Today, it’s probably fair to say that when people think of Checker, the word luxury does not pop into their heads. It’s more than likely the impression or words that pop into most people’s minds are low end concepts like: taxi, cab, jitney or hack. By today’s standard, any auto linked to those words or phrases would most likely be: dirty or crummy excop car, the word luxury would be a faraway thought.
That was not always the case. Back in the 1920’s taxicabs were considered a luxury. The masses rode in trolley, trains and buses. The wealthy rode in chauffer driven Checkers. Uniformed drivers ferried riders in leather lined Checkers. In the late twenties Model K drivers in New York City carried wooden paddles to reshape leather pillows for riders.
Sadly the taxi industry would evolve over the next 50 years into the commodity business it is today. Despite the downward trend, Checker would try to promote Checker offerings as a luxury products, not mere taxis. In the early 1960’s Checker would launch the Town Sedan limo, just one example of luxury.
Checker Motors Corp would continue to promote luxury in brochures and press releases. Many examples of luxury promotion can found like the 1960’s era press release text, the subject at hand was the Aerobus linked to jet-age travel and resorts.
“Checker Aerobus, both the 6 and 8 door models, has been introduced without change from the previous models “Built from the ground up” as a heavy-duty, multi-passenger limousine, the Aerobus, according to the manufacture, has found an increased acceptance among resorts, air lines, hotels, motels, hospitals, business firms and services requiring inter-city and inter-plant transportation. “Whenever there is the need to move 9 to 12 people, complete with baggage, packages, etc., in complete comfort and in limousine style –that’s where the Aerobus serves the public best, “ according to David R. Markin vice president-sales for Checker Motors Corp.”
In the 1964 Checker Aerobus brochures presented happy Checker Aerobus customers, one of those happy customers was the O’Hare Inn in Des Plaines, Illinois. One would typically think of Cadillacs and Lincolns as standard equipment of for any luxury resort, but not at the O’Hare Inn, the star vehicle was the Checker Aerobus. The Checker was used to shuttle people back and forth from the resort to the airport.
Located at the corner of Higgen’s and Manheim, just one short mile from O’Hare the inn was an oasis of luxury. The Inn features included golf, tennis swimming, and a health club. As an added feature, the inn also featured a high-end restaurant, Henrici’s. Various 60’s era promotion material promoted the complex as a “Jet-Age” resort: hip and modern it was clearly the place to be if you were a high flyer in Chicago.
Built in the late 50’s, the inn would expand over time and continue to grow. By the 1970s, the inn became part of the Ramada chain of hotels. A high rise hotel was added increasing room capacity and the overall footprint of the complex increased along the edge of Willow Creek.
Unfortunately, over the course of many years, the entire O’Hare region saw expansion of hotel/motel growth which had a negative impact in the marketplace, saturation in the hospitality industry in at O’Hare. Highway expansion in and out of O’Hare grew too, right in the backyard of the luxury resort, the din of diesels trucks on the interstate clearly was not good for O’Hare Inn business. No longer a luxury destination, the inn would close and be torn down. The inn is all but a memory now.
Remarkably one piece of the luxury resort has survived, the Checker Aerobus! Purchase by ITCA member AJ Voiles of Belvidere, IL., the Checker Aerobus is undergoing a complete restoration with the intent of bringing it back to its O’Hare Inn livery glory.
After service at the O’Hare Inn, the Checker did continue to shuttle people. According to Voiles, “after O‘Hare inn service, it was sold to guy in Wisconsin was used at a bar for sporting events and occasional taking a drunk patron home. In time when he was done it with it. He drove it to the junkyard and thats where it sat for 20 plus years”.
20 years at Jack’s Auto Ranch, the Aerobus, sat prominently out front of the yard, used as sort of a promotional item for the yard (see header picture on top of blog). Located in Watertown, Wisconsin the Aerobus sat until a new owner was found. Thankfully Jack did not crush the Aerobus, several years ago when metal prices were high, the O’Hare Inn Aerobus would have been worth over $1000.00 just for scrap value alone. For more info on Jack’s Auto Ranch, click on the link below
AJ has made great progress on the Aerobus in the short time that he has owned the vehicle. Keep in mind, with eight doors and eight seats, restoring one Aerobus, is like restoring two cars!
To date AJ has received a significant amount of support from ICTA members, we’re here to help. The O’Hare Inn may be a memory, but Checker’s brush with luxury will survive with AJ’s restoration. To follow the progress of the O’Hare Inn Aerobus, join the ICTA via Facebook, free for all we charge no dues, we just want to have Checker fun.
First one I remember seeing was blue, full of nuns in their wimples flying down the unpaved Kendale Road near the Sisters of Mercy in Potomac, Md. All that I ever saw were wearing heavy duty vinyl ‘taxicab’ style interiors.
Greate car! Conglatulations for the iniciative to restore that!