in the June 25, 1955, edition of the Ottawa Citizen, there was a brief news item entitled Auto Plant Driveaway. It explained that Chrysler Corporation of Canada had opened a new retail customers’ driveaway at the Windsor, Ontario, plant.
The article stated, “The driveaway is described as the most modern and best equipped of its kind in the auto industry. J Harold Alldritt, director of distribution, said more than 10,000 customers have picked up their new cars directly at the factory during the last eight years, and the company expects to increase this type of delivery to as many as 50 cars per day.”
So the big question is, did Checker have a Driveaway program? The answer is clearly, yes.
Prior to the creation of a full dealer network, most deliveries were performed at regional cab service centers in New York, Chicago or Brookline or the factory and the customers were typically taxicab operators. The header photo shows a full blown driveaway being performed by Minneapolis Yellow Cab in the mid 1920s.
A rare and unique photo, note the billboards on the side of the bus indicates “Minneapolis Yellow Cab Drivers in Kazoo to Driveaway Checker Cabs” A great photo, it’s important for two reason, first it demonstrated a driveway program at Checker in the very early days. More interesting is that fact that Yellow Cab was buying Checkers as early as in the mid 1920s just after the start of Checker production!
Yellow Cab was operated by John Hertz, Morris Markin’s biggest rival. The taxi wars between Yellow and Checker in Chicago were famous. Taxi drivers were literally being killed in the raging battle on the streets of Chicago. Morris Markin would be charged with witness bribery, in one of those deaths. He was later found innocent.
The Mayor of Chicago William Dever threw down the gauntlet, declaring: “We will see whether the taximen control and own the streets or the people.” Yet in the picture above Yellow buying Checkers looks like a celebration. This writer would assume that the Yellow operations in Minneapolis was a franchise operation of the Hertz company. Several years later, Morris Markin would buy the company and add it to his national Taxicab syndicate. Perhaps the Minneapolis crew was less hot and bothered by Checker Cab.
Checker would advertise over the years that Checker prices was X dollars plus FOB, Kalamazoo. The acronym FOB stands for “Free On Board” or “Freight On Board,” its a shipping term used in retail to indicate who is responsible for paying transportation charges.
In the case of Checker ownership of the merchandise transfers from seller to buyer for Minneapolis Yellow Cab, it appears to be Kalamazoo. In the case of Minneapolis Yellow Cab it was clearly cheaper for 25 cab drivers take a train to Kalamazoo and drive the taxicabs some 600 miles back home, rather than to pay the freight charges for rail or trucking the Checkers home.
Checker would continue with driveaway programs right to the end of production in 1982. Checker owner and author of the book Checker Madness, Byran Babbish demonstrates this on the cover of his book. Byran was one of the last Checker buyers to take delivery of his Checker in 1982. ICTA member Ben Merkel would also take deliver of his new Checker in 1982 at the plant.
So based on the early photos as well as the Babbish photo, it’s clear the Checker indeed have a driveaway program through out the entire span of Checker early production through end of production.