Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Checker Aerobus, The Big Question………..Why?


As discussed in past Checker Facebook Group blogs, it’s very clear that CMC was a true specialty car manufacturer.  Checker was forced into the consumer car business by changes made in New York City taxicab law in 1954. The new laws allowed operators to buy non purposed built taxis in order to improve automotive competition and reduce operator costs.  With the new law, Checker was now competing with Ford, Chevy and Plymouth and the results was that Checker started to lose market share.  Checker was forced to look for other ways to fill plant capacity and generate revenue outside of the taxicab market.

The consumer car market was Checker's first entry into a new market outside of the taxicab business. Checker started entry in the market in 1956 with the introduction of the A8 Drive-r-matic Special. Over the next five years Checker would slowly build out a national dealer and service network base large enough to support the different requirements needed to support retail consumers versus limited requirements to support an established fleet based taxicab companies.

Firmly established in the consumer car market in 1960, Checker was poised to enter another new market. Checker has produced six and eight door wagons as far back as in the 1930’s starting with the Model T.  Previous production appeared to be for Checker’s own taxi operating company “Parmalee”.  The entry into the mass transportation market would be Checker next new market and was a market the Checker understood.

1935 Checker Model Y Six door limo operated by Checker owned company Parmalee
1950 Checker Model A2 Six door wagon operated by Checker owned company Parmalee

Two companies Armbruster and Stageway companies were active in the production of the 8 door limos since the 1930’s.  Additionally these two companies were producing Checker eight door limos for export to Saudi Arabia based on A8’s. It would appear that Checker looked at Stageway-Armbruster and said to themselves “hey we can do that”.

Hey, we can do that. Was Stageway and inspiration to Checker?


An interesting photo appeared in the February 1960 of the American Taxicab Association magazine.  Hosting a group of Boston based taxicab operators, center photo Checker CEO Morris Markin stands in front of a Checker eight door sedan. Was this an Armbruster-Stageway? Was it a Checker prototype? We’ll never know, but what we do know is that Checker introduced the Checker Aerobus for 1961 months later.


In the Fall 1960 two models were introduced: a six door 9 passengers Aerobus wagon and a 12 passenger Aerobus wagon, the A12w9 and A12w12.  Being based on a Checker A12w wagon with additional doors and seats, the Aerobus was not equipped with jump seats.  Each unit had one  or two rows of standard bench style seating added to the standard wagon. Each model was equipped with a roof rack as well as window guards.  A heavy duty vehicle, the Aerobus was also equipped with 8 lug truck wheels, this was one big Checker.

Modified Checker Aerobus for.................any ideas?

The Aerobus was clearly the largest auto produced by any manufacture in the US at the time. The six door road on a 154.5 inch wheelbase with a total length of 235.5 inches and weighing in at 4330 LBS. The eight door road on a 189 inch wheelbase with a total length of 269.75 inches and weighing in at 4788 LBS. 35 and 70 inches longer than a standard Checker Model A11 respectively. 

Now those sound like big cars, but by today’s standards in the 21st century, believe it or not, the Aerobus is not so big.  Consider that in 2015, the Ford F150 Supercrew weighs in at 4686 LBS, yet only holds five passengers! One could make a compelling argument that the Aerobus was quite an economical in the mass transit business.


Checker would produce the Aerobus until 1974.  The major customers were airport transport companies, hotels, the military and corporate accounts that had a need to move a high number of people quickly and effectively. 

For thirteen years the Aerobus served Checker well, like the consumer car, it allowed Checker to expand beyond the taxicab business.

Coming up in the next blog, Aerobus variation and its larger replacement.  Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Checker Clown Car


Some folks have no problem with them, other feel they are a blight on the hobby, what are we talking about?  The restored Checker Clown Cab.

What is a Checker Clown Cab, it’s the Checker so poorly restored, so poorly represented that it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The typical Checker Clown Cab is a restored Checker in taxicab livery. They can be found at car shows, auctions or worse case in movies on a regular basis. This blog will try to establish a new standard for Checker Clown Cabs: Bad, Really Bad and Run away screaming.

But first let’s establish the standard of what comprises an authentic Checker taxicab restoration, two models establish the standard:  the 1958-1962 Checker Model A9 and the 1963-1982 Checker A11. They are the standard as they are the cars that Checker designed and sold for purpose built taxi cab service.

The A9 and A11 is a bare bones sedan typically sold with minimum do-dads, chrome molding or any items that could be considered items of luxury such as vinyl roofs, moon roofs and opera lamps or windows. White walls are subject to debate as a luxury item, but they can be found in Checker brochures for use on taxicabs, for this reason, we will consider white wall applicable and authentic.


