This is the oldest existent Checker dating to 1922. This is the taxi that launched an empire and was the cornerstone for the building of an icon.
The Model M was truly a stylish automobile. The connection with E.L. Cord and Auburn were established at this time. These would lead to Cord assuming a leading role in the companies direction, Checker building the Auburn Saf-T-Cab, and Checker utilizing Lycoming engines.
This strange vehicle is the limousine version of the 1940 Model A Checker. It is the only existent model of this series. Many features on this vehicle were patented including the retractable rear roof quarter.
This is the unique “Jeep” prototype built by Checker. Perhaps the most intriguing feature on this model is the four wheel steering.
There is a Cord connection here as well. Herb Snow, an engineer with the original Cord project, was working for Checker during this period.
With little fanfare or notice legendary automobile manufacturer, Checker has become another casualty of the Great Depression Part II and added its name to the long ledger of deceased American automobile manufacturers. Actual production of the Checker cab drew to a close in 1982, after an eighty year production run, but the manufacture of sub assemblies under contract to General Motors continued until July 2, 2009.
The Checker story is one of the most fascinating and most enigmatic in the colorful history of the American automobile industry. The companies founder, Morris Markin, epitomizes the legend of the American rags to riches story. The automobiles, and trucks, produced by the company transcended mere transportation to become an American icon.
Markin arrived in the United States from Russia destitute. Within twenty years he was the owner of an automobile manufacturing company and was quickly laying the foundation for a vast and lucrative taxi empire.
The company is best known for its taxis but over the years the company also produced a wide array of niche market vehicles and delved deeply into technological innovation. Among the later were experimental front wheel drive cabs in 1946, a four wheel drive and four wheel steering Jeep in 1940, diesel engine experimentation in the 1950s, and production of the first diesel powered cabs in America during the 1960s.
Unique and specialty vehicles such as the six or eight door Aerobus were an important part of the companies manufacturing base. Others included the Medicab designed with extra wide rear doors, a ramp that slid out from the rocker panel, a raised roof, and locks in the rear floor for wheel chairs.
My favorite is the 1931 MU6 Suburban Utility, a vehicle promoted as a one ton, nine passenger station wagon that could also serve as a hearse or panel truck with the removal of the seats. As much I would love to own one there are no known existent models.
The Gilmore Museum, and long time employee Jim Garrison, are diligently engaged in working to preserve this unique chapter in our automotive history. As I have update they will be posted.
Its convertible season, that delightful time of year where the evening temperatures inspire a restlessness that leads to cruising with the top down. Here in Kingman, Arizona, that means taking to Route 66, mingling with the tourists in rental cars, the locals with their custom and classic cars, and, of course, herds of Harley Davidson’s.
My wife and I prefer the quieter side of life. So, we usually savor the sunsets from the hills above Fort Beale, in the Hulapai Mountains, or from somewhere along Route 66. It is on the way home, often along Route 66, that we get caught up in the excitement, the quickened tempo of the summer night. Sometimes its just to catch a shot of neon or a cold treat at Sonic or Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner but to cruise Route 66, to stop at the local drive in is to experience the romanticized dream that fuels the fascination with the double six and the passion for the ’57 Chevy.
For years Kingman chose to turn its back on its historic and colorful past but tourists and new residents saw something wonderful in the dusty old buildings, the darkened neon and the stunning sunsets over skylines accentuated by colorful buttes and mesas. Slowly Kingman began to awaken from its long slumber.
The Brunswick Hotel again offers fine dining as well as time capsule lodging. Lights from the historic Central Commercial Building again light the desert nights. Events like Chillin’ on Beale Street (scheduled for July 18) fill the streets in the historic district with music, vintage cars, and laughter. The future looks even brighter. The owners of the historic Old Trails Garage, with support from the Route 66 Association of Kingman, have obtained a matching funds grant to transform the garage into the cornerstone for revitalization of the historic district.
This will begin with the restoration of a rare vintage Packard sales and service neon sign. This will be hung at its original location over the front door to cast its neon glow over Route 66.
Next will be a mural on the west wall. The initial plan is for three dimensional mural that presents the illusion this is an active Packard service center circa 1940.
On the home front there is a growing frustration and escalating sense of anticipation. I now have the tools and materials to transform my childhood dream of being a writer into a reality but am not sure how to proceed.
I took this as a vacation week, a sort of bus mans holiday as it is a working vacation. First, I took a couple of days to spend with my father who was visiting from Michigan. Then I finalized the photos submission request for the Vestar site.
Then I completed an outline, summary, and sample chapter for an agent in New York. This book, Ghosts of the Sauk Trail, is something I have wanted to write for some time.
Next, I worked my way through the final edit for Ghost Towns of the Southwest. I hope to finish this today and then start on the captions.
Listed among the “still to do” projects is finalizing the framework for Ghost Towns of Route 66, photos of Oatman for a website, more text for the Route 66 Association of Kingman website, my monthly Independent Thinker column for Cars & Parts magazine, and, now, outlines for three more projects.
These are a real estate promotional venture that has requested photos to be utilized as post cards, development of a monthly column for the online edition of the Kingman Daily Miner, and the framework for a stock photo website.
All of this is quite exciting. All of these things indicate we are drawing closer to making the dream come true. All of these things are important to promote my books, our photos, and our limited edition print series. All of these things are very time consuming. Few of these pay and those that do, don’t pay well enough to make it my primary source of income. So, next week its back to Penske. I am extremely grateful for the job, especially in light of the current economic conditions. I am also grateful for the owners of the company, Martin and Cody Swanty.
Then there is ministry, something I have neglected a bit as of late. You might say my priorities have been reversed in recent weeks.
That takes us to this Sunday. This will be the day I put things back into a proper order, a thought that reminds me tomorrow is Independence Day.
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask that you take a moment from your celebrations to reflect on just what an amazing nation this is and how blessed we are to live her.