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Checker: The Forgotten Independent


Hinckley

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getting back to the subject I knew a car dealer named Bob Hinckley who sold a lot of Checkers cabs to none other than Arlo Guthrie! Bob told me hae had quite a few of them ! Strange coincidence or is the author of the Checkers history related to Bob? I had heard he moved from the Rochester New York area to the southwest.

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Barry~~~

Given the fact that Dad & I spent thousands in this junkyard over the years , and the fact that I bought a chevy big-block for my race boat that day ~~~

I would say that 10 cent badge was paid for 1000X times over~~~

So Silverghost...Using your above stated logic...If I am in my local super market that I shop at all the time and have spent many thousands of dollars and I picked up an apple and ate it while I am shopping, then leave without paying for it...That's not stealing is it?

I think the store/yard/or whatever the place of business may be, the owners would not agree with your logic.

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Guest my3buicks

Oh please guys, get a life and get off it and go back to the thread - if you must be so juvenile, take it to the Private Messages. I just love holier than thou people.

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OK---Folks~~

I give up~~~

I confessed~~~

Arrest me !

BUT~~~ first you will have to deal with the statute of limitations .

This happened almost 30 years ago ! ;-)

I guess this makes-up for the time old Ed tried to over- charge $6.00 for a used fan belt !

By the way~~~

That yard owner's son was a good friend of mine~~~

He was there with me at the time I "Found" that Checker Cap Badge !

He told me to "Take-It!"

Interesting side note:

In the early 1990s Harold Katz the former owner of the Philly 76ers basketball team bought this scrapyard off of old Ed & his family for 4 &1/2 million $$$~~~

The entire yard's contents of scrap autos were crushed & cleared and a new mega-shopping center was built there !

Ed and his entire family immediately moved to sunny Florida to retire !

That old auto junkyard should have been declaired a "Superfund Site" !

Just like "Love Canal NY "

Dave we all like to spar with you on automotive related environmental issues ~~~

After all~~~ We are all old car nuts & friends here on this geat forum !

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They were ugly, may have been a hit in Russia, good for a taxi ride, end of story.

I always thought they were rather attractive. Old fashioned to be sure, even when new models were introduced. Decades out of style at the end without a doubt, and one of the worst victims of the slap-dash approach to 5 mph bumpers as well. Never the less I think they looked quite handsome for a formal 4 door sedan or wagon, and probably better than anything the Soviet Union ever produced.:cool:

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Before I began my career as a policeman, I drove a Checker taxi in NYC. The company owned 1968 Ford Galaxies with 6cyl and no power steering. In 1970 they used Dodges with slant 6s. But in 1971 Bob( the owner) bought 1971 Checkers. His company never had a shortage of drivers. That is because the average cab driver could make 10-20% more money with one, and at the time I split 50-50 so the owner profited as well. There was no NYC mandate from the Taxi&Limosene Commission regarding what make cab to be used. As matter of fact, 69-70 Chevies and Dodges proliferated. By 1967 all "medallioned" cabs must be yellow."gypsie" cabs,ie non legal for street hailing, could not be yellow. The Checker that I drove had a complete Chevy drivetrain 250 cu 6 PS Pb and AutoPGlide. Customers would actually walk a taxi line to the rear if a Checker was available. There was money to be made with Checker and the manufactuer tried hard to close a deal, but reality was, the cars were alot more expensive (15-20%) to buy. and the shape was the only advantage, since Checker was essentially a Chevy. Independant owners loved them, but fleet owners thought twice. Also I noticed that the Checker was heavy and under powered with the 6. With fleet tires at 35 psi,and a cross wind, crossing the Bronx- Whitestone bridge was a bit of a thrill. Never the less a good car for the job.

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There was no NYC mandate from the Taxi&Limosene Commission regarding what make cab to be used. As matter of fact, 69-70 Chevies and Dodges proliferated.

They weren't even all full-size cars. The taxi that almost runs into Jack Klugman in the opening of The Odd Couple TV show is a 1970 Dodge Coronet sedan.

