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.
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*photos courtesy of Jerry Campbell