The 1947-1949 Checker Model A2 is an extremely rare vehicle. Designed for taxicab use, these cars typically were used until the wheels fells off and what was left was recycled by the taxicab operator for the remaining fleet. To give you a sense of how rare these are cars are: although sold and manufactured in the US, there are no known survivor in the US. That’s right not a single survivor has turned up.
Yet, there are survivors, far away in Finland there are a handful of Checker Model A2’s that have survived. A significant number of used Checker A2’s were imported the Chicago Checker Taxi Company a division of Checker Cab Manufacturing to serve visitors at the Olympic games in Helsinki of 1952. Of the approximately 500 cars imported in 1950 about a dozen are sitting in a barn each one in a different state of disrepair.
Prior to the lighting of the torch, Finland had to go through and extensive post war make over in order to be a truly proper Olympic hosting country. The makeover insured the that hosts could provide adequate facilities and logistic for thousands of expected international guests. One key area where Finland needed help, was in the upgrading of the aged prewar taxi fleet still serving Helsinki.
The following has been pulled from the Finland Checker Association:
Lord Mayor of Helsinki, Erik von Frenckel and minister Onni Hiltunen recognized, that after the sufferings of World War II, the taxi car fleet was in a very bad state, and this on the eve of the Olympic Games! Foreign currency being very restricted, they could get only limited funds for buying second hand cars abroad. Autoilijoiden Hankinta Oy, company established by professional drivers, sent a delegation to the USA to Checker Taxi Company’s depot field to choose vehicles for Finland. Checker happily sold used Checker to the association, Checker was able to generated cash for the sale of the used A2’s, under normal conditions Checker would have scrapped the used taxicab!
The Association’s aim was to buy newer A4 models but because of the small currency license it was decided to be satisfied with the older A2 models. Here is an extract from an old memo license from 1950s:
“The managing director of ‘Autoilijoiden Hankinta Oy’, who at same time was the president of AAL (Association of professional car drivers) and his closest co-worker, were authorized to purchase the cars from Checker Taxi Company or from anyone else as they found fit. For some totally inexplicable reason, instead of looking for newer cars of better quality they purchased cars of model 1946-1948 (only two were 1948 models) which were no longer in use. They made agreements to have the cars repaired and shipped to Finland. Having little knowledge of shipping and other commercial matters, they among others, let the cars be loaded and re-loaded two unnecessary times. That caused a large amount of the cars to arrive in a very bad shape, in addition to the damages by the sea. As only a few of the cars that arrived were purchased with money from the taxi drivers, the drivers assembled in Helsinki to discuss how to correct the unhappy deal.”
The bad shape of the cars was a big disappointment for the buyers. The newspapers took it up widely and the matter was discussed even in the parliament. This caused the reputation of the cars to suffer from the start. Actually, the Checkers with their sufficient space and technology, suited Finnish conditions well, but there were difficulties with parts and service – the situation made worse by the authorities, who gave no import licences for the spare parts. The well known Finnish ‘self-made’ car dealer, inventor and aviator SPJ Keinänen did his best to negotiate for the spare parts or even new cars from Checker Taxi Company, but with little result. Innocent of the bad deal he was made guilty of the misfortune. However, after the Olympic games the imported cars were driven to their end as taxis all over Finland and are now a part of automobile history of Finland.
Today there are about a dozen survivors, of those one is actually roadable and is in original condition. Another one is under restoration by the Finland Checker Association.
The Checker Association was founded in Ruotsinpyhtää approx. 45 miles from the Russian border on the 14th of September, 2009 by fourteen Checker enthusiasts. The task of the association is to deal with and preserve Checkers and everything associated with the brand.
The Association has made significant progress on one Checker A2. Currently under restoration, the car is being brought to new condition and will wear its Chicago livery. The current goal is to complete the restoration by May of 2017, then the fun begins. More news to follow.
For more information or to donate to the restoration fund check out this link.