I’ve written before about Hong Kong double decker buses in Australia, but what about a Hong Kong taxi on the streets of Toronto?
Hong Kong’s red Toyota Crown Comfort taxis are just as much of the streetscape as double decker buses.
Be they roaming the streets.
Blocking bus stops.
Queued up at the airport.
Or on a country road
But a place you don’t expect to see one is on the streets of Canada.
Chris Tsui from The Drive explains how it came to be there.
A little background on how this particular Hong Kong taxi found itself on the streets of Toronto, Canada, though. It is, strictly speaking, a replica but quite a good one. Apparently starting out life as a taxi in Japan, it’s a 1997 Toyota Crown Comfort LPG that was shipped over to Toronto to be used as a movie-and-TV prop. Painted red and silver to emulate a taxi from HK, it can be seen briefly in 2013’s Pacific Rim.
In November 2021, current owner Alan Wu bought it and has spent much of the past year restoring and doing it up, getting it to look as much like the real thing as he can.
That means yellow interior stickers in both English and traditional Chinese outlining how much your ride is going to cost and what you are and aren’t allowed to do, a wood-bead cover on the driver’s seat, and that red “TAXI” light that flips up on the dash to let people know whether you’re taking passengers or not. The rooflight actually works. There’s a little device that prints receipts, a red coin box with the word “ECO” printed on it for some reason, and an entire squad of cell phones of varying vintage stuck above the gauge cluster. And the aftermarket audio system was tuned to Chinese talk radio. It really is the full HK taxi experience.
A definite labour of love.
I followed the link to the full article on TheDrive.com which showed some more pictures. I like the little touches like the driver identity plate and the boot/trunk full of cleaning clothes (Could’ve added a few dirty smudges on them to make them look even more authentic 😉 ).
I had the opportunity in my last trip to HK many years ago to ride in one of the successor vehicles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_JPN_Taxi). It was a more modern and comfortable vehicle overall, but in some ways, it sort of lacked the personality of the older Crown Comforts, even with the driver’s customisations. Either way, nice to see a bit of old Hong Kong culture live on.
My last time in a Hong Kong taxi would’ve been in 2013 with my relatives to some random restaurant in the back streets of Kowloon – in the years since I’ve had kids in town, and crazy driving combined with the lack of child seats has kept me away. 😮
I was last there in 2018. Even behind the wheel of the newer cars, the taxi drivers still had a very chaotic way of driving, to put it diplomatically. They also still had half a dashboard full of phones and think our driver was sending out voice messages via Zello or similar to either accept jobs or just complain about life! 😀
I have no idea if the wood bead seat covers actually do anything. I recall some taxi drivers in the UK using them in the past (Early to mid-90s) when Ford Sierras (A car your homeland Australia never saw but was sold in New Zealand next door if the article on Wikipedia is correct) ruled the roost when it came to taxi vehicles. Now it seems to be Skoda Octavias.
The next time I set foot in Hong Kong, I’ll certain look around to see if any newer vehicles have further displaced the Crown Comforts.
On my 2019 minivans were starting to take over – Ford Transit Connect.
And a ‘new’ Toyota Comfort.
The “New” Comfort was what I rode in the last time I was there. I do like the fact that unlike the older Comforts, the boot/trunk was big enough to fit my suitcases, which in the older cars would need to be secured with bungie cords with the boot/trunk lid still partially open!
Surprisingly I’ve never gotten a photo of a HK taxi with the boot tied down!