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.



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.

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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




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


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