Saturday, October 17, 2015


Letters We Get Letters


A Fleet of Checker A8's that serviced Parsippany and Newark New Jersey
 
Remember the old Perry Como jingle: Letters We Get Letters?  We do, but we don’t get letters at the Checker Cab Group Blog, all we get are emails and Facebook messages. At least Checker Cab Manufacturing did receive fan letters back from the 1956 through 1958 period.    These great letters can be found in the online club archive and library. A link can be found at the bottom of this blog.

All the letters are interesting as a read and when put into perspective provide better understanding of the transition going on at Checker and the taxi cab industry for 1958. 

Checker produced a brochure for the newly introduced Checker Model A9, as part of the sales campaign in 1958.  The published brochure reprinted about 60 letters Checker received from Checker Model A8 buyers and taxicab operators.  The following are excerpts of the letter published by Checker.


The Compton California Checker A8 Fleet of South East, Taxi.
 

Many letters when read collectively present key sales themes, for example the theme is the letter below indicates the new fresh styling of the Checker.

Quick Service Taxi Company Allentown, Penn.  Harold Burrows, August 9th 1957

"The Model A8 Checker with it’s advanced modern body styling has fulfilled every promise made for it.  We have 9 units in operation—with standard transmissions and power brakes. The 18 months we have run them we have run up mileages of about 75000 each.  Right now we have an average of about 15 miles per gallon gas in the city"

In the late 1950’s automatic transmission was not a proven concept in commercial service, the letter below says otherwise

Riva Cab, Bronx, NY. Irwin Goldberg, June 17th 1958

"We have 17 units—with automatic transmission. Delivered in January 1956, our cars have accumulated an average of 150,000 miles to date. Ring jobs were begun around 90,000 miles. automatic transmissions in taxicab service is no longer a questionable item—it has been proved in service."



Gulfport Checker A8s serving operated by Yellow Cab
 

The following letter is consistent with the Checker sales theme that drivers will be comfortable in Checker taxis and therefore would be able to run longer shifts which would result in more revenue.

Home Taxi Service, Corp. New York, New York. I. Fishman, April 24th 1956

"Drivers are particularly well pleased with the automatic features of the car; they insist that it is the most comfortable car; in short, it’s definitely a car constructed with the driver in mind."

 

Another key sales theme can be found in the various letters: Checkers are cost effective.

Independent Operator Louis Desverges, New York, New York. July 2nd 1958

"The Model A-8 Checker I bought in June 1956 is still good for another 2 years. And this after 130,000 miles—double—shifted. I’ve operated stock cars in the past and I’ve been in the red. The Checker car really has put me in the black."

Another new fleet of Checker A8s serving Yellow Cab Co, note the Checker logo on the door
 

In the following letter we can see that Checker trained professionals will be available to all cab operators via seminars at cab services locations.

Yellow Cab of Worcester, Mass. William Gerard, Feb 5th 1958

"I am pleased to have been invited to your maintenance clinic at the New England Service Center in Brooklyn………Your personnel, I found was extremely instructive and showed the upmost courtesy to myself and others. I was amazed at the frankness of some questions and answers given by your staff which to me connote good business."



William Gerard appreciated the frankness of staff in Brookline



Owen Kenny of Brooklyn loved his Checker Model G so much he bought a Checker Model A8 in 1956
 

Also in the various letters, Model A8’s were linked to Checker glory days. The following letters links the A8 to the 1927 Checker Model G. Interesting to note that Kenny's Checker Model G entered second hand service in 1933 and ran for another 300,000 miles. One can only imagine what that cab would have looked like after running 700,000 miles!

Owen Kenny, Brooklyn New York. June 26th 1958

"Having owned and operated Checker Cabs for the past 25 years, I am certainly in a good position to express a sound opinion on your present Model A-8.  We have good memory. We owned one of the original “iron horses” with the hand crank in the front. What a wonderful car that was! The Model “G” Checker already had 400,000 miles on it when we bought it and after a motor job, we ran it for another 300,000 miles. It was still a good car when we sold it. We can truthfully say that the present A-8 Checker stands up favorably when compared with the older models for durability and low cost maintenance."
 

Many of the letters discuss the limited maintenance required to operate a Checker, five words says it all in the letter below.

Benherb Taxi Corp. The Bronx, New York.  H. Hershkowitz  July 17, 1958              

"Our experience with the Model A-8 Checker Cab you sold us several months ago can be summed up in 5 words:  “In, Gas, Oil, Lube, Out”.  That’s it. The car is never in the shop."

