My Checker A8 was purchased from Checker Collector Ben Merkel back in 1999. When I picked up the car, most of it was in boxes. While I appreciate the car already being disassembled, it made the task of building the car a little more challenging since I didn’t know where half the parts belonged. Ben acquired the car in the early 80s after sending out notice to the cab companies that there was a finder’s fee to anyone who knew the whereabouts of an A8. One was located in Nebraska with 786,000 hard miles on it. A frame off restoration was started in 1983. Fast forward to 2010, I completed the restoration. Car has been restored to New York City colors, complete with original NYC rate decals, provided by Chris Monier in France. Without the invention of the internet, I don’t think I ever could have restored this car (thanks Al Gore). It took a lot of web searching to find what was the correct, or equivalent, parts for the A8. Ebay was a daily hunt. I took a trip out to Joe Pollard’s place in California to scrounge up parts and then to Chicago for Continental Engine parts. I visited Bruce Uhrich in Philadelphia and Joe Fay in Illinois to photograph their A8s.
Joe Fay fabricated, by hand, the interior Checker script plates for me. That was not something I was going to simply purchase off ebay. Back in 2005 Bruce completed his A8 Standard restoration so there was a lot to gain from his experience, not to mention he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Checker. Bruce also provided me with the Checker Standard door decals. CCCoA founder Don McHenry provided me with a few critical missing parts. The parts I could not find, I had to make.
I decided to debut the A8 at the 2010 National Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) show in Hershey Pa. I don’t mean to mention another club in the Checkerboard News but the AACA is more of a preservation society. The restored Checker Bus from noted Checker collector and friend Bob Welch is at the AACA Museum in Hershey.
Some consider Hershey the show of shows. Well over 1000 cars. Many of these cars are top dollar, and professionally restored. To think my garage built Checker could ever place there was a dream. Plenty of owners have come home with their tail between their legs, or worse, ticked off at the purist aristocrats and their unreachable expectations. I was thrilled when I took home a National First Place. Minimum of 365 points out of 400 is required to achieve that. Now with the beautiful trophy in possession, I dreamed larger and trailered my A8 to the AACA show in Bristol TN in June 2011, taking home a Senior First. The best thing to come out of the Bristol show was the A8 was nominated for a special national award. The AACA notifies the candidates in the mail in October with a letter. Photos and facts had to be submitted by November. Winners were announced the first week of December. My Christmas present came early. The Checker won the nomination. At this time I actually don’t know which national award the A8 has won. It’s either for an outstanding restoration of a rare and unusual automobile entered in a National Meet or outstanding automobile whose manufacture ceased, entered in a National Meet. I will find out when I receive the award at a black tie event in February in Philadelphia. Over 10,000 classic cars are shown at National AACA events each year. I’m honored that Checker was recognized by the national judges as such a distinguished restored antique vehicle. The highest honor the cab can ever receive so everything from now on is icing on the cake. June 14 and 15th I will take the Checker to the Grand Nationals in Shelbyville TN so if that’s close to any of you drop by.
Update on the A8 car since 2010 when article was written:
The national award I won in 2011 was the best Discontinued Automobile Award. Each year one car receives this award. Other cars throughout the years include Essex, Bantam, Marmon, Willys, Studebaker, and Terraplane. The actual trophy is located in Hershey. To celebrate we had a label made for some wine from out favorite vineyard in PA.
In Tennessee the A8 did receive its Grand National Award.
Although the restoration was completed in 2010, there were still some outstanding issues that I’ve since resolved such as all gauges now work and are accurate, and the dashboard now sports the defroster deflector, which was fabricated from a broken strip Bruce loaned me.
For more Checker fun, check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145497838799022/ or our website: http://www.checkercabclub.org/