Meet Michael Gotla, the Mini-Cab man

Author

admin

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Mini-Cabs are now a colourful part of the London scene and because I admire anyone who is prepared to “have a go” in a worthy cause, I arranged an interview with Mr. Michael Gotla, Managing Director of Welbeck Motors Ltd., who besides being a very large hire-car firm, used-car dealers and Ford agents, operate London’s Mini-Cabs.

It might be thought that Mini-Cabs have no place in Motor Sport but if you think deeply enough about them and the adventurous task of launching 200 of them on London’s streets, you will see that they can be regarded as a form of motoring sport.

How Mr. Gotla built up the vast business of Welbeck Motors Ltd., building Welbeck House in Crawford Street, W.1, as a new showroom and office block, with nearby the Mini-Cab centre comprising control room, service station, and garage, with his luxury flat above it, all in the space of fifteen years, is a truly romantic story. But I was not concerned with the legal, political and administrative aspects of this new venture when I met this tall, dark, slightly greying, very restless and gently forthright man who has created so much from so little. I was more interested in details of the cabs themselves.

“Why,” I asked, “did you choose French cars?” I was told that B.M.C. (who make real taxi-cabs) were not in the least interested in Mr. Gotla’s project and that Ford couldn’t decide whether or not they wanted to help. But it is no secret that Renault were willing to supply Dauphines at a substantially reduced price – Welbeck collect them on their own two-tier transporter.

They use 4-speed versions because hire-car experience has taught them that these are more stable than the 3-speed cars (the reason was outlined in Motor Sport‘s last Dauphine road-test) – not that high-speed cornering is involved, of course. Welbeck do their own conversion to 12-volt electrics, to enable the Pye two-way radio sets to work. These sets are serviced by Welbeck, who now operate the largest private radio station in Europe, with aerials at Crystal Palace and Forest Hill, but not above the administrative building.

The first purchase was 200 Dauphines, the 4-door body of which is highly suitable to taxi work. The meter is placed near the floor in the front compartment, easily seen but not obstructive to the front passenger’s feet. Luggage goes into the front boot but roof racks are not fitted.

The fare is 1s. a mile, waiting costs 7s. 6d. an hour and, with three passengers, the cost can undercut suburban train fares. The Mini-Cabs operate over any distance – London to Scotland if you wish – and runs of less than five miles are left to larger taxis.

The Dauphines are on normal Michelin tyres but when these wear out they will be replaced by Michelin “X ” which, it is expected, will last the life of the car. They are run exclusively on National Benzole petrol and Energol 30 oil. As to servicing, this is done by Welbeck, the opportunity being taken of greasing, changing the oil, etc., when a Mini-Cab comes in for attention to minor body damage or freshening up of the advertisements it carries (which Welbeck fit themselves), rather than keeping to definite servicing routines.

In contrast to the opposition from the Taxi Trade and from the police (on the day I called, exactly a month after the Mini-Cabs went into orbit, Mr. Gotla was handed a weighty load of parking summonses!), the G.P.O. has been extremely helpful over the radio installation.

Mr. Gotla considers that another two months are needed before his ambitious public service runs absolutely smoothly and Welbeck is as well-known as any great brand name. Because 24-hour operation of each Mini-Cab is essential to economical functioning at the low fares charged, overloading at peak hours cannot be eased by increasing the number of Dauphines or too many would be expensively idle during the dark hours. It is, however, hoped to increase the fleet at the rate of five every day. Shortage of drivers is another problem and if any keen reader wants such a job he or she is invited to ‘phone Welbeck 4440 for details of such employment. Casual student labour or “holiday-with-pay” types are not wanted, and two years’ driving in London without an accident is a stipulation, and there is a test to pass, but reimbursement is on the basis of a percentage of fares taken, tips being retained. It could be as profitable as becoming a motoring journalist! You also call Welbeck 4440 to call a cab, or stop one in the street, whose driver will radio your order.

Mr. Gotla is the most enthusiastic person I’ve met for a long time. A motoring enthusiast, he used to drive a Volkswagen in London, now replaced by a Triumph Herald 1200 convertible, which he regards as a very good car indeed. For faster motoring he has an Aston Martin, in which to drive to Rustington, where he keeps his boat. Polite to a degree to his staff, all of whom seem well content to work for this ingenious and ambitious organisation, this son of an Indian doctor, who is a bachelor incidentally, is full of ideas. For instance, back at Welbeck House I was confronted by a 1919 model-T Ford tourer, which, brought in in a poor condition, has been rebuilt for sale by the firm’s apprentices.

Michael Gotla, who has hit the headlines, lives for Mini-Cabs, and probably dreams about them. But has he, I wonder, read the only worthwhile book on the subject, “Taxi,” by Anthony Armstrong, late of Punch? Come to think of it, it’s not in my library. Has anyone a copy to spare?