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In 1988 my friend's father took a quad-headlight 15-passenger Checker in on used car trade. My friend brought it to church one Sunday night, we loaded the kids up after church and I drove them to the next town to a McDonalds and back. Next day my daughter, about 5 years old told my sister that she rode in a black limousine and "Daddy drived it." I asked my sis if she believed it and she said of course not. I reminded her that my daughter was honest and then she became a little jealous but not quite as bad as she did when another friend let me drive his brass trimmed Model T touring car. As a remember it, the Checker had a Chevy V-8 and decent power and didn't handle bad at all. Still have a photo and the memory and the owner probably still has the Checker in storage.

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There was no NYC mandate from the Taxi&Limosene Commission regarding what make cab to be used. As matter of fact, 69-70 Chevies and Dodges proliferated.

I do not recall too many Packards and Desotos being built in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Obviously the regulations were in effect much earlier than that, and no longer were by that time. Besides, the regulations did not state what make of cab you could drive. They stated what was required in order for a car to be used as a taxi. Packard, Desoto, and Checker were the only companies that chose to build cars that complied.

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I do not recall too many Packards and Desotos being built in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Obviously the regulations were in effect much earlier than that, and no longer were by that time. Besides, the regulations did not state what make of cab you could drive. They stated what was required in order for a car to be used as a taxi. Packard, Desoto, and Checker were the only companies that chose to build cars that complied.

I think it was always legal to use whatever brand of car you wanted. The difference was, you were not allowed to carry more than a certain number of passengers. Cars with built in jump seats could carry 5 passengers instead of 3 and could charge an extra fare. Therefore they could make more money.

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I think it was always legal to use whatever brand of car you wanted. The difference was, you were not allowed to carry more than a certain number of passengers. Cars with built in jump seats could carry 5 passengers instead of 3 and could charge an extra fare. Therefore they could make more money.

Can't find any specific regulations from 1940-50, but snippets appear here and there regarding special New York regulations stating longer wheelbase required, and must be able to seat 5 people in a seperate compartment from the driver. That would leave the long wheelbase Packard, DeSoto, and Checkers with jumpseats. Don't see how standard Fords and Chevys could comply with that unless they were specially modified.

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My mother worked for the NYPD Hack Bureau, predecessor to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, for over 30 years. There was a brochure that they published giving specifications for NYC taxicabs (I still have one from the 1940's somewhere). They spelled out many details, including the need for seats that were leather or other washable material, rear-seat controls for the radio if the cab had one, etc. These regulations were changed in the mid-fifties to allow regular-sized sedans to be used as cabs. FWIW, the all-yellow NYC medallion cab became mandatory in 1965, along with the roof light with a built-in off-duty sign and the medallion number on the back. My mother was involved with the project back then.

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Thanks Harold, I see that the color mandate was 1965. I knew it was about that time. When did NYC go to the T&L Commission? I believe it was the Hack Bureau when I drove, and was a division of the NYPD. I needed to report to the 110 Pct for a license.Ron

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The TLC phased-in around 1970. My mother was then transferred to another division in the PD.

Some '65 cabs (mostly Coronets and Biscaynes, as well as Checkers) had two-tone paint because the all-yelow rule came out in the middle of the model year.

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getting back to the subject I knew a car dealer named Bob Hinckley who sold a lot of Checkers cabs to none other than Arlo Guthrie! Bob told me hae had quite a few of them ! Strange coincidence or is the author of the Checkers history related to Bob? I had heard he moved from the Rochester New York area to the southwest.

When writing the book on Checker another collector told me of Bob Hinckley. No relation but it gets even stranger - my dad is Robert "Bob" Hinckley.

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I think some of the replies to this thread are missing Mr. Hinckley's point. He was pondering why an American company who manufactured cars for 60 years is unknown except for the less than attractive yellow guard-rail bumper taxis from 1973-1982. I agree that today they are the most well known of all the Checker models but there were many other styles prior to that. I've attached (hopefully) a photo of a 1939 model A Checker.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

post-70730-143138394738_thumb.jpg

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Guest my3buicks

I for one would like to see more pictures of the 39. I am pretty good at identifying cars of the past, but honestly if that had pulled onto a show field I do not believe I would have known what it was. I guess when cars are in TAXI clothes, you do not pay as much attention to what the car is under the clothes. Now that I see it, I can relate to seeing them on old movies etc.

