In the November 21, 1921 Automotive Industries magazine the following item appeared: “Leyland F Goodspeed for the past five years or more Chief of Engineering staff of the Roamer has resigned from at Barley Motor Car Company Co to join forces with Commonwealth Motors of Chicago and Joilet, Illinois.  Has been elected vice president in charge of engineering of Commonwealth Motors which at the present time in working on a new passenger car.”

In Spring of 1922 the Goodspeed car produced by Commonwealth debuted to the public.  The Goodspeed was a truly modern and exciting car for 1922.  In May of 1922 Markin had forced a reorganization of Commonwealth and created Checker Cab Manufacturing.  The Commonwealth passenger cars were discontinued and only Mogul Checker taxicab production continued ultimately transforming into the Checker Model H in 1923.

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Three Goodspeed’s were produced for pubic display in the Spring of 1922

Markin’s original timeline to introduce the Goodspeed indicated that it would take several years to launch: it no longer made sense to introduced and manufacture. The creation of the Goodspeed would have required significant investments in aluminum body fabrication and engine production for an unproven concept. Markin reorganized and clearly understood that his Taxicab was a cash cow to be exploited, by 1923 Checker was in the black and running the plant 7 days a week, producing 112 cars a day

Checker Model H promo

Stout was instrumental in ramping up production of the Checker Model H

After  Goodspeed joined Commonwealth he would later bring his colleague from Barley  a 20 year old Jim Stout onboard. Other than Morris Markin, Jim Stout would be perhaps one of the most important figures at Checker over the period between 1923 and 1965.  He effectively had a hand in every Checker produced, from the early days after the move from Joliet to Kalamazoo to the mid 1960’s when Checker was expanding into the consumer retail market.

In July of 1983 CMC published an article about Jim Stout in the Checker Headlight Newsletter. A short article, it’s packed with great information on a man who had major impact at Checker. The article reports that Jim Stout started at Checker on August 13, 1923 about a year and a half after the Goodspeed was introduced.

Jim Stout’s first active role at Checker was to migrate from Jolliet to Kalamazoo

One of Stouts first responsibilities was assisting Goodspeed in the turn around of production,  moving production from Chicago to Kalamazoo. The effort required the take over of the Knight-Handley and Dort manufacturing facilities. Additionally Stout would assist Goodspeed in the development of re-engineered Model H and launched the Model H-2. The primary difference was the switch from the Herschell-Spellman engines to Buda.

In a the Headlight article, Stout recounted that in the early days of manufacturing “it took 20 days to get a car through the paint shop and we only had one drill press which people waited in line to use!!!.”

Prior to World War II Stout held many positions at Checker Cab Manufacturing.  He was the Chief Inspector and Quality Control Head.  Jim Stout held roles in the procurement department, sales and engineering.  At one time Stout was in charge of Taxicab production.  Mr. Stout also served in field activities, which included service representation in New York. Ultimately Stout would assume the responsibility of Head of Experimental Engineering and report directly to Head of Engineering Herb Snow.

36 Model Y

Stout believed the Lycoming engine used until 1939 in the Model Y was best engine ever put in a Checker


During the WWII years, Stout would perform much of the engineering work to support the war effort. As a leader in engineering, Stout would oversee the production of a variety of WWII military trailers:  The T1 Jeep Trailer, CC-1 Water Buffalo Trailer and the M9 Tank Trailer.   Stout would also be involved in test production of the Bantam Jeep, ultimately taking personal possession of one of resulting Jeeps, Jim would keep that Jeep for over 50 years and would eventually sell that Jeep to a well known Jeep collector.

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Stout was lead project engineer on the Water Buffalo trailers made for World War II


In the post war years Stout would retain his leadership position at Checker.  Stout was lead project engineer for the outsource production of the Sear Roebuck consumer market trailers, an important project as this effectively kept cash flowing into Checker while the company did not have a car to produce . Additionally the Sears project established Checker as a known third party vehicle manufacturer.

