Over 30 years ago I received my BS in Business Administration with a major in Accounting. I am a numbers guy. When former Checker plant manager John Logan recently donated Checker production records, being a numbers guy I was really excited. We now have access to data that will allow us to better understand how and when Checkers were built.
Over the last few years there have been significant dialog on the subject of “how many Checkers are left?”, which is really impossible to determine but it can be estimated using mathematics and known decay calculations. One of my UMASS professors once commented “Figures don’t lie and all liars can figure”, with that phrase in mind, I am going to try to estimate Checker survival.
How do you estimate survival? There’s actually a formula, called the decay curve it’s used to estimate automotive survival rates. In a nutshell decay rates decline after a certain period after the last year of production. Just shortly after production, loss rates of about 10% per year run for a period then flatten out leaving a average rate of one percent. The formulas is used by wrecking yards to manage inventory, eventually the yard will clear out stock based on a forecast of no demand for a particular out of production auto make or model.
To put this into perspective in model year 1960, American Motors produced 458,841 automobiles. Over a period of 1960 thru 1970 scarp yards across the nation would maintain appropriate levels of scrapped AMC’s. By 1970 these same scrap yards using decay metrics at about 10% a year would remove all 1960 scrapped units. Essentially the demand for salvaged 1960 Ramblers parts had dried up by 1970, with limited space, yards moved out Ramblers, probably replacing them with wrecked 1969-70 AMC Hornets. Most decay rates for autos flatten at 1%, so in 2016 It would be estimated that 4588 1960 AMC’s are left on planet earth.
Decay rates for autos may vary depending on the make and model. For example, The Corvair Club places its survivor metric at 4%, primarily because, while being produced, the Corvair garnered interest in the auto hobby and racing community. That said, members of the Buick Club estimate survivor rates at 1%, consistent with other collector makes.
Now let’s take a look at Checker. First off, one must understand that Checkers were special niche automobiles, total production of Checkers from 1959 till 1982 represents a very small total of 121,484 automobiles. 23 years of production represents 26% of total 1960 American Motors production.
The table below accounts for all Checker production 1959-1982. Production figures for 1959-1965 are sourced from The Standard Catalog of Independents published by Krause Publications. 1966-1980 and 1982 are from CMC production reports and 1981 was sourced Krause Publications
Checker Production 1959 – 1982
Note, Total A9 production 5389 split for 59/60 evenly, 1960-1965 A11 and Aerobus numbers combined, 1981 product mix estimated based on 1980 numbers.
Using the 1% survivor rate as a baseline, I developed some new assumptions. I used a one tenth of percent rate for taxicabs both A9’s and A10’s. The primary reason for this low rate was that within taxi fleets Checkers taken out of service were typically recycled to keep the running fleet operational, therefore the survival rate for commercial taxicab is extremely low, within our club there are only a handful of known taxicab survivors.
For Checker A12s I used a 3% survival rates, mainly taking into account that the Checker was a heavy duty car and by its very nature tripling the rate seemed appropriate for a low volume specialty make. For later model Marathons, I raised the number to 5% assuming that buyers and collectors would pay more attention to these cars as they became orphaned in the mid 1980’s.
For wagons and Aerobus, I set the rate to the industry standard of 1% assuming that these Checkers were heavily used and abused not as bad as taxis, but abused more than a standard Marathon.
How do the number shake out? Not good for Checker survival. For example in 1980 Checker total production was 3340 units the majority are taxis. CMC produced only 146 Marathons. So the survival projection for 1980 would be: 3 A11s and 7 Marathons. This pattern is consistent for all years. Given upwards to 90% of Checker were taxicab, the survival rates will be low.
Actual survivor produced between 1924 and 1958 are well documented. We know of the handful of cars in collector’s hands and in museums. This writer owns at least 3 of the known vintage survivors. Based on firsthand knowledge we can set vintage numbers at 25.
So here are the projected numbers.
Additional analysis included the review of the Checker World registry map. A very difficult tool to use, it was hard to determine if dots on the map represented real cars or rumored vehicles. Additionally the tracking of for sale Checkers appeared to be double counting cars. I looked at nine states and New England. The count indicated 310 Checkers in: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New England, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Florida and California.
Within those states and regions we are aware of 17 additional Checkers in use in Florida, 40 in Haverhill, Mass. and 50 in the Pollard collection, giving us a rough number of 417 Checkers. Add in another 50 Checkers for other regions in the US and around the world and we’re at 467.
So mathematically with utilizing estimated decay rates as a baseline we came up with 417 Checkers. Rough review of registries plus known large fleets put the number a 467. Throw in a gut feel and I would put the Checker survival rate at 500 units.
As stated before: figures don’t lie and all liars can figure, that said its truly impossible to come up with a real number, but these numbers seem reasonable and are free of emotion.
For more Checker fun, please join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/14549783879902