Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Markin’s Pitch


Morris Markin was not only a great financier, industrial manufacturer and world class corporate monopolizer, he was also a corporate pitchman.  Much like Lee Iacocca at Ford and Chrysler, Markin consistently found his way into the press limelight sharing his thoughts and perspective as Checker expanded into the consumer market.

Markin: financier, industrial manufacturer, world class corporate monopolizer…………….and pitch man!

Let’s take a look at some of his commentary.  What I find interesting is that much of what was published is exaggerated, wrong or just plain crazy.  To be fair, you can’t blame a guy for pitching, a true pitchman will get you excited about their products, so excited, you want to buy it.

A great read is a New York Times story reported in July 1959. Times writer Joseph C. Ingraham presented an extensive article on the new Checker about to be introduced for consumer purchase in the Summer of 59.  Let's review his commentary and separate fact from fiction. We won’t review the technical aspects which are largely correct, let’s look more at the color commentary.


Checker Claim One

The new Checker Cab consumer car will have a new spring and suspension system that provides far more comfortable riding

Accuracy, pretty much a false claim.  In 1959 right up till 1983, Checker Superbas and Marathons used the same suspension at the Model A9 and A11 taxicab found in commercial cabs in city taxicab service . The suspension itself was the same design found in the Checker Model A8 introduced in 1956.  A parts bin design,  the Checker  utilizes Ford OEM parts found on the standard Ford for 1956.

Checker Claim Two

Markin says that the Superba has been designed to perform like a passenger car and take punishment like a taxicab

Absolutely true! No questions asked.

Checker Claim Three

In their quest for a car that stresses comfort and convenience more than high style the Superbas’s designers have produced an automobile that bears a passing resemblance to an old London taxicab.

Well take a look at a picture of a 1958 London Cab, really?  The slab sided modern for 1956 design compared to the London cab with 30’s era styling looks nothing like a Checker.

The only item that reminds of a Checker is the checkerboard strip on the side of this period Austin

Checker Claim Four

According to Mr. Markin, the windshield does not wrap around.

Well there is a true curve in the windshield, not a compound curve as found in Fords, Chevys and Plymouths of the day. but the windshield is wrap around.

Looks like a wrap-around to me


Checker Claim Five

 There isn’t any intention of following the standard industry practice of annual model changes.  The car’s silhouette and trim probably will remain unaltered for at least three years.

This claim is funny, in that the first half of the comment is true, three years later in 1961 Checker altered the styling by putting a center dip in the bumper.  However, the comment is totally incorrect as the style from 1962 did not change again when in1974 there was another bumper change!  More importantly, the silhouette never changed! In the end the total statement is incorrect.

The 1960 Checker Superba, note the straight bumper………bumpers were the only stylized change that spanned three decades not years!


Checker Claim Six

Checker will sell 30,000 unit Superbas per year to a family-type trade that wants comfort and ease of driving for more than the high-style featured by the rest of the industry.

Checker never produced more than about 5000 cars a year, this perspective is totally wrong.

Markin thought 30,000 family would switch to Checker for value, but buyers wanted excess for the next decade


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Checker Trucks!

Yes indeed, Checker did sell trucks.  There are few survivors, typical with any Checker there seems to be a story with each Checker truck.  Some of these stories are passed on and others just fade away leaving the Checker collectors to try to piece together what bits of information exists.

This 1927 Checker Model G conversion was on sale on Ebay about ten years ago, its current whereabouts are unknown


For the record, Checker did start offering trucks based on the Model M in 1931.  Stanley Yost wrote back in 1974 in a three part article for Car Classics Magazine that as many as 500 trucks were produced in the early 1930s.  The truck was essentially a Checker taxi with the passenger section removed and stake body added to the chassis. Production of the unique vehicles continued into 1934 with the Model T.

A Model M conversion the tell tail signs is the rear taxcab running board just forward of the rear wheels

Mode Y Tow Truck recently sold by The Gilmore Museum

It’s highly likely that these trucks were actually remanufactured taxis pulled from the Checker taxi fleets operating across the country.  Minor retrofitting was probably very profitable, these taxicabs would have been fully depreciated, pulled from taxi service and prettied up to serve a new commercial purpose and second life of service. 