Non Taxi Application of the A8
 

As discussed in previous Checker blogs, Checkers were sold to the Checker public in small numbers prior to the official Checker consumer car’s introduction in 1960. The letter below is from a private citizen not a taxi operator and references the Motor Trend Magazine article from April 1956 “Checking Out The Checker”.

J.R. Felmier Pittsburgh, Penn. December 20th 1957


"Now that I have driven my A-8 Checker Automobile for several months and 7500 miles, you may appreciate a report on its performance.

I was first attracted to investigate the Checker Automobile as a result of a feature article in a magazine which identified the Checker as “an ideal car for the large family………………………..since delivery last April, it has demonstrated again and again its utilitarian value………….After a most satisfactory trip to Minnesota we added an extra passenger upon our return to Pittsburgh in two days with luggage for eight in the trunk (no roof rack required). This demonstrated the points I have made to numerous curiosity seekers, “The Checker car gives the same seating capacity as a large station wagon and in addition gives normal truck space."

J.R. Felmier read the April 1956 issue of Motor Trend and then bought an A8


If you would like to read all the letters sent to Checker Cab Manufacturing just click on the link below for access


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Saturday, October 10, 2015


Get ready for Checkers at Auburn

 

 



We’re excited to announce that the Facebook Checker Cab Group Club is having its first national convention on August 13th through August 15th in Auburn Indiana.

Auburn, Indiana is one of the most historic automotive towns in the US and in 2016 the Checker Cab Club Convention will visit this great city.  Checkers are from Kalamazoo, why is the group going to Auburn?  Auburn presents two great opportunities from a total Checker experience perspective.

As many are aware, at one time Checker was part of E.L. Cord’s Auburn, Indiana based automotive empire.  During the depression sales at Checker collapsed and the company started to bleed money and generate losses month after month in 1932.

Despite the losses of 1932 Checker was able to introduce a new taxicab for 1933, the Model T. The new taxicab utilized the new Lycoming GU or GUC 8-cylinder engine produced Lycoming of Lewistown, Pennsylvania.  Lycoming was an independent engine manufacturer owned by E L Cord, whose growing automotive empire included such iconic brands as Duesenberg, Auburn and Cord.

In 1933 Checker would also produce a brand-engineered version of the Model T, the Auburn Safe-T-Cab for A-C-D. A working partnership ensued and both companies started to collaborate.

ACD  Museum's 1933 Checker Model T

 
Still in a financial bind, Checker would soon have more trouble, via a series of capital transactions, a hostile corporate takeover ensued at Checker. The corporate board was reduced in size by a group of investors led by millionaire Pierre S. du Pont. The smaller board, which included du Pont voted Checker founder Morris Markin out of Checker leadership team. 

 

Markin had a few tricks up his sleeve. He still maintained some degree of ownership and held options to acquire a majority share of the company. Ten days later, Markin secured the required funds via E L Cord to take back control of company. Over the next three years Checker would become part of E.L. Cord’s empire.

 

Visiting the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum presents some great opportunities for Checker fans. The Art Deco museum is stunning and is a time capsule capturing the glamor and elegance of the former administrative offices and company showroom.  Checker Cab Club members will be able tour the full museum accompanied by ACD automotive historians.

Center Staircase View of The ACD Factory Showroom

 

The ACD museum inventory is awe striking. A walk down the center showroom staircase will generate goosebumps. Visitors will be able to view the ACD 1933 Checker Model T and Checker X braced frame designer Herbert Snow’s ACD office. More importantly visitor will see the largest collection of Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs in the world.

Show participants will be able to display their Checkers for two solid days at the ACD Museums Education & Exhibit Plaza. The newly built plaza creates the ultimate in car show displays.

In addition to the ACD Museum, Facebook Checker Cab Group Club members will also tour the National Auto and Truck Museum.

Why the National Truck and Automobile Museum? 

Well known Checker collector and friend Bob Welsh donated his six Checker automobiles to the National Automotive and Truck Museum in 2012.  According to museum director Don Grogg when Bob Welsh offered to donate his six Checker automobiles to the National Automotive and Truck Museum, the museum didn’t hesitate to takeup Bob’s offer, according to Don Grogg “He’d talked to another museum, but they didn’t respond quickly enough,”  What would you do if offered free Checkers?  Don did the same thing we all would do, Grogg’s response “ We’d love to have them.’”

 

The Bob Welsh Collection

 

The six NATMUS Checkers span the years 1964 to 1981. NATMUS has created a Checkers gallery where all six vehicles will be displayed for Facebook members to view and enjoy. Like the ACD Museum ,Checker group members will be able to view museum by tour guides provided by NATMUS.

