As we all know, Checkers pretty much are all the same from 1958-1982. The key differences are mainly the stories of the owners. As always, we love to showcase Checker owners. Next up: Canadian Dirk. Here’s Dirk’s story:
My name is Dirk Plante. I am 23 years old and live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I attend the Vancouver Island University and work at a local hotel. The story behind my Checker is a little more advanced than a conventional acquisition.
One of my best friends is Sean Doole. He owns a 1981 Checker Marathon in single-tone blue. I have known Sean for about as long as I have lived in Canada which is around 10 years. (I immigrated from The Netherlands in 2009). I met him through a seller’s advertisement for antique typewriters. As it turned out, Sean and I had a shared passion for most things vintage, and we became very good friends. Whether it was old typewriters, cars, radios, furniture, fashion, stationary, you name it, we love it.
Although the automotive side bypassed me a little bit in life, when I was a young teenager I had the plans to acquire an old 2CV back in Holland. Was it not for the fact that I moved to Canada that would’ve been my first car. So my love for old cars has always been there. I just never did anything with it.
Sean and I were sitting on the couch one Saturday last February, sipping a drink, discussing the downfall of his 1953 Pontiac Pathfinder that he had bought a year before. The floor had fallen out of his project, quite literally. And this was also during the demise of his much loved 1981 Buick Riviera, which perished in an accident. Googling, we came across an article regarding the rise and fall of Checker Taxi dominance in New York. We both agreed that we probably would’ve enjoyed owning an old Checker as our daily driver, mainly for its ruggedness and bulbous appeal. Its pompous design is laughably similar to our own out-of-norm characters. However, we also understood the scarcity in which these cars still exist today, and came to terms with the fact that we’d likely never got to own one.
I guess the old saying, “Ask and thou shall receive” applies here. As karma would have it, only a couple of months later, I came across an advertisement for Sean’s blue ’81, but disregarded it seen as it was out of my price-range. Low and behold, Sean finds the ad AGAIN a month later and goes to inquire. As it turned out, the seller had two Checkers. A running and driving specimen, which became Sean’s daily driver in August, and a yellow cloth-top ’82 that had sat for 5 years with a drive-line and transmission, but no engine. As it turned out, the ’82 had been converted to propane at some point, but the owner before me had the engine taken out, intending to convert it back to gasoline. However, the project never materialized. Sean acquired them as a package deal, and then asked if I’d be interested in the 2nd one.
The plan was for the two of us to put it back on the road. We spend 2.5 months toiling and developing a love-hate relationship with this car. The frame and body-panels turned out to be in remarkably good shape. The doors showed hardly any form of age. The door cards were poorly but the metal was exceptional, as were the fenders and the frame. The roof was rough. Due to the cloth-top, water had accumulated and damaged the D-pillars. That took quite some finessing. There was also some corrosion that went unnoticed that we had to deal with, and which could still see some improvement. My local mechanic turned out to have a Chevy 305 for sale that we decided would be an appropriate mill for my Checker. However, after that was installed and buttoned up, upon initially getting it running right, Sean discovered a crack in the water-jacket, and we had to start from scratch. (Bolts and JB Weld just didn’t felt like it would float the boat.)
So we bought another 305 which turned out to be in better health and which the car currently runs with. It still has its original TH400 and Dana 44. The ignition is HEI.
I can’t even recount how many hours Sean and I spent on this car over fall. Most of the weekends I managed to get to work on the car, we continued on deep into the nights. We were exhausted after most sessions, but it was well worth it. It came with both good and bad times. But which project doesn’t? I’ll fondly remember those rainy nights where we had the Beach boys blaring, joking and cursing as we were up to our armpits in grease and ATF. A splendid adventure fueled by pizza and cheap scotch.
This car is now my daily driver. It won’t be a registered taxi, but we planned to have it look as such. It’s not a special as far as Checkers go. Just an ordinary A12. But it is much loved and seems to be very glad to be put back to work. And as far as we know, my friend Sean and I own the only two Checkers on Vancouver Island. Which is good; because there is only two of our kind on this island as well….I guarantee it. 😉
Oh, by the way. I named it ‘Charlie’! But for now it is running and running good!
We’ll keep you posted as Dirk makes progress.
What a great story. I’d say that Checker is pretty special. Glad you guys saved it.
If you guys could use a 68 Checker with a 307 V-8 it is yours.!! I have a 68 Checker Body that is going on a 77 Checker frame.. I am an hour south of Portland Oregon. I have no place to store any more stuff than I have now. Once I get my FrankenChecker I plan to drive for a short bit and then give up on driving it (age).. Peter 503-931-9303 cell