People often ask us about the vintage cab we feature on our website (www.yellowcabsacramento.com) and that is occasionally seen around town at charity golf tournaments, car shows and other community events. This vintage taxi is a 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook, similar to one of the first vehicles our dad, Frederick Pleines, Sr., purchased for the company when he took over as owner.
The very first cab our dad bought, in 1946, was for Skyline Taxi. He added several cabs and later merged with Union Taxi in 1951. Our vintage cab was restored in 2006 and is equipped with a taxi meter and two-way radio from the same period. It is a replica of many taxicabs seen in Sacramento in the early 1950s.
Lots of taxi companies in different U.S. cities have vintage cabs, and we had been talking about buying one for some time. Ken found this one on Craigslist. In restoring the 1951 Plymouth, we did not exactly duplicate the way a new taxicab was prepped in the early 1950s. In the ’50s, all the signage would have been painted by hand by a man named Nick, who worked with a stencil, a long wand with a ball on the end of it, and paint brushes. As young boys, we recall that it took Nick about two hours to paint one cab. Nick also painted all the Mayflower trucks in town. Today, all the signage on cabs are manufactured die cut decals. which are much faster to apply and do not vary in quality from car to car.
We say it is “similar” to one of our dad’s early cabs because at the time this car was made the company was Union Taxi. We wanted to brand it with our Yellow Cab Co. colors and logo, rather than those that appeared on the original. But we used the same typography that was used on the Union Taxis, a font that was used on our cabs up until about 1970. We had the decals for the vintage cab copied from this old photo of our dad in a 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook.
The lightning strike graphic on the 1951 Plymouth also mirrors the cabs in our dad’s original fleet. The lightning indicates 2-way radio dispatching, a technology that our company was the first in this region to adopt. Our dad was very proud of what was then a state-of-the-art technology. Since then we’ve carried on our company’s tradition as early adopters: We were the first Sacramento cab company to introduce computer dispatching in 1991 and the first to utilize GPS (Global Positioning System) dispatching in 2004.
Since we rolled out the 1951 Plymouth, it has brought a lot of positive attention to Yellow Cab Co. of Sacramento. It has been on display at the California Auto Museum in Old Town Sacramento, and we have taken it to community events such as the Sacramento Hotel Association golf tournament and the car show at Downtown Ford. One time it even made an appearance at a ’50s-themed bar mitzvah at Arden Hills Country Club. Fred takes it to lunch every six months or so.
One thing the vintage cab has taught us about our dad and the taxi drivers of the 1950s and earlier—they had some upper-body strength. The cabs of that day had no power steering, and the 1951 Plymouth is historically accurate in that way as well. Driving it is hard work. We like the connection it gives us with the history of the taxi industry and the history of Sacramento—a real-life connection you just can’t get from a historic photo or book.