By August the only known surviving Checker A4 will be ready for display

 

In addition to the museum tours and shows participants will have the opportunity to socialize over meals and other fun events.  A full line of vintage Checkers will be on displays, in addition to the ACD Model Y, the recently restored 1950 Checker A4 will make its first public display since restoration. The Joe Fay Checker Model A8 will also be on display.

Best part, just like our dues, participation at the event is FREE.  Now if you plan on taking the tours or joining the group for dinner there will be a nominal fee but the fees will cover the activity. The club will not be pan handling for donations or dues in order to deposit money into bank, actually we don’t have a bank account. We will not have a board meeting, we don’t have a board.  Hotels information will be fourth coming.


As we refine the plan we’ll communicate via Facebook, the blog and in the E Newsletter. If you have any questions please contact show organizer Joe Fay at Drivermatica8@yahoo.com.

 

Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook!


 

Checker out the new free Checker Archive Library

 


Get ready for Checkers at Auburn

 

We’re excited to announce that the Facebook Checker Cab Group Club is having its national convention on August 13th through August 15th in Auburn Indiana.

 
Auburn, Indiana is one of the most historic automotive towns in the US,  but Checkers are from Kalamazoo, why is the group going to Auburn?  Auburn presents two great opportunities from a total Checker experience perspective.


As many are aware, at one time Checker was part of E.L. Cord’s Auburn, Indiana based automotive empire.  During the depression sales at Checker collapsed and the company started to bleed money and generate losses month after month in 1932.

Despite the losses of 1932 Checker was able to introduce a new taxicab for 1933, the Model T. The new taxicab utilized the new Lycoming GU or GUC 8-cylinder engine produced Lycoming of Lewistown, Pennsylvania.  Lycoming was an independent engine manufacturer owned by E L Cord, whose growing automotive empire included such iconic brands as Duesenberg, Auburn and Cord.

In 1933 Checker would also produce a brand-engineered version of the Model T, the Auburn Safe-T-Cab for A-C-D. A working partnership ensued and both companies started to collaborate.

Still in a financial bind, Checker would soon have more trouble, via a series of capital transactions, a hostile corporate takeover ensued at Checker. The corporate board was reduced in size by a group of investors led by millionaire Pierre S. du Pont. The smaller board, which included du Pont voted Checker founder Morris Markin out of Checker leadership team. 

Markin had a few tricks up his sleeve. He still maintained some degree of ownership and held options to acquire a majority share of the company. Ten days later, Markin secured the required funds via E L Cord to take back control of company. Over the next three years Checker would become part of E.L. Cord’s empire.

Visiting the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum presents some great opportunities for Checker fans. The Art Deco museum is stunning and is essentially a time capsule capturing the essence of the former administrative offices and company showroom.  Checker Cab Club members will be able tour the factory with automotive historians.

The museum inventory is awe striking. A walk down the center showroom showcase will generate goosebumps. Visitors will be able to view a 1933 Checker Model T and Checker X braced frame designer and Checker board member Herbert Snow’s ACD office.

Show participants will be able to display their Checkers for two solid days at the ACD Museums Education & Exhibit Plaza. The newly built plaza has been built to create the ultimate in car show displays.

In addition to the ACD Museum, Facebook Checker Cab Group Club members will also tour the National Auto and Truck Museum.


Why a truck museum? 
 

Well known Checker collector and friend Bob Welsh donated his six Checker automobiles to the National Automotive and Truck Museum in 2012.  According to museum director Don Grogg when Bob Welsh offered to donate his six Checker automobiles to the National Automotive and Truck Museum, the museum didn’t hesitate to takeup Bob’s offer, according to Don Grogg “He’d talked to another museum, but they didn’t respond quickly enough,”  What would you do if offered free Checkers?  Don did the same thing we all would do, Grogg’s response “ We’d love to have them.’”


The six NATMUS Checkers span the years 1964 to 1981. NATMUS has created a Checkers gallery where all six vehicles will be displayed for Facebook members to view and enjoy.


Like the ACD Museum Checker devotes will be able to view by tour guide the entire museum.


In addition to the museum tours and shows participants will have the opportunity to socialize over meals and other fun events.  A full line of vintage Checkers will be on displays, in addition to the ACD Model Y, the recently restored 1950 Checker A4 will make its first public display since restoration. The Joe Fay Checker Model A8 will also be on display.


