The ICTA published a blog prior to Christmas providing links to the myriads of Checker Marathon and Taxicab models available on the market today. If you read it, you’d discover that today there are literally hundreds of models available to the Checker collector, but that was not always the case. About thirty years ago the only way to display a Checker mode, l was to develop one on your own. One man and a big Checker took on the challenge, that man was Dick Thomas.
Dick Thomas was quite a character. You will not find too many guys like Dick, a devout car guy and Checker fan, he applied a strong educational background to his hobby, both in design and modeling.
Dick received a degree in Architecture from the University of Oklahoma and worked for various architecture and design firms before establishing Thomas Design and his prototype shop. Encouraged by colleagues to share his knowledge and experiences in a university setting, Dick taught product design and illustration courses in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University from 1976 until he retired in 1992.
Back in the 80’s Dick developed a series of scaled Checker models and as a small cottage industry manufacturer, sold his Checker models all over the world. You could always count on Dick to present a large inventory on display at the various Checker shows he attended. Today these same models are highly sought after by Checker fans.
Dick developed a series of masters in 1/25 scale. He most likely developed his masters in clay. Once the clay model was complete, he created a latex model. Once the master and mold was completed Dan was able to make a resin casting to further refine and create a second hollow master casting. Once the hollow cast master was finish Dick again made latex models for the final models. These molds were now more complex two piece molds. In addition to the Checker body, Dick developed masters for wheels and a X brace chassis master castings.
Dick typically advertised in various club newsletters. In the late 1980’s Dick was able to get a small write up in Collectable Automobile magazine, this gave Dick international attention. Dick used another means of selling his product, off the back of his Aerobus tailgate! At various Checker club Dick would take orders for models. Each model was hand crafted by Dick. Once he had an order, the models were made to the customers requirements. Checker owners around the country had Dick build ready to order version of their Checkers in 1/25 scale. ICTA member Bruce Uhrich recounts.
“I met Dick at Kalamazoo and again at Macungie in 1998 and asked him to make a model of my 1967 Marathon.” Bruce purchased a Checker A12 Marathon, painted in white just like his 1/1 show car. Dick ultimately was able to produced virtually every Checker made from the Model A to the Model A12.
Given that the models were made for Checker owners, one could assume that the limited models were cherished by their Checker owning fans and are rarely traded at show or on Ebay. This writer has been looking for an example for over twenty years.
Last week, a listing appeared on Ebay for a Checker Model “UNKNOWN MAKER-DIECAST CHECKERED CAB-CHICAGO NEW YORK? HANDMADE? FOLK ART!”. I was able to win the auction for the significant total of $3.50! Bruce Uhrich has confirmed based on the chassis casting that this is indeed a Checker model produced by Dick Thomas.
The model is crude compared to the models produced today, by the likes of Sunstar and the Franklin Mint, but they’re neat none the less. The exterior is finished to a shine, painted in a gloss yellow and green. The windows are painted in a dark metallic gray to create a tinted window effect. Dick went the extra mile by using bare metal foil on top of the fenders to create a chrome metal finish. once the model was painted and foil was applied, the model was painted in a one coat of clear gloss paint.
Dick passed away several years ago, a true Checker friend, I’ll always take pride in my recent acquisition. If you would like to listen to Dick discuss his models, check out this video on the Checker Taxi Stand Youtube channel. Dick and Terry Vaught can be found at 3.33.
Cover photo and white Marathon photo courtesy of Bruce Uhrich