Pre 1967 Checker A11 NYC Cab,  aluminum roof light, red and yellow two tone, note appropriate rate card and emblem placement

1961 NYC Checker A9 with pre 1964 Checker OEM flame roof light

1969 Checker NYC A11 all yellow standard

80's era authentic Checker taxicab note no Checker seal on rear door, replaced with decals representing the taxicab operator Temper Hacking Corp.

Exterior standard for a Checker taxi is as follows:  The cab company name or Checker emblem is on the rear passenger door. Rate cards if used are placed on the front door, one roof light placed at the point the front and rear door meet. Additionally, many operators ran their cabs with roof or trunk mounted advertising. Some firms may have equipped their cabs with additional accessories such as spot lights, heavy duty bumper guards and potentially roof mounted a/c. Any Checker restoration sporting these taxicab attributes are authentic.  That’s the standard we’ll use for this blog

One more consideration, New York City restorations, for many Checker fans, Checkers are the stereotypical taxicabs that represent all cabs for New York city, for this reason many restorations are presented as authentic New York City cabs,   this blog we’ll also establish the NYC color and roof light standards.

Standards for New York City cabs:  multi-color units from 1958 through 1967, yellow after 1968.  Roof lights in New York, plastic Checker OEM flame lamp 1958-1964. Post 1964 various aluminum lamps with the cab medallion number prominently displayed.

Now that we have established the standard, let’s establish the standard for Clown Cabs.


Clown Cab Status 1,  Bad

Essentially a nice car, well restored and presentable, however the main concern is that the vehicle is based on a Marathon, not an A11 being a consumer market Checker, it will have higher end items typically not found in a true taxi.  Additional factors: placement of Checker emblem on the front door or city cab company emblems that are not authentic i.e. Chicago logo on a NYC cab, wrong rate cards for time period restored.  Color could be a flag too, if for example it’s a pre 1969 Checker depicting a NYC cab and it’s painted completely yellow then it’s a clown cab. Overall still a nice car to the layman, a true Checker fan will see the issues at hand.

A nicely restored Marathon, note the chrome strip and V8 emblem on the fender. This status one Clown Cab also sports a NYC style roof light but note its reads "Taxi" not a medallion number



Clown Cab Status 2,  Really Bad

Status two typically go to vehicles restored as taxicabs but the base vehicle were actually a Checker purpose built vehicle for something other than taxicab service.  The three best examples Checker vehicles wrongly restored as taxicabs: Marathon station wagons, Aero buses or Medicars restored as taxis.

NYC style taxi livery rendered on an Aerobus. A fantasy vehicle it also sports opera lamps, truck clearance lamps and mirrors the end result Clown Cab status 2


Like the Aerobus above, the Medicar dressed as a NYC taxi is a true Status Two Clown Cab


Clown Cab Status 3,  Run Away Screaming

Taxi restoration based on a Marathon wagon, chrome strip on fender, strange tailgate, 80's era rate card on a 60's era vehicle

Marathon based taxi with dented rocker, opera window and misplaced roof light result in Status 3

This Checker is wrong on so many levels, opera windows, vinyl roof, Chicago emblem, NYC rate card, multiple parallel stripes, yellow roof lamp, flag on fenders attached to a poor restoration note brown rockers


A combination the first two statuses, but to an extreme, this would include all the issues found in the statuses above but multiplied across many attributes.  Beyond the multiple status issues add to that poorly a restored vehicles: paint, chrome and upholstery.  Poor decal or stripe placement or the addition of chrome beyond CMC installed chrome, moon roof, or opera windows painted yellow and you have a Stage 3 Clown Cab.

There you have it, now if your a Checker owner, do you have a Clown Cab, if so, we can help.

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Monday, August 17, 2015



Facebook Checker Cab Group Members Attend the Chicagoland Orphan Car Show




Checker fans paid a visit on a very hot August Sunday to the Chicagoland Corvair Enthusiasts Orphan Car Show and Picnic. Turnout was low across all makes, three Checkers participated at the event, a low number, yet, we had a bigger turnout than the Studebaker Drivers Club and some other more popular orphan makes.

Over the last several years this famous Chicagoland show has been one of the more popular summer gathering among the various orphan make clubs in the Chicagoland area: Studebaker, Packard, AMC/Nash and Edsel clubs have always showed big in numbers.  A bittersweet event, all who participated knew this 25th anniversary would be the last show, after 25 years the Corvair Club is no longer going to run the event.

Several reasons were provided for this sad ending.  According to the Corvair club newsletter, the club made it very clear that the older club members just don’t have the time and energy to run the meet every summer, essentially the event has become more work than fun.  Show organizer Larry Claypool, lamented that the fact the number of participants has consistently declined over the last ten years and more importantly, the club lost money on last year’s show.

Three Checker arrived early and were told that we would be parked with the other oddball cars.  Man, Checkers never get respect, even among orphans we were considered odd.  Odd or not, all day long the three Checkers received a lot of attention.