Best part, just like our dues, participation at the event is FREE.  Now if you plan on taking the tours or joining the group for dinner there will be a nominal fee but the fees will cover the activity. The club will not be pan handling for donations or dues in order to deposit money into bank, actually we don’t have a bank account. We will not have a board meeting, we don’t have a board.  Hotels information will be fourth coming.

 

 

As we refine the plan we’ll communicate via Facebook, the blog and in the E Newsletter. If you have any questions please contact show organizer Joe Fay at Drivermatica8@yahoo.com.

 

Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook!


 

Checker out the new free Checker Archive Library

 

Monday, September 28, 2015


Driving Sunshine, Miami Lawyer Jane Muir

 





“Driving Sunshine!” That’s how Miami lawyer Jane Muir describes driving her Checker. According to Muir, “Everybody who sees it smiles; everyone who sees it asks, ‘What is it?’ It’s just a fun car to be in, the Checker brings happiness wherever it goes.”


Jane’s Checker story is unique. The car was originally purchased by her mother, Celeste Muir, whose story sheds some light on the final days of Checker automobile production.

Back in the seventies, Jane’s mother went to a conference in a major metropolitan city in the north.  Riding from the airport to the hotel, Celeste was lucky enough to catch a ride in a Checker.  It was her first time and she fell in love with the taxicab.  For the entire ride Celeste peppered the cabby with questions about the cab.

Upon her return to Florida, Celeste found the Winkoff Checker Dealer in Fort Lauderdale and promptly began investigating a purchase.  She collected all the available brochures, test drove the car, but Celeste already owned a very nice Ford Gran Torino, so she really did not feel the need to buy a new car. Time passed and a Checker purchase never closed, but Celeste still dreamed about owning a Checker.
 


 
On April 25th of 1982, Checker Motors Corporation announced that they would cease the manufacture of the Checker automobile. Upon seeing the news in the paper, Celeste promptly called Checker Motors in Kalamazoo, Michigan and ordered a “champagne crème” Checker A12. Celeste informed her husband, William T. “Toby” Muir that she had finally placed the order.  Of course, Toby was happy with the purchase but had a few questions: “Should we order a V8 and a heavy duty A/C for the Florida climate?” Celeste agreed and called Checker Motors the next day.

Alas, the change to the order could not be made. It was too late, and the order book was closed. Thankfully, the car had been ordered just in time, albeit without a V8 or heavy duty A/C.
 


 


 


T
The Checker was delivered from Kalamazoo to Long Island, New York, where Celeste and Toby picked it up and drove it home to Miami. Over the course of the last thirty-five years, it has become an important part of the Muir family.  Celeste drove the car every day for thirty years. Jane fondly remembers growing up with the Checker: road trips to Disney World, camping in the back seating area, playing board games on the floor of the Checker. The Checker today still sports two bite marks on the armrest from a three-year-old Jane.
 
Checker was delivered and over the course of the next 35 years has become an important part of the Muir family.  Jane fondly remembers growing up with the Checker: road trips to Disney, camping in the back seating area, playing board games on the floor of the Checker. The Checker today still sports two bite marks on the arm rest from a three year old Jane.



Like her mother Jane too fell in love with the Checker, affectionately called Chuggy.  As Jane grew up she too wanted a Checker.

 

Other than for driving the Checker, Jane’s mother is known for being a circuit court judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, a position she has held since 1989.  Like her mother Jane earned a law degree, and today Jane is an attorney who practices in civil litigation.


Celeste, William and Jane Muir

 



When Jane received her law degree, she received something else very special.  Jane’s mother gifted her the 1982 Checker Marathon "Chuggy". What a special gift.

On the street of Miami's business district

 

Like her Mother,  Jane continues to enjoy the Checker and uses it as her daily driver.  Jane has found the Checker very helpful in her career.  Often when people are looking for a lawyer in Miami, it have been heard in the Miami Dade County Court House: how about the lawyer with the Checker?.

We want to personally thank Jane for showing us around Miami last July, please enjoy as Jane gives us a tour of the murals of Miami in her Checker. Check out the video tour with just a click to the link.
 
https://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.fay/videos/o.145497838799022/10152933530651207/?type=2&theater


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Friday, September 11, 2015


Vintage Checkers and Movie Car Service

 

Checker Movie Car Survivor 1933 Model T


As we all are aware, the majority of Checkers were put into cab service when new. Unfortunately, commercial service has resulted in a very low number of survivors.  The vehicles were place into service and run till the wheels fell off, after the wheels fell off, the remaining cab was stripped of any reusable parts. Stripped, anything left was most likely scrapped for metal.

