of at home was part of the fun… you know, a bit like having a beer in the airport at any time of day.

With the rise of ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft, and Bolt, we’ve become less reliant on cabs. After all, with a few taps of your phone, you can expect what will almost be a clean, nondescript Toyota Hybrid to arrive at your location within minutes and safely take you to wherever you need to go at a price often cheaper than a taxi.

Nonetheless, we at still have a soft spot for the automotive diversity that came with the old school cab. With that in mind, we’ve set out to find the world’s most iconic taxis, and our journey starts in the Big Apple itself - New York City!

Ford Crown Victoria: New York City

Ford Crown Victoria New York City
The Ford Crown Victoria served as a New York Yellow from the mid-1990s to 2023 and is a throwback to the city’s past

The Yellow Taxi is as synonymous with New York City as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and 20% tipping… and it’s the Ford Crown Victoria that’s the most iconic NYC cab of the lot. The big Ford sedan entered service during the early 1990s, and for many is representative of “Dirty Old New York” - you know, a time when you ran the risk of getting shot if you ventured out after dark, and a time before Brooklyn became home to those who drink Pabst Blue Ribbon “ironically”. Despite the best efforts of New York City’s administration to get the Crown Vic off the Big Apple’s roads from 2007 onwards, this beloved car, with its lazy, 215 bhp 4.6-litre V8, lumbered on until regulations finally caught up with it in late 2023 and it could soldier on no more. The Crown Victoria was a favourite amongst New York’s cabbies because it was easy to drive, comfortable; its frame-on body made it easy and cheap to fix with parts aplenty - 10 million Crown Vics, Mercury Grand Marquis’ and Lincoln Town Cars were all built on Ford’s Panther platform introduced in 1979. Nowadays, most of New York’s Yellow Taxis are hybrids such as the Toyota RAV-4, Camry, and Crown. Whilst there is no doubt that these more efficient machines have played a significant part in reducing New York City’s levels of pollution, it’s unlikely that they will gain legendary status like the dependable Ford Crown Victoria that came before them.

Black Cab: London

Black Cab London
Since 2017, the London Black Cab has been produced by the Geely-owned LEVC as plug-in hybrid

The London taxi or Hackney Carriage can trace its roots back to horse-drawn carriages first used by the aristocracy during the 1580s. However, the Black Cab nickname only came to the fore in the post-war era, after all London taxis sold during this period were painted black. Throughout the years, these instantly-recognisable vehicles have been manufactured by a variety of car manufacturers ranging from Citroën and Austin, to Morris and most recently, LEVC - the London EV Company. Interestingly, all-electric taxis made by the Bersey company were prevalent at the turn of the 20th century. Nicknamed “Hummingbirds” due to the noise produced by their electric motors, these emission-free vehicles predate their ICE successors by several years. To become a Hackney Carriage driver, candidates need to pass something called The Knowledge. This rigorous mental examination includes having to memorise 25,000 streets within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross in central London, along with several major arterial routes - and their landmarks - through the rest of the capital.

Mercedes-Benz 240D: Morocco

Mercedes-Benz 240D: Morocco
Thanks to its indestructible nature and sturdy diesel engine, the Mercedes W123 240D has become a cult icon in Morocco
© The Road Junkies

If there had to be a term applied to the Mercedes W123 240D taxis of Morocco, it would be “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” That’s not to say that the 240D is some sort of shitbox, not at all - it’s more a reference to how the North African nation of 2.8 million people ended up with such an abundance of these sturdy Stuttgart workhorses. In the 1980s and 1990s, these hardy Mercedes’ were deemed too old by their European owners. They were then sold to Moroccan taxi drivers for low prices and have since enjoyed a second life as a reliable, comfortable alternative to the country’s sparse public transport network. The beating heart of the Grand Taxi is a hardy 2.4-litre diesel engine, which is neither environmentally friendly nor efficient. However, it is reliable and can be easily fixed. What’s more, the W123’s robust on-frame steel layout ensures the car can easily withstand most of what the harsh Moroccan climate - and roads - can throw at it. According to a 2021 BBC report, 56% of these old Mercedes cabs have been replaced by newer Dacia models. Yet like New York City’s Ford Crown Victoria, a loyalist group of taxi drivers refuse to give up their W123 240Ds. The car is such a revered piece of Moroccan folklore, it has garnered the endearing nickname of the “Merci Dix” or “thank you times 10” in French.