Dave Elmore showed in a mint green 1965 Marathon. Dave is the father of longtime Checker fan and automotive writer Chad Elmore.  Matt and Leanne Thomas showed up with the entire young family in tow with their impressive 1965 Marathon. It’s always great to see young kids at any car show, these young ones will someday become the care takers of our cars.  The Thomas car has a high performance GM V8, the rumble it generated was a crowd pleaser.  Joe Fay show in his 1957 Checker Drive-r-matic A8.


As always visitors generated lots of questions like who produced Checkers and is it a Chevy?  As always we smiled and did our best to inform.



Again thanks to Larry Claypool and The Corvair club for running a fantastic show.


Thursday, August 13, 2015


Debunking The Myth That Checker First Entered the Consumer Car Market in 1959

For as long as we can remember the standard school of thought was that Checker sold nothing but taxis until entry into the consumer car market in 1959 when CMC introduced the Checker Superba. The fact of the matter is, Checker had been selling cars outside of the taxi market for almost 30 years before the entry into the consumer car market in 1959.  This myth has been so widely perpetuated that Checkers Model A, A2 through A8 were actually left out of the Krause Publication’s Standard Catalog of American Automobiles Post War 1946-1975 as the publication considered Checkers from the period as commercial vehicles not consumer cars.

Clearly Checker was a manufacturer known for making Taxicabs, but CMC was also a specialty car maker and would serve anybody who wanted buy a car as long as the transaction would affect the bottom line of the income statement in a positive way.  A very compelling arguments can be made that the Model M introduced in 1931 was the first car to enter the consumer car market.

A continuation of the town car theme introduced on the Model K in 1928, the Model M was quite a striking vehicle. Visually the car possessed some interesting styling cues, mainly vertical rectangular headlamps and "sugar scoop" fenders to protect tires in minor accidents.  The Model M had rear passenger only running boards continuing the town car theme. Style wise, the Model M looked at home parked next to Cadillac and Lincoln town cars.


The Model M utilized a smaller, 122-inch wheelbase, was powered by the Buda J-216 and was equipped with the first electric taximeter, jointly developed by Checker and Pittsburgh Taximeter Company. Both the Model M and Model K were available in 1931.

Beyond the standard Taxicab, The model M could be ordered as a “Utility Car”. The Utility Car was essentially a convertible station wagon.  Owners of the Utility Car could operate these special Checkers as a 9 passenger sedans, 6 passenger station wagons or as a 2 passenger panel truck.  Much like the SUVs or mini vans of today the various configuration were created by removing the seats within the Checker in order to change the floor plan of the car.  Like any station wagon the Utility Car also provided rear access via opening hatch.


The target market was clearly beyond taxicab operators.  According to the brochures, this luxury vehicle was perfect for traveling salesman, florist, funeral directors, anybody who needed a car that provided maximum utility.  The Utility Car would be produced for several years and was also offered as a Model Y variation in 1933.

Samuel Insull ordered a bullet-proof seven-passenger limousine with a landau top on a 1931 Checker Model M chassis

Checker would also serve consumers with special needs, case in point: utility magnate Samuel Insull ordered a bullet-proof seven-passenger limousine with a landau top on a 1931 Checker Model M chassis. British-born Insull had been an assistant to Thomas Edison, he had relocated to Chicago in the twenties and built an electric utility empire that was eventually valued at $3 Billion.  After the market crash, Insull’s once valuable utility network became worthless resulting in death threats, hence the Checker was order to protect his family.

The two examples above the Model M Utility Car and the Insull armored cars are two perfect reference points for sales made in the consumer car market.  We’ll document more in later blogs.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Expansion of The Checker Cab Group, Moving Forward


When clubs can hold board votes and vote long time members out of the club, it’s pretty clear that it may be time to create a new Checker fan based club and expand this Facebook Checker Group, so much for the club motto about being alone.


One of our Facebook Checker Cab group members, Connie Ann recently put up a post on her Facebook wall regarding her church, “the Bible talks more about the unity of the church than heaven or hell. It's that important. Unity is not uniformity”.

That statement is very powerful and more importantly can be applied not only to church communities but to our everyday lives.  It can even be expanded to the Facebook Checker Cab Group. 

Moving forward, the intent of the Checker Cab Group will be to create unity not uniformity or conformity for that matter. As the old club desired to control and force conformity of voice on their Facebook page, or even claim copyrights to blogs written by club members, this Checker Cab Group will never desire to force uniformity or infringe on other people’s property rights.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll post the progress being made regarding the development of a new Checker fan/owner based experience.  We’ll promote unity and harmony, not conformity and business. 

You will never hear terms like “Intellectual ‘Property” coming from this group.  The experience will be free and fun, no club boards, no politics and more importantly no pan handling for money.  The goal will be to have fun with our Checkers.

