Herman Pfauter was a student at Northeastern University and to help defray his college expenses he started working the night shift at the Checker Taxi Company whose garage was located next to the university campus on Huntington Avenue in Boston, across the Charles River from MIT and Harvard.
He was impressed by the 1959 and 1960 Checker models he drove for a couple of years and when he needed a reliable car in his job 10 years later he purchased the brand-new 1971 Checker shown here. He used it as his personal car and decided to restore it as a Taxi.
Checker Taxis were for many years the vehicle of choice for cab operators and a familiar sight all over the United States and Canada owing to their simple and durable construction, their roominess (a wheelchair could fit into the back seat) and their ease of maintenance. Most mechanical components were from GM or Chrysler, the fenders bolted on for ease of replacement.
However, stricter safety requirements, tighter emission rules and the energy crisis of the seventies ultimately spelled the end of the line for an American icon whose production had begun in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1923. During the last years of its existence the Checker Company produced fewer than 3,000 vehicles annually and shut down the assembly line in 1982 for good. It continued for more than 20 years as a subcontractor to GM producing metal stampings. It finally went bankrupt in January 2009 after 87 years!
The Checker shown here was purchased by its original and present owner in August of 1971 in Chicago and has just completed 100,000 miles. It was never used as a taxi which accounts for the low mileage and its overall good condition.
It came equipped with the Chevrolet 350 CID V-8 rated @ 245 HP(SAE), a Ford 2-speed Cruisomatic transmission, GM power front disc brakes and power steering and it still has the original AM radio.
The original purchase price in 1971 was $3,600 including tax and license. From 1975 to 1985 the vehicle was stored and in 1986 it was refurbished as a taxi with new tires, new paint, new chrome, new brakes and a new exhaust system. In 2004 the engine developed a noise that nobody could diagnose and it was decided to rebuild the original engine after 33 years of service.
Otherwise the vehicle is in its original condition, especially the interior. It is driven regularly and exhibited in car shows and has won quite a few awards despite the fact that it is a driver and not a 100% show car.
In 2007 the owner took it on a Route 66 Fun Run of 1,300 miles and won a trophy for “BEST SPECIALTY VEHICLE” out of a total of 800 cars competing.
Today few of this American classic still exist. Most ended up on the scrap pile after a rough life on the deteriorating streets of America. A handful is still in service today and used for special occasions. Most survivors are in the hands of collectors. There are several active Checker clubs and some even have found their way to Europe.
Checker also built Limousines, Station Wagons and the 8-door Aerobus in limited numbers.
How much is a Checker worth today? The older models up to 1972, the more desirable ones because they were not “cheapened” like the later ones, are valued by the current authoritative “Old Cars Price Guide” as follows:
Condition: 6 5 4 3 2 1
Price $: 600* 2,000* 3,300* 7,400* 11,500* 16,000*
*Values are for sedans – other models may be higher.