Here at the ICTA we like to promote the accurate history of Checker Cab Manufacturing. This article is an example of promotional history published by Checker circa 1965. That said, please keep in mind that its promotional material and not necessarily an accurate portrayal of true history. Key information is not included in this story, namely Commonwealth Motors or the linkage to E. L. Cord. That said, it’s still and interest topic and largly accurate related to automotive models and perspectives.
The history of Checker Motors Corporation is closely associated with that of it’s President, Morris Markin. Morris came to the United States in 1913 and by 1918 he and his brother were operating a successful trouser factory in Chicago.
In 1918, Morris Markin had had little experiences with the taxicab industry. However, a friend that manufactured taxicab bodies needed a $15,000 loan, which Markin furnished. By 1921 Morris Markin had to take over the business to protect his investments.
About a year later, Morris Markin moved the newly acquired business to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kalamazoo, a small town about 150 miles west of Detroit, was selected because of its centralized location between Detroit, Chicago and Toledo.
In 1922 the first Checker Taxicab rolled out of the factory, a 1922 Model “C”. The Model “C” was a high, roomy and designed for taxicab service. The passengers sat in glassed enclosed comfort, while the driver sat in the open air driving his fares around town.
The nation’s economy at this time was literally beginning to boom,. All of the industries were selling more, people were buying more and many persons discovered that they were becoming wealthy.
The taxicab industry, as a service industry, was also beginning to feel the new and forceful surge of America’s rapidly expanding economy. Because te taxicab industry was relatively new, it enabled many persons to either begin their own taxicab service, or buy into existing taxicab companies. During this time, Morris Markin became a key figure in Checker Taxi of Chicago.
Later, Yellow Cab of Chicago was merged with Checker Taxi which resulted in the Parmalee Transportation Company with Morris Markin as its President. Parmalee gave Checker Cab Manufacturing a ready market for the sale of its taxicabs. Checker Cab Manufacturing had two factories in Kalamazoo. The plant which manufactured Checker bodies was the Low Carriage Plant (which at one time manufactured the Dort Body). The Chassis was built, and final assembly was made at the Hanly-Knight factory. This factory is Checker’s present Plant # 1, in which the Checker 6 and 8 door Aerobus is now manufactured.
In 1928, Checker Cab’s businesses had progressed to the point that it was able to build a new body factory adjacent to the Hanly-Knight factory. Business continued to prosper for Checker Cab until the Depression.
Checker Cab, as all other businesses, was definitely affected for the great demands placed on the Nation’s economy. Bought on by the Depression. However, the doors were never closed and Checker struggled through the Depression and into the war years which followed.
With the outbreak of World War II, Checker retooled for the great demands placed on this Nation’s economy and peoples. Checker manufactured a large number of war products. These products included: radar shack, semi-trailer, track retrievers, 500 pound bomb fin assemblies and many others.
After World War II. Checker began experimenting with two different types of taxicabs. The Model D, which was a front wheel drive, and the Model B, which was a rear engine drive. Checker continued to experiment with these vehicles until 1947.
In September of 1947, the first production vehicle to be made since the 1940’s rolled of the assembly line, the Model 2-A. This model was a conventional type vehicle with roomy and spacious interiors. By this time the Checker had earned the rotation of being rugged, well build and long lasting in the Taxicab industry.
Many cab drivers described the Checker as the “Brute” or the “Iron Bastard.” The Checker had become a part of America’s heritage. Nearly every man, woman and child in large metropolitan areas knew and respected the Checker Cab.
In 1950 Checker began to expand a diversification of its lines. It added two high capacity buses to its line – the 28 and 32 passenger Transit buses. Checker continued to manufacture the Transit Bus until 1954.
Many persons began to request purchasing Checker taxis for retail use. However, because Checker was organized to distribute Commercial vehicles only, they did not sell any vehicles to these persons.
In 1957, as the demands for the retail passenger car increased Checker sold a limited number to the American public. In 1958, Checker decided to begin organizing a national network of retail dealerships. By 1960, enough dealers had been recruited to begin a limited distribution of the Checker Taxi modified for retail use, the Checker Superba, and Marathon.
The Checker Superba incorporated two models, the 4-door Sedan and a 4-door Station Wagon. The Checker Marathon was also available in two models. Marathon series differed from the Superba in the trims and the exterior moldings.
In 1963, the Superba was discontinued, and Checker begain concentrating its entire promotionon the Marathon series. Also in 1963, Checker began to manufacturing a Checker Custom Limousine. The Custom Limousine is a prestige automobile designed for chauffeured service, or personal use.
Also in 1960, Checker began manufacturing two multi-passenger vehicles, the nine and twelve passenger Checker Aerobus. The Aerobus is a specialized decendant of the Transit Buses made in the early fifties. The Aerobus is designed primarily for Airport limousine or shuttle service. However it is adaptable for retail use.
The Checker Aerobus is a widely accepted and popular vehicle. Its sale have been increase tremendously in the past few years and Checker anticipates offering it for many years to come.
The Checker has played a dominant role in the taxicab industry, and publically transportation The Checker Taxicab has maintained a reputation for 43 years for being rugged, roomy and long lasting. It’s a vehicle which meets the needs it is designed to serve.
Now the Checker is ready to begin its new role as a passenger car, police car. Shuttle bus and taxicab. Checker Motors Corporation will continue to build the cars that are designed to do the job.
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