Vintage Checkers and Movie Car Service
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Victor's personal Checker time machine