Toyota Crown Comfort: Japan

Toyota Crown Comfort Japan
Unremarkable on the eye to look at but a Japanese automotive institution, the Toyota Crown Comfort was a favourite amongst locals and visitors to Japan alike
© Flickr/Nighteye

Japan excels at building comfortable cars and the Toyota Crown Comfort is arguably the ultimate manifestation of this. Manufactured from 1995 to 2018, this unassuming Toyota was built exclusively for taxi fleets. With its high roofline, the Crown Comfort was supremely spacious, and thanks to its quiet, boat-like ride, and “perfect” air-conditioning temperatures, this simple, no-nonsense taxi gained a cult following at home and abroad for achieving what it was designed to do. From its release, the design of the Crown Comfort changed very little. Yet in-line with how automotive technology progressed over the course of its 23-year lifespan, it bowed out with a choice of 11 engines ranging from petrol and diesel units, to LPG and mild hybrids. The fact it won the Japanese Good Design Award for its simplicity is a testament to just how much of an icon the Crown Comfort became. In 2017, the larger, more modern Toyota JPN Taxi replaced it. Nonetheless, this humble Japanese sedan is still kept alive by taxi firms in several other East Asian countries.

Peugeot 404 and Peugeot 504: Ethiopia

Peugeot 404 and Peugeot 504 Ethiopia
Like the Mercedes 240D, the rugged Peugeot 404 and 504 continue to serve as taxis in part of Eastern Africa
© Duncan Moore / The Guardian

Like the Mercedes 240D in Morocco the Pininfarina-designed Peugeot 404 and its successor, the 504 has become the national emblem of transportation for the masses in Ethiopia. Older Peugeot models have been favourites in Eastern African nations thanks to their rough ‘n tumble nature, and the rugged 504 was produced on the continent from 1968 to 2006. Until recently, import taxes of up to 200 percent meant that car owners from this part of the world would tend to keep older vehicles longer than usual. Yet in 2022, Ethiopia’s rate of economic growth saw it join the world’s fastest-growing economies, and between 2016 and 2017 alone, it expanded by 10%. Subsequently, Hyundai and several Chinese carmakers have opened factories in the region, and buyers with newly-found levels of disposable income are switching to more modern machinery. Whilst this means that the days of the Peugeot 404 and 504 are very much numbered, both cars remain a much-loved part of the region’s social fabric.

Volkswagen Beetle: Mexico City

Volkswagen Beetle Mexico City
The Volkswagen Beetle Vocho taxi was once part of Mexico City’s fabric, but has since been phased out in favour of safer, newer alternatives
© Flickr/Steve Cadman

For us Europeans, Volkswagen in the Americas is an almost mythical entity thanks to exotic-sounding machinery such as the Polo Robust, the Saveiro, the Teramont, and the Nivus. Yet one thing we have in common on both sides of the Atlantic is the Beetle. Produced in Mexico at VW’s Puebla plant from the 1960s to 2003, these utilitarian machines are a vital part of Mexican car culture as they brought affordable mass transportation to the public. Until 2012, they were also integral to Mexico City’s cityscape thanks to their chugging air-cooled soundtrack and distinctive paint jobs. Despite its cutesy appearance, the Beetle - or Vocho - as it’s called in Mexico was phased out as a taxi in the capital due to safety concerns. Often, owners would remove the front seat to free up luggage space, so occupants sitting on the rear bench seat ran the risk of being put through the windscreen under heavy braking. What’s more, the Beetle’s two-door configuration made it susceptible to car-jacking. Despite being replaced by safer, greener, easier-to-access alternatives in Mexico City, the Bug is still used as a taxi in more rural towns and cities across the country.

Cadillac Eldorado: Havana

Cadillac Eldorado Havana
1950s American land yachts such as the Cadillac Eldorado and Chevrolet Bel Air are still used as a taxis - albeit in dwindling numbers and with Soviet engines - in Havana
© Flickr / David Busfield

Havana, and the rest of Cuba, arguably represents the most curious destination on our list for the taxi-loving petrolhead. Up until 1959, when the nation decided to catch communism under Fidel Castro, its proximity to the United States meant it was privy to all sorts of exaggerated automotive Americana throughout the years including the likes of what you see above, the instantly-recognisable Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. As Cuba gradually fell increasingly under the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence over the following decades, the US cut ties with the island because again, communism. Components for these vast cars then became more and more scarce. To keep them alive, resourceful Cubans began taking parts from the likes of Soviet import LADAs and retrofitting them to their land yachts. Whilst fast-dying out, you can still expect to encounter Frankentaxis such as Chevrolet Bel Air fitted with a LADA dashboard and a wheezy V8 from a Volga upon visiting Cuba in 2024.

Do you think we’ve missed any other iconic taxis from around the world? If so, tell us in the comments section below!

In the meantime, should you wish to add any of the cars we’ve mentioned in this list to your garage, then click these yellow words to browse the thousands of modern and classic cars we have listed on!


Embark on a journey to find your ideal vehicle by browsing through our Car Categories. Or, delve into our Classic Passion Shop for an exciting array of products from our partners, perfect for enthusiasts looking to enhance their collection!