Sign in to follow this  
Hinckley

Checker: The Forgotten Independent

Recommended Posts

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Edited by my3buicks (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest my3buicks

It sure reeks of Art Deco styling - very nice!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

post-44452-143138395357_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am 65 I was in the army bsic training at fort dix in NJ the cabby would get what seemed like 30 people in one checker cab had the jump seats to take us to wrights town---------25 cents a person------------------BR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Edited by Dave@Moon
confusing typo on "(major and minor)" (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know much about Checkers but at the 2007 Annual Grand National I enjoyed learning a little about them and took a few photos. Here are my photos...

post-47089-143138395711_thumb.jpg

post-47089-143138395723_thumb.jpg

post-47089-143138395732_thumb.jpg

post-47089-143138395743_thumb.jpg

post-47089-143138395753_thumb.jpg

post-47089-143138395762_thumb.jpg

post-47089-143138395771_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 .

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very cool Superba...the Facebook Checker group deserves thanks from all for making this video.

Where was the dealer's showroom with the new model out front?

TG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this