Driving a free experience will allow for younger new Checker owners. $25.00 dues may not seem like a lot to some, but for younger folks trying to start out in our hobby, every dime counts.

The free Facebook experience is a great way to expand the Checker fan and ownership experience. Case in point, meet Alex Hale.



Alex lives in Atlanta and will be a freshman at Elon University in Greensboro next year, he is perhaps one to the youngest Checker owners in the collector car world today.  We need more young members in this group and Alex is the type of collector that will carry the Checker tradition on for years to come. 

Alex found our group via Facebook,  this is a perfect example of how clubs of the future will grow via social media.  The challenge of the future will be: how do you keep young members participating yet expand the dialog beyond snail mail based newsletters?

Quite frankly, quarterly paper based newsletters are not the solution. The solution will be active Facebook dialog on a daily basis that spurs the imagination of new young Checker owners. 

Constant feedback from other members, support, advice, sharing show experiences and documented progress on restoration projects are easy ways of generating interest in Checkers.  The paper based newsletter just can’t provide that level of constant interaction.
This group will continue to produce a Newsletter, but it will be distributed via the file sharing functions in Facebook or the new website currently under development.  If you wanted a printed copy, just download and print on your home printer. The major benefit of not printing electronically means that costs can be kept down.

In the end this means that clubs of the future will be free. With that in mind,  this Checker Cab Facebook group will operate under that premise.  We’re already the largest Checker fan based group in the world, let's continue to build it and become the premier Checker experience.

More about Alex

Alex is second owner of this blue 78 Checker A11 taxicab, a car he has idolized since he was 5 or 6. As a young boy he drove past it almost every day and fell in love with the Checker he would later own some fifteen years later.



Over the years Alex would introduce himself to the owners and learned much about his future Checker. Apparently the woman he purchased the 1978 Checker A11 was the original owner.  The original owners purchase the A11 directly from CMC and drove to Kalamazoo to pick the Checker up from the factory brand new.


Over time Alex shared his desire to buy the Checker, according to Alex “after much negotiation and maybe a little schmoozing” he bought it from the original owner and named it after her, Miss Ida.


The Checker sat for 10 years, so to get it running was a challenge. Once started and running Alex has started take on new challenges such as adding side mirrors.

According to Alex, the Checker is cleaning up really nicely and he’s excited to be the second owner,  its already been a lot of fun!  Well it's safe to say we’re all happy to have Alex in our Facebook Checker Cab Group.  Please welcome Alex and Miss Ida.

Joining the Checker Cab Group Club is easy, just like us on Facebook

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Facebook Checker Fans at Das Awkscht Fescht

For 51 years, Das Awkscht Fescht has been a summer tradition for all ages. Offering three fun-packed days in the great outdoors, it's been a perfect way for families to celebrate summer and see some of the finest antique cars from the east coast.

Victor Coiro, Jim Rogers and Bruce Uhrich

This past weekend Facebook Checker Group members celebrate the 52nd annual Das Awkscht Fescht event, showing up in 8 Checkers. A pretty good showing for a regional event.

Doug and Carol Klauck's 1972 A12

For Checker lovers the event started early with the arrival of Doug & Carol Klauck with their pristine 1972 A12 along with Chris Hutter and his family with his cool A11. Early arrivers they were able to enjoy the park before the car buffs crowded the field.

On Sunday Jim Rogers & Nicole Rogers arrived with two Checker both in taxi livery style, cab one a classic NYC, cab two….the multi colored GWB (George Washington Bridge) cab.

Jim Rogers & Nicole Rogers Cab 1

Jim Rogers & Nicole Rogers Cab 2

Marjorie and Bruce Uhrich made the drive from Philadelphia in their stunning 1956 Checker Model A8 Standard.  Longtime Checker enthusiast Bill Hossfield and original CCCofA founder made the event.  Bill is an a walking encyclopedia on Checkers.

Bruce and Marjorie Uhrich's 1956 Checker Model A8 Standard

One of the original founder of the CCCofA Bill Hossfield's 1965 Checker A12 

George Lukas and wife made it up from Virginia in a pretty blue A12, .  Also with a 65 Checker A12, Tony Mattern was a late arriver, but made it in time to enjoy the show.

Up from Virginia The Lukas Checker A12

Last to arrive, but first in line Tony Mattern's A12

Facebook member Victor Coiro had starter issues that morning so he brought a non-Checker finned mopar offering. Victor maintains a fleet of movie cars and his Checkers are the biggest stars.
Sadly the founder of the Checker Car Club Don McHenry was not able to show due to his advance aged.  All missed Don and his originally purchased new 1960 Checker Model A12W wagon.
One of the better events,  we hope 2016 will be a year that the Facebook Checker Group organizes more regional activities.  Coming up August 16th the Chicagoland Orphan Car Show.