Production records from the early 30’s do not indicate truck production, this writer would assume that the trucks utilized the same serial numbers used when the retrofitted trucks were first produced as taxicabs

Checker Marathon truck conversion back of CMC Cab Services Showroom circa 2000
Beyond the official truck production many innovative individuals created Checker trucks by hacking up an old taxicabs.  Many of the modified trucks were produced by farmers looking to cheaply add the farm fleet of work vehicles.  Checker utilized Buda and Continental engines, industrial engines easily serviced on a farm along many other farm implements that also utilized Continental or Buda power.


Beyond farm work, Checker trucks served another life after taxicab service, several were converted serve taxi operators as tow truck.  The famous Checker Model Y tow truck depicted above served the Lake City Cab Company in Lake City, Mn.  Recently restored by Bob Welch of Indianapolis, the truck is very impressive.

The last type of Checker truck appears to be of the fun/play type. Over the years many Checker collectors have taken wrecked Checkers and salvaged for truck conversion fun.

A lot of time and attention to detail went into the Checker pickup conversion

All in all, just like the Checker taxicab cousins the Checker truck is equally loveable.

Often conversion are create utilizing damaged Checker Marathons, like this conversion yields a nice Checker crew-cab

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Model Marathon A12E Town Custom Limo

The “E” stands for extended wheelbase, Introduced for 1962 and produced for almost two decades.  This limo version of the Marathon was built for the high end professional car market.  Differences between the A11 Taxi, Marathon and Superba were the extended wheelbase at 129 inches and limo attributes such as driver divider, in seat radio,  foot and arm rests.  Some models were equipped with vinyl roofs and opera windows.


The venerable Bishop Fulton John Sheen of the Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio ordered a custom built limo from Checker.   As Checker had done in the past,  Checker contracted Kalamazoo based Ray Dietrich to design the car for Sheen.  Dietrich had worked as a consultant for Checker after he left:  Ford, LaBaron and Chrysler in the 1930’s.  Dietrich was best known at Checker for designing the A4 in 1947.

Checker Limo owner Bishop Fulton John Sheen 

Subsequently Bishop Scheen sent a thankyou letter to Dietrich regarding Dietrich’s work on the Checker Custom Limo.  Quoting Scheen “Never did I think I would have an automobile whose appointments were designed by America’s first automotive artist”.  I am sure Sheen secured a special place in heaven for Ray Dietrich, the Bishop seemed to truly love his Checker!

The Town Custom name was removed in 1964, but the car continued in production known just as a long wheel base Checker A12E.


Post 1967 the windshield was increased in height. In the mid 70’s the famous Checker girder bumpers we added to this solid, purpose built luxury professional car.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Passing of a Great Club


As the Checker Club of America continues its downward slide to a faded memory at least we’ll be able to remember probably its last big meet.   Tim and Zandra Bowers organized a great event that will go down as one of the better shows. 

A very well run event, the main event was the plant tour of the AM General MVI taxicab plant in Mishawaka, Indiana.  In addition to the plant tour, participants had a chance to tour the Studebaker Museum.


As usual the club had a mindless committee meeting Saturday morning where the board literally begged to have new board members participate in saving the club from its ultimate doom.   Equally mind numbing was the Friday night new web site demo. 

At least fifteen minutes was wasted explaining the difference between Facebook and message boards.  More troubling was, that it seemed like the club board members are oblivious to the fact that the new site is just a rehash of the old Checker Taxi Stand implemented in 2004. 

In the eleven years since its initial inception there has been great technological strides in file sharing tools, photo library enablement and social media,  its highly unlikely that the new/old paid members section will draw new members. At a rate of 10-15 percent losses in membership each year, the clubs future is questionable.

Checkers are getting older and so are the club participants. The show size and venues are smaller now and its sad to say,  so too are the number of Checkers that actually show up to the event.  This years events had about 25 vehicles on display in South Bend.