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per your request, I've attached another photo of the 1939. The car is gorgeous in person. I saw it a few years ago.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

post-70730-143138394741_thumb.jpg

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I think some of the replies to this thread are missing Mr. Hinckley's point. He was pondering why an American company who manufactured cars for 60 years is unknown except for the less than attractive yellow guard-rail bumper taxis from 1973-1982. I agree that today they are the most well known of all the Checker models but there were many other styles prior to that. <O:p</O:p

I think that would apply to many service vehicles. That is why the Professional Car Society was formed. Hearses generally get no attention at car shows, and some shows won't even let them in. They think they are all just a bunch of old Cadillacs that carried dead people. But there were Packards, Lincolns, LaSalles, DeSotos, etc.

Most people can't get past the "they're just creepy" thoughts to appreciate some of the truly beautiful coachwork such as carved sides, town cars, etc. Some had way more custom coachwork put into them than Duesenbergs or other Full Classics, yet get pretty much zero appreciation.

So it is not surprising that no one pays attention to Checker cabs, especially when they looked basically the same for so many years.

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Does anybody know approximately how many exist of this model Checker? They must be extremely rare. I've never seen one and have been in the hobby for 35 years.

I saw these in a period movie on TV a couple of nights ago but I thought they were DeSotos.

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Does anybody know approximately how many exist of this model Checker? They must be extremely rare. I've never seen one and have been in the hobby for 35 years.

Is the green and yellow paint job a Checker trademark? I saw lots of the later ones (1960's-'70's) with those colors.

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To answer a few questions that have popped here. First, as I recall the red and black Checker is actually a 1940 Model A. When I wrote the book this car was on display in Kalamazoo and was the only known model to exist at that time. In fact, when I did the research on Checker I was quite surprised to learn there were less than two dozen existent models known to represent the years from 1922 to 1958.

My initial point was surprise at the obscurity of Checker history. Everyone recognizes the last generation cabs and I think we can all agree styling was not the high point of these cars.

Still, this is a manufacturer that produced automobiles for sixty years, has roots going back even further, and that continued producing automotive components for another twenty years after automobile production was discontinued.

You have a rags to riches immigrant story in the founder, direct association with E.L.Cord (there was an early Checker at the ACD museum in Auburn), and extensive innovation including the first use of a diesel engine in a mass produced American passenger car. This is a company that was building four wheel drive, four wheel steering vehicles in 1940 and various versions of transaxle models in 1946. The company built city busses, trucks, station wagons, ambulances, a wide array of specialty vehicles, and even limos for the state department.

So, again, why the obscurity?

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So, again, why the obscurity?

I seem to remember from an article in Collectible Automobile or Special Interest Autos that Checker for years mandated that retired cabs be sold back to them, where they were scrapped. (Of course once private sales began in 1960 all bets were off.) Even if they didn't mandate the resale, the vast majority of their output went to major cab companies, the rest to small ones. These companies (major and minor) often had controlling interests in their territories. The last thing they'd want is a competitor picking people up in their old cabs.

My dad was a cab driver for Yellow Cab in Pittsburgh in the early 1960s. They had a 100% monopoly on cab licenses in Pittsburgh at the time. Years later he told me that, although some employees tried, no one was allowed to purchase old cabs from them. They had their own scrap yard for them.

As a result VERY few cabs prior to the A8 survived beyond their service years.

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In Philadelpha near the International airport in the mid 1970s ---early 1980s the major Checker Cab operator had a cab service facility & parts yard with several dozen old Checker Marathon Cabs that were being used as service parts cars.

By the time the cab company was finally finished with an old parts car cab there was not much left.

Old "Smashy" the local large S. Philly scrapyard/junkyard operator nearby got what little that was left over when they were finished pulling-off needed spare parts .

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The IMCDb has pages of Checker images from old films that virtually chronicle the company's history;

here are just four of them...

Early to late '20's

Some from the '30's

Some nice Model A's

The models from the '50's

Hinckley,

Some reasons that Checker is overlooked have already been mentioned; the company's recycling plan, territorial obligations, etc.

