The Three-box design is a broad automotive styling term describing the three sections of cars when viewed in profile. The concept of the three boxes relates to the sectioning of the automobile into three separate compartments or boxes: engine bay, passenger seating and cargo area.

Checker’s Two Box Design

We have covered the history of automotive design in several blogs, most recently we covered the concept of the cabriolet.  The term cabriolet is defined as a light 2-wheeled one-horse carriage with a folding leather hood, a large rigid shield in front of the seat and upward-curving shafts,  essentially a horse drawn cart.  As the early automobiles of the turn of the century evolved from the horse drawn carts, they ultimately displayed a two box design.  Essentially the two box design represents 1. The engine compartment and 2. The passenger compartment.

The first Checkers were developed as two box designs.  Checker would attach a rack over the rear bumpers to allow for carrying of luggage.  Attached to the body, the rack was not integrated into the body.  Many luxury cars may have sported an attached leather lined trunk, again not integrated into the body, bolted onto the car, these luxury cars still offered a two box design.

By the 1930’s US automobiles would offer integrated trunks, but they typically did not reflect the addition of another box.  These integrated trunks were more hump like and from a side view profile,  still displaying a two box design.

If one looks at the profile of the Checker Model A, it’s clearly a two box design. The 1940 Model A did not even have a trunk.  the Checker still relied on a luggage rack bolted to the body.

Two Box 1940 Checker

The modern three box design is a product of the US post war era, perhaps two automobiles are recognized most as being the automobiles that institutionalize the 3 box design in the US, the 1947 Studebaker and the 1949 Ford.

The 1947 Studebaker was designed by Virgil Exner. Exner truly blew apart the two box design found on virtually all prewar automobiles.   The most striking feature was the extremely long hood-like cover over the luggage compartment. Critics of the radically styled models commented by asking the rhetorical question, “was it coming or going?

Three Box 1947 Studebaker

Like the Studebaker, Ford would introduce a similar three box design in 1949.  According to Tim Howley’s 2005 article in Hemmings Motor News “The legend is that the ’49 Ford was designed on the kitchen table of a former Studebaker designer, with the help of his Studebaker design buddies. Ford’s top management was so overwhelmed that they bought the design over their own in-house effort, and the rest is history.”

1949 Ford Three Box

Former Studebaker designer Richard Caleal, along with moonlighting Studebaker designer Holden Koto and Bob Bourke designed that Ford for the Walker Industrial Design Company. The design further refined the three box design by creating a profile that aligned both box 1 and box 3 at the same height where the boxes meet box 2,  the passenger compartment.

When Checker introduced the Checker Model A8 six years later it too would utilize a three box design.  That said, it was not the first time Checker used a three box design!

We now have photographic evidence of a Checker Model Y produced with a full three box design, potentially ten years before Studebaker and Ford.

Checker Model A8 Three Box

The photo provided to the ICTA by David and Connie Powers comes from the files of former CMC Board Member Steve Wilson.  The photos depicts a three quarter view of a Model Y.  Not a mere bustle back, the Model Y clearly displays a substantial trunk integrated into the body of the entire car.

This writer has never seen a CCM Model Y brochure, little is known about the Model Y equipped with full trunks.  If anybody can share more information regarding these unique Checker please contact the ICTA at the email at the top to the right of the website.



Another trunk equipped Parmalee taxicab