Thankfully the upcoming Hershey show is being hosted by a non CCCofA board member.  It's not widely publicized,  but the Checker shows are organized by people outside of the club board and these selfless people generate their own funding, noting comes from the club.  The club rides the coat tails of the organizer and typically steals the show to gain all the glory.  Hopefully in the future the show organizers may look for additional sponsorship from other groups to carry on the tradition. 

2016 Show organizer Edward Fox with two of the greatest Checker guys in the world: Joe Pollard and Ben Merket. Ed, we wish you the best of luck next year


The club’s official convention web site hosts a series of unflattering photos of men in the full "man-spread" position, a position illegal in the New York subway system.  We assume the intent was to depict Checkers and the diverse base of owners, unfortunately the results were photographically disturbing. 

The photos depicted here on this blog are intended to showcase the fine cars and not scare away Facebook Checker Group members.




Ben Merkel  of Middlefield, Ohio     1982 Checker



John Wilkenson of Willow Brook, IL   1981 Checker


Pete Talanca of Newton Falls, Ohio 1979 Checker


George Laszlo of Gouldboro, PA   1973 Checker Aerobus


John Weinhoeft of Springfield, IL   1981 Checker                                                                   


Rick Bergen of Kalamazoo  1981 Checker


Tim Bowers of Wausaw, IN  1982 Checker


Skinner & McClelland  Indianapolis & Chicago   1982 Checker


Steve Contarino of Haverhill, MA   Fleet of Checkers


Carroll Sickle of Rainbow City, AL   1966 Checker


Tony Mattern of North East, MD    1967 Checker


John Rabbene of Williamstown, WV   1973 Checker


Paul Worth of Quitman, GA  1972 Checker


Gary Lohsen of Lawrenceville, GA   1970 Checker



Ed Ball  of  Mount Pleasant, MI  1975 Checker



Larry Kiss of Centre Moriches    1978 Checker



Todd Harroun  Kalamazoo, MI   1982 Checker




Todd Harroun of Kalamazoo, MI     1982 Checker, note interesting bumper guards


Becky & David Carlson  Fayetteville, GA    1982 Checker


George Arnold of Syracuse, New York  1981 Checker



Geoff Rosemann of Silver Springs, MD  1969 Checker



Rick Lucius McCutchenville, Ohio  1980 Checker



Jim Garrison  Kalamazoo, MI   1980

Bill Beurkens, Illinois   1980 Checker

Michael O'Connell, Oregon, IL   1980 Checker

The luvable Ron Leatz, Ohio.............please tell us another story!

Sorry to several folks who that were missed as pictures were taken:  Rick Crawley and David Veenstra











1962 Model A11 Taxicab


Introduced for1962 this design is essentially an A9 with some minor visual differences. 

Only a well trained eye can see the difference made in 1962 from the A9 first introduced in the fall of 1958:

      Parking lights moved to the outboard fenders

      The front splash pan was eliminated

      Rear wheel openings were enlarged to the fender body line

      Bumpers were raised up and fenders were altered accordingly

      Additionally the bumpers now as a dip at the center to house a license plate.

      Door seam between front and rear doors eliminated

In 1964 Checker no longer offered the Continental six engine and the majority of power plants options were GM Chevrolet based offerings.  Later in the decade a diesel Perkins engine option was offered for 1968 and 1969. 

1967 saw the increase in both windshield and rear window openings to improved visibility.


1969 saw the introduction of the side marker lights required by federal law to improve side visibility at night.


In 1973 new federally mandated hydraulic bumpers were added to the taxicab.  The new bumpers were essentially the 1962 chrome metal bumpers mated to shock absorbers. Somewhat awkward the extension forward left a visible gap below the front wheel opening and required a new longer splash pan.  These new shock absorbing bumpers seemed to all sag after repeated bumping. Parking lights were also increased in size.

In 1974 the purpose built taxicab received purpose built bumpers that were meant for the rough and tumble taxicab business.  To many the new non chrome plated aluminum bumpers took away some of the charm of the Marathon and projected a more industrial appearance.



Shipping Weight 3410 LBS

Wheelbase 120 Inches

Overall Length 199.5

Front Track 60 Inches

Rear Tread 62.5 Inches