Stout also worked with Herb Snow and Raymond Dietrich on the design and engineering of the Model D Checker prototype.  A ground breaking design, had it been made, the Model D would have used advanced technique of incorporating both front wheel drive and the use of a transverse engine for the first time in automotive production.  Snow had pioneered the development of front wheel drive at Cord several years earlier, the introduction  of a transverse engine/front wheel drive combination was unique and predated the 1959 Morris Minor use of the configuration by some twelve years.

Model D

Partnered with Herb Snow and Raymond Dietrich, Jim Stout was on the cusp of introducing what could have been one of the most innovative autos in history

Snow and Stout would develop an engineering test mule based on a 1946 Packard. Original plans called for a four cylinder engine, but the team was able to utilize a Continental six. The design also was ground breaking in it’s the extensive use of aluminum.

The exterior design work for the Model D was performed by noted stylist Raymond Dietrich.  Jim Stout was highly critical of Dietrich’s work.  In an interview with retired Oklahoma University professor and noted Checker collector G. Richard Thomas, Stout recounted “he would draw little bitty people so his low roof lines would clear their heads”. According to Stout “passenger ergonomics were important to Checker”.  This author can attest to the head room challenges of the Dietrich designed 1948 Checker Model A2.

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Dietrich rendering of the proposed Model D, not little bitty head

In the early 1950’s Stout was actively involved in the maintenance and engineering of the big transit buses manufactured by Checker. Checker produced buses for about four years.


Checker Transit bus serving the city of Detroit


As his career wound down at Checker Stout would get involved in various special projects. In early 1960’s Stout would be in charge of the restoration of the 1922 Checker Model H now housed at The Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan.  The Model H would serve as a showcase for Checker at auto shows across the country. What better guy to restore the Model H, but the guy who built them in the twenties!

Model H

Jim Stout was the project leader for the CMC corporate restoration of the Model H used at new car auto shows across the country

According to the Thomas interview.  Morris Markin would use Stout to assess investment opportunities.  Stout assessed the possibility of Checker acquiring Tucker back in 1947. Stout was also dispatched in 1964 to determine if Checker should acquire Studebaker.  Checker would eventually purchase a significant portion of the Studebaker truck factory parts inventory, Checker at the time used many OEM parts from the Studebaker,  brakes, wheels, steering etc.


Last Engineering Memo distributed to Jim Stout


park setting

Jim Stout’s span of service to Checker started with conversion of the Model H2 all the way to the 1965 Checker Marathon

When Jim Stout left Checker is not quite clear.  The last documented evidence of engineering work dates back to January 23, 1965.  The first addressee on an Engineering Change Memo for changes to arm rests, it appears that Stout was still employed by Checker.   Engineering Memo’s distribution lists changed in January 1965, the new format utilized a general distribution reference, so just because Stout name disappears on the memos after January 1965, does not indicate that Stout left CMC.

It’s also highly likely that Stout served Checker as a consultant or advisor  well into the 1980’s.  In the early 90’s Checker leader Steve Wilson was involved with the CMC procurement of a 1935 Checker Model Y and its restoration, its highly likely Mr. Stout helped his friend Wilson out, Jim had firsthand knowledge of the Model Y.  Stout held the Model Y in high regarding maintaining that it had the best engine ever put in a Checker.

Checker Model Y Gilmore

The CMC restored Model Y, an active auto restorer well into his nineties Stout most likely helped his friend Steve Wilson in its restoration

Jim Stout was a close friend with Morris Markin.  In later years, Stout would tell the story how Markin told him “ He (Markin) was going to make me a rich man”.  Jim Stout passed away in 1996, In the long run Stout may not have made millions of dollars, but he indeed lived a rich life.  Stout was happily married for 68 years.  Raised three children and had over 9 grandchildren.  He lived in rural Michigan and participated in the Checker hobby right up to his death in 1996.

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