Over last several weeks, ICTA Facebook members were delighted to see two posts from member Kaela Petkovitis.

November 2nd

My father’s old taxi will be on its way from Arizona soon! It definitely needs some love, but happy to get it back into my possession after 6 years! This taxi was in a few films, but don’t recall all of them. It was briefly featured in the Kris Kristofferson film Trouble in Mind.  It also a main vehicle in the Jeff Bridges film American Heart 

Here’s a link to some photos

IMCDb.org: 1981 Checker Taxicab [A11] in “American Heart, 1992”

December 28th

My holiday gift! The last remaining Checker of Richard Petkovits Classic Cab fleet of Seattle, Washington.  Thanks to the late Dan Smith for storing this for me.

The Back Story

For those who are not aware of the full story, six years ago Checker fans were all alarmed by the report on November 11th 2016 that a 67-year-old man died in a single-car crash near Northgate Mall in Seattle.

According to the Seattle Times “The car apparently struck a tree around 9:30 a.m. at Northeast Northgate Way and Third Avenue Northeast, killing the driver.  Police said, the circumstances that led to the crash remain unclear.”

Members of the ICTA heard from the driver’s daughter of Richard Petkovitis the driver who died in the crashed.  About her father Kaela Petkovitis shared:

“My father ran a cab business in Seattle Washington for many years under the names “Classic Cab” and “Queen City Cab”. This was the last remaining Checker from his fleet and he used it as a daily driver for 30 years. I grew up in this car.”

Over the next several months, the club would to get to know Kaela as a kind and generous Checker fan.  Kaela shared her found memories growing up around Checkers.  She shared photographs from her father’s thriving Checker company, back in the 80’s, when many taxicab companies were migrating away from Checker cab fleets, Richard Petkovitis was building his business using brand new Checkers.

In tribute to her father Kaela kindly donated many Checker parts from her father’s inventory to ICTA members.  Parts were given on an as needed basis.  The cost and shipping were free!

2017 Photo from Kimberly Hastings

Soon it would be the ICTA members  turn to give back to Kaela.  On June 5, 2017 ICTA member Kimberly Hastings posted an advertisement for a Checker on the ICTA Facebook page,  the ad read with a picture “Straight as an arrow 82 champion $2000 waiting for the right owner. not to be parted out. all money will go into another restoration. pm me for details”.

That single posted generated a lot of Facebook comments.  One was from Kaela Petkovitis, Kaela posted “Checker #1 of the Queen City cab/classic cab fleet in Seattle, WA. This car was in a movie, I just can’t remember which one”.  Not only was this Checker part of the original Classic Cab fleet, it was actually Checker number 1 pictured in the header of this blog with Richard Petkovitis!

That post not only garnered a lot of additional posts, it generated a lot of ideas.  Seattle ICTA members, checked out that car and felt it was worth saving.  Over a couple of days, members reached out to several Seattle area museums to see if there was any interest in restoring, but no interest was found.

ICTA member Daniel Smith hatched a plan.  The plan, buy the Checker and restore it back to its original Classic Taxi roots.  The plan was greater than merely a restoration, the plan was bigger than that.

Kaela has posted many times about her dream to buy a Checker and restore, that said the challenges of work, children and finances would prove difficult for any family today to achieve such a dream.  Daniel Smith hatched a plan to restore the Classic Checker 1 and gift it to Kaela.  Give back to the giver and save another Checker.  Over several weeks the two gentlemen first phase of the project, they secured the Checker.

Checker Number 1 in December, prior to shipment

The members of the ICTA are a giving group, thirty of our members recently helped restore the website post litigation.  Now many of those same members have contributed to the fund to secure the Checker in Seattle.  Additionally, Dan has been able to work with some corporate sponsors O’Rielly’s Auto Parts and the now defunct Checker Motor Cars in Haverhill, Mass.  Dan secured the car and funds to move the Checker from Seattle to Phoenix.  Now all Dan had to do was to get  and restore the Checker!

In the early stages of the project Dan provided many updates.

Everyone i gotta tell you we are the best checker group ever. In ten days we raised funds to buy and transport a members dad’s old car, so i can go nuts on it and give it back to her. I’m Definitely going to need help with the restoration. Insert plea for help and parts here. The best part is my own parents just found out what I’m up to with everyone’s help and they even want to donate to the cause.

As most people are well aware, sometimes plans don’t go as expected and clearly Dan’s project fell off the rails dues to some unfortunate circumstances.

In October of 2019, Dan former employer and friend Joe Pollard passed away.  This loss was significant to all in the Checker Cab hobby as Joe Pollard was the only remaining supplier of Checker parts still operating on a regular basis as CheckerParts.  Upon Joe’s passing, Dan accepted the role of taking over the entire CheckerParts business over.

On its way to Seattle

For close to two years Dan transferred the inventory of approximately 75 Checker Automobiles and the various parts inventory, stored in twenty plus truck containers.  During this time  progress was made on the Seattle car, despite the herculean effort required to transfer Joe’s Checker business to Dan in Phoenix.

Dan was able to secure virtually all the required parts, thanks in large part to ICTA members.  He also put the Seattle Checker in running condition. Progress was made and coordinated with Kaela to match here schedule and situation.

Well, we were all dealt a one two punch in the gut this past spring with the untimely death of Dan Smith. A big thank you goes out to Dan’s family for coordinating and passing the Checker onto Kaela.  Also a big thank you goes out to the Phoenix area ICTA members who work with Dan’s family and help coordinate with Kaela.

The car is on its way back to Seattle and ICTA members are still offering help and advise to Kaela.  This vehicle means so much to so many Checker fans.  Happy New Year 2023

Header photo courtesy of Kaela Petkovitis