Opening the rear door of a Checker “Superba” and looking across the more than six feet of space between it and the opposite side of the car gives one a strange feeling in this era of the compact car.
Sharing the enthusiasm of George Romney (American Motor’s prexy) for a reduction in “planned obsolescence,” Checker president Morris Markin is building the same car this year that he introduced last year. It’s big, and at the under-$300 advertised price, is entitled to its “low-cost limousine” claim.
Just how this car will fit into the currently market remains to be seen- only an eastern distributor has been announce to date, yet a year has elapsed since the Kalamazoo, Michigan, firm began producing passenger cars in additions to taxis. So far, many orders have been received from fleet owners and operators well acquainted with Checker’s enviable record of reliability in the cab field.
Also, whether or not the car can or will “catch on” as a general consumer market item is difficult to predict. But there’s a lot about it that will intrigue the American car buyer. Those who resist the trend towards compact cars will particularly enthralled by the Checker car’s dimensions.
Just half an inch short of 200 inches in overall length, the Checker modes (there are two: Superba and Marathon) are both shorter than any one of the big three: in fact, they are less than a foot longer than the larger compacts: Yet within this length, and on a 120-inch wheelbase, is one of the most gigantic passenger compartments ever to grace a chassis anywhere. The leg room (back seat to front seat) measurements is over 50 inches: up front, front seat to firewall is a generous 42 inches. Rear floors are humpless: the driveshaft runs between the rails of the conventional frame.
Overall height is just over 5 ft. 2 in., the penalty you have to pay for separate body on frame construction with a flat rear floor these days: but still the Checkers don’t appear excessively top-heavy, du to the width measurement of 6 ft. 3 in. In spite of these dimensions, Brobdingnagian as they may seem, the car has a turning circle of but 37.5 feet, and weighs only 3410 lb. in the sedan version, and 3780 lb. for the station wagon.
And what a “wagon” that is – for those suburbanites whose station wagons could best be called “brat wagons,” the huge cubic content of the Checker Superba would be ideal on those days when it’s their turn to play chauffeur. For the kids of all their friends and neighbors.
There has to be a weak point somewhere along the line in any design, and the Checker cars have theirs. The shortcomings of both Superba and the Marathon are to be found under the heading of performance. The Marathon’s standard equipment is a side-valve six cylinder engine made by Continental, producing 80 horsepower, while the Superba is available is available with this engine or another Continental six having overhead valves and producing 122 bhp. Stick-shift is standard, with automatic transmission optional.
Compared with other cars of the same weigh, most 61 models offer from 50 to 100% more horsepower, so no one is going to win any stop-light drags in a Checker. Bit. If a lot of room in a reasonably-priced package is attractive enough in a reasonably-priced package is attractive enough to make some people willing to forego the lack of horsepower, then perhaps the Checker may yet carve its very own slice out of the new-car market.