On July 27th 1999, New York Times reporter Jodi Wilgoren penned the article “Last New York Checker Turns Off the Meter for Good”. The article described taxicab driver Earl Johnson’s last day driving his Checker, the last Checker taxicab licensed by the New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The story shared what many Checker owners already know, the Checker is unique and brings great happiness wherever they are driven. One of the last riders of the day was Ms. Roberta Horton. Ms. Horton had a great take on the Checker. According to Ms Horton “The Checker is the ultimate urban luxury” she went on to say, “It’s such a grand car, it’s a vehicle that belongs to New York City”.
But as any Checker fan knows, the Checker cab is truly a global car with a fan following all over the world. Yes, the Checker is beloved by million, and it does seem to be associated as a New York icon, but many fleets of Checkers continued to server well beyond the last Checker serving New York.
Wilgoren did report “Other cities still have Checker cabs, the bulbous vehicles with the ponderous 1950’s design. There are Checkers around the city that are no longer cabs, painted pink or purple or even checkered all over. There are companies called Checker Cab, even if their cars are Dodges or Ford. But since production of the plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan ceased, in 1982, 60 years after it began, the Checkers have been a dying breed.” Fast forward to 2017 and you will still find Checker serving customers across the US, but not for long.
The last large Checker fleet will be coming down soon. All of the Checker in the fleet are available for sale. The owner of the N.Y. Cab and Limo Servie of Clearwater, John Didomizio says “I’m getting ready to retire so I’m going to start selling off my Checker collection”
Built out of frustration, the fleet was started back in 2009, according to DiDomizio, he was tired of hearing about how Clearwater cab companies were “ripping off the tourists” by hitting the $1.00 fuel surcharge button repeatedly, jacking up fares, showing up in old former cop cars that were filthy and often had drivers that smelled badly, spoke little English, or simply taking people the “long way” to their destination. John decided to do something about it.
The “Fix” was to start a real competing cab company and simply drive the shady operators off the beach. Putting his money where his mouth is, and being a collectable car enthusiast. John had two vintage Checker Cabs shipped down from Canada and “opened the doors” with a policy of first class service. To this day, most often drivers will open and close the car door for you. The first reason is service – the second reason is to make sure passengers in the old Checker Cabs are secure and the heavy steel doors are in fact closed properly.
For close to ten years John has built a significant fleet of Checkers. All were restored and brought back to a condition where they could again provide reliable taxicab service 24 hours a day. John currently has a fleet of about ten cars ranging from model years 1961 to 1982. Sadly it will soon be the end of the line. Single Checker taxicab servce can still be found around the country, but this is now really the end of the line for daily Checker fleet operations.
Condition and pricing for the Checkers vary, all vehicles had an extensive restoration prior to the start of service in Clearwater. John is ready to sell and can be contacted at 727-543-4111.