THE ULTIMATE TAXI
1978 CHECKER A-11 TAXICAB, 1994 NISSAN PATHFINDER
Life is a Cabaret: ultimatetaxi.com
Reviewed April 5, 1999
lthough BMW touts its vehicles as ultimate driving machines, Jon Barnes of Basalt, Colo. (near Aspen) gives the luxury car manufacturer a run for its money. Barnes, the 41-year-old father of two (with one on the way) is the proud owner and operator of The Ultimate Taxi a 1978 Checker A-11 Taxicab whose slew of gadgets and celebrity fares are documented on ultimatetaxi.com.
Barnes classifies The Ultimate Taxi as "The Only Recording Studio, Theater, Nightclub, Planetarium, Toy Store, Internet Connected Taxicab In The World," he says. It contains a system of strobe and fiber-optic lights, lasers and dry ice fog. A digital piano and drum set comprise the "killer sound system," as Barnes calls it, and digital cameras, a color photo printer, a laptop computer and a cellular phone connect his world to the Internet. Don't look for this $100,000 option package sponsored in part by Kodak, Hitachi and Yamaha to show up at the BMW dealership anytime soon.
A Checkered Past
Such antics established a reputation for Barnes. Soon local customers began requesting him by name, willing to wait an hour or more for his arrival. Realizing that the service he provided was more than transportation, Barnes struck out on his own in 1990, thinking of himself as an entertainer and only secondarily as a cabby. By making The Ultimate Taxi "the coolest ride I could come up with," Barnes says, he doesn't just deliver passengers from point to point; he takes people on the ride of a lifetime, a "Pink Floyd concert on wheels" complete with "Siegfried-and-Roy-style light and fog show."
The latest addition to ultimatetaxi.com is streaming video, including a clip of Jimmy Buffett performing "Brown Eyed Girl." Look for this section to continue expanding: Barnes' next step is to create the world's first taxi-based television studio, and he is currently producing a pilot for a "Tonight Show on wheels."
Reported by Kara Reuter, cars.com
Peek at Barnes' wide celebrity clientele, including Ringo Starr and Kevin Costner.
Read all about the Checker's history at Matt "The Cabbie" Fry's definitive site.
THE NEW YORK CITY TAXICAB FACT BOOK
Read the cars.com special on aftermarket upgrades for advice on making your ride special.