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Hinckley

Checker: The Forgotten Independent

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I would like to find one for a winter beater since my 89 crown vic beater just got hit today,I have not seen one on the road in years so if there are any around here they are probably junk.

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Better hurry if you want a new Checker. There is 2 on e-bay one with 19 miles and one with 22 miles. Proto types put away when new. One for 150,000 and the other 200,000. Better hurry and snap these up!

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There are 2 Checkers on Autotrader.com right now, both 1961 Superba models (the model immediately preceding the Marathon, and visually almost identical). One is $7500, the other is "call for price".

However it would be sin to waste one of the few remaining Checkers left on road salt and potholes. There just aren't enough of them left.

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I remember the two-headlight Checkers when I was growing up in the late 1950's. The quad headlights came out around 1960 and Checker made a big deal about them.

The 'purpose-built cab' rules in NYC changed in the mid-fifites because I clearly recall seeing '56 Ford medallion cabs in Brooklyn.

Checker may have had indestructable mechanicals, but their body integrity left something to be desired. When I was in college in Buffalo in the 1970's, there were many Checker cabs roaming the streets, and they had horrible rust issues (even for Buffalo). On one cab, the front fender rotted out around the headlight, and the entire assembly fell back into the fender, so the headlight was facing up and illuminating the inside of it!

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The cars of the last generation, 1960 to 1982, were odd, mixed bags with outdated styling but there were exceptions. A prime example would be the Winkoff coversions that featured two twon paint and chrome trim.

However, from an historic standpoint, as noted previously, the obscurity is quite surprising - diesel engine option in the 1960s, power rear seat option in the station wagons, association with Ed Cole, etc. It is the 1922 to 1958 period that is most interesting.

The company built busses and trucks, interesting models that easily converted for different uses, joint projects with Auburn, had association with legendary designers such as Dietrich, and even patented body features such as power operated landau tops. There were units with transaxles and four wheel steering. Export specific models and a program where used cabs were refurbished and sold overseas.

Then there is a the founder, Marris Markin. A rags to riches story that starts with a poor Russian immigrant and that has association with Hertz, E.L. Cord, and others.

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I have to admit that before writing this book, Checker, like Jeep, was not a vehicle that was given a great deal of thought. In consideration of their amazing ability to transform existent vehicles into niche market products, the association with E.L. Cord, and some of the stylish vehicles built during the 1930s, I am surprised the history of the cars and company are so obscure.

Would anyone care to give their thoughts about why this company is so obscure?

When I was a young private in the Army, they had a whole fleet of Checker Cabs all around Fort Leonard Wood. For $1 you got a ride anyplace around post. You could fit a lot of guys with duffel bags in those cars....

But I feel the issue of the Checker cab all comes down to cost and availability of parts.

I know how when the Sheriff's Department sends cars to auction, there is a guy from New York City who comes up with a car carrier and buys just about every one of our patrol cars to be used as taxis. With the way the cars get beat up, $20,000 buys a lot of patrol cars, where otherwise it wouldn't be enough to buy one Checker, parts wouldn't be as plentifull, and if a car gets trashed you're out the price of a car, where the guys using old police cars, go back to another auction and buy another old police car.

Ford, GM and Chrysler have always had more car dealers and parts available than Checker. Although the Checkers were a solid well built car, for the cost of wrecking one Checker beyond repair, you could wreck at least 5 old police cars before you'd equal that cost.

If a cab company wanted a Checker, chances are most people who had them drove the wheels off of those cars, so the availability of used Checkers were probably non existent.

Besides, for anyone who has ever taken a cab ride in the big cities, would you really want to turn a cab driver loose in a brand new car??:eek::eek::eek:

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Your right about the wheels being driven off Checkers. An industry study conducted in 1927 found that 60% of all Checker buillt cabs were still on the road. Additionally, many had clocked more than 240,000 miles.

In later years, Checker had a program where they took old cabs in trade, refurbished them, and then sold them overseas. This coupled with low production equals rarity.

When I wrote this book there were less than 20 models manufactured between 1922 and 1958 still existent.

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

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These were basically commercial autos designed for a specific job.

Like a Divco milk or bread delivery truck !

They were only built

to carry paying passengers !

Just like a bus~~~

They made few design changes over the years because the taxi cab company buyers never really cared about having the latest & greatest in design styling !

They wanted a big & roomy, robust, easy & cheap to repair commercial auto that they could keep on the road making money !

In fact their old dated & unique design really worked in their favor as everyone in town knew they were a Taxi Cab !

Who knows how many Checker autos exist today ?

AND~~~

Does it really matter ?

There is really not much of a collector market for old Checker Cabs~~~

Except possibly in period-style Hollywood movies ?

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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I took over a year of on and off eBay listings to sell a Checker sales brochure, I'm so glad I didn't have a lump in the driveway I was trying to sell.

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Dave:

Years ago my Father had the family picked-up in a blue Checker Limo Wagon similar to the one in your above photo ! Five people compete with luggage easily fit into this large wagon.

I remember as a kid sitting on those back pull-out-and-up round wooden "Jump Seats" several times in the 50s-60s !

Years ago I was poking around junkyard looking for parts when I found a Checker Driver's hat in an open trunk of a 1960s vintage Checker Marathon..

The hat was pretty ratty; but the Checker Hat Badge was in good shape so I pulled it off and put it in my pocket~~~

I still have that Checker Cap Badge around here somewhere~~~

It still turns up from time to time !

Do I understand correctly that you are bragging you stole this item?!

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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~~~

I cannot count the number of Big Bock MK IV Chevy engines that we bought for boat racing in over twenty years from Ed's junkyard ? !

Who has not seen all sorts of "Trash" in old junkyard car trunks?~~~

The yard owner did not care about this stuff~~~ He was in the scrap & used auto parts business !

This badge was headed for the crusher or burn pile~~~

COME ON NOW BARRY ~~~ GIVE ME A BREAK !

Edited by Rawja (see edit history)

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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.

Edited by my3buicks (see edit history)

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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 !

Edited by Rawja (see edit history)

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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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images%3Fq%3DChecker%2Bcab%2BModel%2BM%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG%26biw%3D1020%26bih%3D554%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:10%2C83&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=447&vpy=265&dur=1015&hovh=194&hovw=259&tx=122&ty=126&ei=Vt8gTdC0DIL0tgOOusCGCg&oei=Vt8gTdC0DIL0tgOOusCGCg&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=14&ved=1t:429,r:11,s:0&biw=1020&bih=554

This is a Model M Checker. A dramatic change from the boxy, work horses of the 1960s and 1970s.

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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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