Unless you lived in or near a large metropolitan area, many folks may have rarely, if ever, seen Checkers in service except in movies. Since they weren't available to the public (till much later), you couldn't go to your local Checker dealer to see the annual new models' intro, a right of passage for many collectors. Further, there were no brochures to collect, and they rarely showed up on used car lots as affordable rides, another blow to our "collective" memories. Ditto with radio, magazine and TV ads, you can't remember what didn't exist.

Their collectibility is further diluted because most were beat into the ground in service; how many of the once-ubiquitous DeSoto SkyView cabs survived? The "beater" status also applies to their naugahyde or leather interiors, re-upholstered again and again during their worklife. It's hardly likely that anyone's going to find a low-mileage original in a country barn or city parking garage, because contemporarily they were far too valuable in livery for their purpose-built existence.

I watch lots of movies on TCM, and for years have sought out the odd looking Checkers just for fun; it's easy once you study the details, but I'm no expert. I hope your book does well and sheds more light on the Kalamazoo Carriers.

TG

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My point Dave, is that the brochures that were printed were mostly all to-the-trade, and were circulated primarily to fleet companies in the taxi business. Kids couldn't have collected them until the Sixties-on, unless they had someone in the family connected to those businesses.

TG

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Great thread! I own 5 vintage Checker.

Why are they forgotten?

1. These cars were purpose built workhorses, essentially personal subway cars. In many ways its really hard to view these vehicles as cars

2. Given 99.9% were produced for the taxi market, they were run till the wheels fell off.

3. Once the wheels fell off, they were used for parts and scrapped.

How many are left? I have documented 30 vehicles/buses/taxi survivors built between 1922 and 1960.

Here is a little 8 minute video you might find interesting

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I don't know. Jim Garrison of Checker Motors Corporation gave me the photo about two years ago. I am guessing somewhere in PA. since many Checker Ambulances were sold and operated by Checker of Philadelphia.

Here's one more video....my collection:

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Great thread! I own 5 vintage Checker.

Why are they forgotten?

1. These cars were purpose built workhorses, essentially personal subway cars. In many ways its really hard to view these vehicles as cars

2. Given 99.9% were produced for the taxi market, they were run till the wheels fell off.

3. Once the wheels fell off, they were used for parts and scrapped.

How many are left? I have documented 30 vehicles/buses/taxi survivors built between 1922 and 1960.

Here is a little 8 minute video you might find interesting

Nice video! Thank you for sharing it.

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Guest my3buicks

Thanks, very informative and educational!!

I am assuming the Checkers with the cut out front fenders was to lesson damage in city driving? Is that a fair assumption?

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You are correct. Checker claimed that damaged vehicles could be repaired and put back in service in minutes. Even with full fenders on new models they could be changed out in less than 30 minutes.

Some fenders could also be interchanged on other newer Checker models. This allowed cab companies to deplete their entire obsolete inventory. Its impossible to find any single headlight fenders as all left overs were eventually used on dual headlight cars.

The key to pre 1960 survival:

1. After taxi service they were purchased as props for movie production

2. After taxi service purchased by a farmer and put into farm service (tractor conversion)

3. Original owner did not use as a taxi

4. Original special body use (Hearse) or tow truck conversion for the taxi fleet.

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I grew up in Kalamazoo where Checkers were quite a common sight, not just the cabs but the A-12 and A-12E (long wheelbase) models as well. While only a few people had wagons, there were a LOT of sedans. My parents had one when they first got married and my grandparents were impressed enough to buy one too. Over the years my parents owned 7-8 more, I owned two and my uncle had one. All but one had GM drivetrains (the remaining car had Continental power) and all but one of the GM engines were 8's. The V-6 powered car was pretty economical but anemic as well. Our family tends to agree that the '67 sedan with jump seats and 327 power was the best car we ever owned. While styling is a subjective matter, I quite liked the looks of Checkers. I would respectfully suggest the naysayers take a close look at a '57 Checker and compare its appearance to a '58 GM anything, particularly their base model 4-door sedans. Not a lot of difference there between the "ugly" Checker and the "attractive" Chevy Biscane methinks. Just one man's opinion.

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