So how did Checker design their cars? Answer, just like other manufacturers, they used mockups or prototypes. In manufacturing and design, a mockup, is a scale or full-size model of a design or device, used for teaching, demonstration, design evaluation, promotion, and other purposes. A mockup is a prototype if it provides at least part of the functionality of a system and enables testing of a design. Mock-ups are used by designers mainly to acquire feedback from users. Mock-ups address the idea captured in a popular engineering one-liner: You can fix it now on the drafting board with an eraser or you can fix it later on the construction site with a sledge hammer.
Mockups are used in the automotive device industry as part of the product development process, where dimensions, overall impression, and shapes are tested in a wind tunnel experiment. They can also be used to test consumer reaction. We present for your enjoyment several photos of Checker mock-up and prototype.
The blog header photo is a very interesting mock up photo. The photo is clearly a front clip of a Checker Model A8, most likely from 1955. It appears that the fender, hood and bumpers are made of fiberglass. That said it appears the the grille and headlight trim are production ready chrome. Additionally the mock-up displays what appears to be a production windshield and wipers. So in essence, the mock-up appears to have been built to test production ready chrome trim.
The next picture is of a Checker Model A. Upon additional review, some oddities can be seen. We have two photos, although the car appears complete, it appears that many of the features are decals. The grille in the photo appears to be black tape. Additionally the chrome headlights and headlight doors appear to be a photographic detail. Note the crease in the center of the headlight.
The side view photo displays incorrect placement of the taxicab top light. The hub caps are generic chome silver baby moons. Also interesting is the side vent on the Model A hood, it too appears to be a decal. Despite wearing a Michigan manufacturing plate, this writer wonders if the car can even run. Perhaps it is just a styling mockup.
The final photo is a photo of the Checker Model D prototype produced in 1946. A high end mockup or mule, this car is a running prototype produced to test real world experiences for both taxicab and passenger car proposals.
In 1946 two Model D prototypes were tested for well over 100,000 miles. The taxicab was tested in real taxi service, accumulating over 35,000 miles in Racine, Wisconsin. The passenger sedan ran in tests totaling over 65,000 miles.
According to Herbert Snow, quoted in Special Interest Auto Magazine in 1973: ‘The passengers commented on the excellent ride qualities and the drivers claimed it was easy to keep on the road, handled well in traffic and on the highway.’ Tested in the early winter”. Snow went on to say ”In heavy blizzards under adverse road conditions, it performed exceptionally well, pulling out from curbs blocked with snow without difficulty.” Although both vehicles tested well, in the end it appeared that the Model D would have a higher cost per unit to produce. Tests also indicated that maintenance cost for the more complex FWD Checker would be higher than Taxi operators would find acceptable. The Model D project was killed in 1946
So weather Checker was testing the fitment of a chrome headlight ring, or an entire line of cars, prototypes and mock-up were used effectively to make the right decision for the company. A lot of thought and effort went into every Checker design, the mock-ups and prototypes were key to the success of Checker.