Supercar dealer revamps London taxi cabs into luxury transportation

The custom-built motors start at £130,000 and can take up to 16 weeks depending on the level of customisation

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Luxury car dealer Clive Sutton has stepped into the high-end customisation arena. Aside from a bevy of boisterous and brutish American muscle cars — which are loud enough to be heard on the next continent and powerful enough to rumple tarmac like a worn-out rug — it also offers servings of discreet seven-star transportation.

An introduction to the luxury examples of the Mercedes Vito and London Electric Taxi — which are also planned for export to the Middle East — reveal customisation at its swishiest. I am hardly myself in this interdimensional trek through the multiverse of VIP motoring.

First I imagine I’m a kingpin. For tonight’s clandestine conversations, the Maybach would have been too ornamental. Instead, I’m in a black Mercedes Vito van with tinted windows, but otherwise no different externally from a nondescript airport-run courtesy car. That’s deliberate.

However, on the inside, this Sutton VIP Class Vito is no regular minibus. I notice this while I recline in the sumptuous Mercedes crash test-certified seats, reupholstered in cream Bentley Nappa leather. I glance up at the Rolls-Royce-style Star Light ceiling as I detect movement. A shooting star, perhaps, or a sun newly igniting or another blinking out of existence, all momentarily simulated.

The van comes with a Rolls-Royce style Star Light ceiling. Photo: Clive Sutton

It’s a bright flash in an otherwise dim cabin with a plush black carpet and a divider featuring a solid sliding wall isolating the driver, which features a large monitor. I nod at the bodyguard seated in the chair to the left and he adjusts the colour of the ambient lighting to a brooding blue on an iPad featuring a dedicated app.

He hits another button to slide out the hidden fridge from between the opposite rear-facing seats and offers “the guests” drinks. Retracting the fridge, he extends the espresso machine from between the seats.

Meanwhile, I’m punching the controls on the centre console and the monitor on the divider ahead comes to life. At the same time, a screen above descends. A video fires up demonstrating “the project”.

Another button is pressed and a large table emerges from the right, lifting up and slamming down into place, hard enough to alarm guests a little. One of them appears to reach inside his jacket, but refrains, as I place a contract on the table and switch on the reading light behind the right shoulder. Each seat has them, but the guests are not interested in reading, they’re interested in something else.

“Do you have the device?” I grin as I reach down to the compartment in the sidewall behind the other compartment that held the table. I prepare to open the finger-print-operated safe. I notice the man opposite again reach into his jacket. I hesitate...

There’s a flash of light and I find I’m not reaching towards the safe after all. It’s now a drinks cabinet. I fetch some decanters and place them on the table, beaming at the guests, who are now sitting beside me on a three-seater bench. Opposite us are two children. Headsets on, they are gaming on a built-in PlayStation, intent on the screen above my head. This appears to be a family-friendly model of Clive Sutton’s version of the Mercedes Vito van.

The screen above the children is not replicating the gaming, but displaying a promotional video for my new theme park. The guests sit there sipping in silence, enthralled. “Oh, this is nothing,” I boast. “Wait until you see the real thing.”

I retract the screen and call on the driver to pull open the curtains that replace the hard divider on this version of the VIP Vito. The guests react strongly enough to cause the kids to remove their headphones and turn to gawp at the giant gates ahead. "Welcome to Juras…"

Another flash. Now, I’m in a completely different vehicle. It’s a taxi. The new London Electric Vehicle Company range-extender hybrid-electric TX Taxi. Externally it’s indistinguishable from the hundreds of other similar vehicles plying their trade, except for the subtle two-tone paint treatment, featuring black and a grey Ferrari-spec colour: Grigio Silverstone. The “Taxi” sign remains as an amusing hat-tip to the vehicle’s origins, but it cannot be lit.

Clive Sutton's version of a customisable London cab, complete with a 'taxi' sign. Photo: Clive Sutton

Sutton is an officially licensed partner of the Chinese Geely-owned company, which produces these vehicles partly based on Volvo engineering in Coventry, UK, and is now shipping them around the world. Leaving the car mechanically unaltered so the warranty remains unaffected, the interior is refitted based on customer requirements.

In this instance, I recline back in the custom-made seats, again Bentley Nappa leather-covered, feet elevated on the extendable leg-rests. From the Maybach-sourced centre console, I fold-out an aircraft-style table with an adjustable angle — level for drinks and eating, slanted for laptops.

My assistant, I imagine, will make use of the same to run through today’s schedule of ribbon-cutting and diplomatic conferences. The car has a brighter, airier and somehow even more sumptuous interior.

The seats are upholstered using Bentley Nappa leather. Photo: Clive Sutton

A screen has replaced the fold-down rear-facing seats normally found on the panel behind the driver, along with compartments and a fridge. The driver’s voice bursts on the intercom: “ETA two-minutes, sir. I’m told there’s paparazzi in attendance.”

Must be a hardy bunch, I think, as it’s pouring with rain outside. The secretary follows my gaze and reassuringly points towards the two large umbrellas embedded at the bottom of the divider: “Don’t worry, sir, we’re well prepared.” That’s the Savile Row suit saved then…

Suddenly I’m not in the suit anymore. Just a T-shirt and jeans and, for the first time during this interdimensional trot, in the driving seat. The divider is completely down and I’m chatting to my children and their friends in the back.

The car now features the full six-seater layout with a rear bench, featuring a Range Rover-sourced armrest if needed and three flip down rear-facing seats. All still beautifully upholstered.

Next to my seat the gift boxes stacked for the birthday party I’m taking the children to. As I arrive, the oldest hits a button in the pillar beside the rear seats and the reverse-hinged doors swing open automatically, Rolls-Royce-style.

As the children excitedly hurry off, I disembark and walk around the to the back, where one of them has replaced the usual “licensed cab” plaque with a sticker: “Dad’s Taxi”. I find myself grinning as the tear in the multiverse deposits us back to our reality and flails off looking for Doctor Strange.

They're obviously not created for everyone, reserved primarily for maverick millionaires, these vehicles are practical, quirky and a match for the most opulent of luxury conveyances.

Both the VIP Mercedes Vito and London Electric Vehicle Company start from £130,000. The builds can take up to 16 weeks, depending on the level of customisation.

Updated: July 26, 2022, 11:20 AM
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