Unfortunately for Checker fans the sad life cycle of a cab has ultimately resulted in very few vintage Checkers to admire in person. In order to enjoy a vintage Checker, most fans have to look at period photographs to appreciate these fine automobiles.  So rare are the pre 1960 Checkers, registries indicate that there are less than 30 survivors today.

How did they survive?  How did these purpose built cabs beat the odds?  Several were saved by being placed into movie car service. This blog will cover three well known survivors and share some being used today.

 

This Model M served Elliott Ness (Robert Stack) and Yellow Cab of New London, CT

 

 

A Model M survivor, this striking example is currently owned by The Yellow Cab Company of New London Ct. operated by Charles Curtin. The Curtin family has own Yellow Cab in New London since 1918 and the firm did actually operate Checker Model M’s back in the 1930’s.

 As with most vintage Checker survivors it was spared from World War II metal scrapping drives and was put into movie car service.  This vehicle was owned by Paramount Pictures and was featured many times in the TV show "The Untouchables". Over a three seasons this Checker would serve as a stage for Robert Stack playing Elliott Ness.

 

Ultimately the Model M was placed in the inventory of Pacific Movie Car Rentals, when that company went out of business the taxicab changed hands landing in the Imperial Palace Casino collection. Ultimately it was acquired and restored by Charles Curtin.

A long time movie car, this Checker Model M can be found in many Hollywood movies. One of its most memorable appearance was in 1948 film “A Portrait of Jenny”.  The cab appears in several scenes with its caretaker mechanic Gus O’Toole play by famous character actor David Wayne.

Now at the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Museum, this Model T is still striking

 

 

Introduce in 1933 the Checker Model T is a stunning car, new for 33 it was a modified version of the Model M introduced in 1930. Like the Model M discussed above, this Model T also servied as a movie car. Also like the Model M, this Model T ultimately left the movie car trade and wound up at a casino.

The Model T was placed in the famous Harrah’s collection. In the 1980’s the Harrah’s collection was broken apart and luckily the vintage Model T found its way to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana. A fitting place, Checker's were produced by ACD in the early 1930's.

 

The FBI Story (1958) starring Jimmy Stewart and the 1933 Model T

 

 

Part of the Warner Brothers fleet, this Model T can be found in many movies and TV shows. It was used in the 1958 movie "The FBI Story" starring Jimmy Stewart, It also appeared in various background scenes in the Warner Brothers film "Miracle in The Rain" (1956).

 

Another great former movie car can be found in Illinois. This 1950 Checker Model A4 originally served the good citizens of New York City. In 1956 title was transferred to Loews, Inc. of Culver City California.  If you don’t recognize the company, it’s a division of MGM Pictures. 

 

MGM's Designing Women (1957) and a 1950 Checker Model A4

 

 

This A4 can be found in at least two MGM movies A Catered Affair (1956) starring Ernest Borgnine and Bette Davis.  In the movie, Borgnine’s character was trying to buy the taxicab after saving for 20 years while his wife played by Bette Davis was trying to spend the money on a wedding. 

The A4 can also be found in the film Designing Women starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Becall. In one short scene this A4 serves as a backdrop for a heated argument between the characters played by Peck and Becall.

 

In character, Ernest Borgnin and Bette Davis sit in the back of the Model A4

 

 

Today the A4 is being restored, the restoration will retain the modification made by the MGM prop department.  The cab was converted to automatic transmission and still has it’s meter in reverse position for filming.

September 2015 and the MGM Model A4 is almost complete

 

 

MGM Pink Slip note originally sold in Sept 1950 NY, transfer in 1956 to California

Movie cars today, well Checkers are still being used in the movies.  This week our New York Facebook Checker Cab Group member Victor Coiro participated in a movie shoot. Here’s our friend Victor having fun in his Checker, according to Victor “I got my wig and my hands on the wheel”.

 

In Character Checker Facebook Group Member Victor Coiro

 

Victor's personal Checker time machine

 

 

 

Out on the west coast our Facebook Checker Cab Group friend who goes by the name "Moviecar Guy" has been very active with his Checker.  The classic Checker A11 has appeared several episodes of Mad Men and most recently in a commercial promoting the Neil Simon’s play The Sunshine Boys.

 

On the set of Mad Man Moviecar Guy's Checker and a 65 Ford Custom Taxicab

 

https://vimeo.com/75258564

 

 

 

So if you looking for a great retirement business, maybe you buy a Checker and use it in movies. 

 

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