We have discussed the Bishop Sheen custom Checker in past blogs, we now have an update. We recently found in the Classic Car Club of America Archive files a memo written by automotive designer Raymond Dietrich, the memo documents the modifications for the Limo Sheen purchased in the early 1960’s.
Based on letters and other memos, it’s believed that this may have been Sheen’s third purchase. Additionally, we have recently found photographs taken by Central Photo Service company. These photos appear to be of the car that was replaced by the car described in the 1963 Memo. The photographed car was also a Dietrich design. The photos are dated for April 1959.
The photographed car is a 1959 Checker as noted by the grille parking light starburst design and the non-center dip front and rear bumpers. Upon review of the pictures, this photographed Checker is based based on the Checker A9. It sits on a shorter wheelbase than the post 1962 limo documented in the memorandum. The door panels appear to be A9 panels wrapped in leather. The upper door edges display Checker A9 sheet metal finishing. This car would be replaced by Sheen in 1963.
The following is a memo from Raymond Dietrich to Checker CEO Morris Markin.
To: Morris Markin
From: Ray Dietrich
Dates: November 30, 1963
Subject: Special Partitions Limousine for Bishop Futlon J. Sheen (Refer to memo dated April 24, 1963 to you from R. S, Bonner
- The mechanical features required will no doubt be built into the Chassis.
- The front and rear radios will have separate controls, the rear radio will have rear dual antennas, and a separate antenna for the front controlled radio.
- Front and rear air conditioning units each with a separate control.
- Remote control outside mirror. Installation will present no difficulties.
- The memo call for a complete broadcloth interior—front and rear. This presents no problems
- Partitions—the lowering of the driver’s seat an allowing 3” more distance for the chauffeur would only mean moving the partition back 3” into the rear compartment. This offers no difficulty
- Auxiliary rear seats—with the partition moved 3” into the rear compartment, it would be impossible to use our standard facing-forward seats. I would suggest that there be on side facing seat on the left hand side, which when not in use would fold against the partition. This would mean that only 4 passengers could ride in the rear compartment and have necessary room.
- Rear sea higher pillow back to rest head presents no difficulty in effecting
- Reading lamp with extension cord on right hand side, out for tape recorder presents no difficulty.
- The memo calls for a leather roof covering from the rear quarter window back. We would have considerable difficulty waterproofing any type of covering that not extend the full length of the roof.
- Design calls for a small oval rear window. This would necessitate a wood frame structure which would present no difficulty
- I have prepared a scale drawing illustrating the type of roof line with is best suited for a leather top covering.
In the same drawing I have shown the type of auxiliary seat I wish to recommend, and a suggest design for the oval rear window.
Based on this memo it’s pretty clear that the Sheen Checker designed for 1964, is not really that spectacular. Essentially the driver divider was pushed back 3 inches. Moving the partition back, this eliminated the standard limo jump seats. A side facing secretary seat was substituted for the jump seat delete. The car was fitted with some additional novelties such as a pillowed head rest for the Bishop as well as a rear lamp and an electrical outlet for a tape recorder. The leather roof and oval opera window would add a distinctive appearance. Throw in a couple of radio do-dads and that’s pretty much it.
Bishop Sheen loved his various Checkers, he would write Raymond Dietrich the following:
Subsequently Bishop Scheen sent a thankyou letter to Dietrich regarding Dietrich’s work on the Checker Custom Limo. Quoting Scheen “Never did I think I would have an automobile whose appointments were designed by America’s first automotive artist”.
We’re pretty sure Sheen secured a special place in heaven for Ray Dietrich, the Bishop seemed to truly love his Checker!
The original memo is displayed below.
THANK LETTER FROM BISHOP FULTON SHEEN TO RAYMOND DIETRICH REGARDING THE 1959 CHECKER LIMO