The Checker taxicab, particularly the 1958–82 Checker Model A9 and A11 series remains the most famous taxicab ever produced in the United States. Its iconic status can be attributed to the Checker’s styling comparable to the black London taxi, its nationally renowned and went largely unchanged throughout its use in New York City from 1958 thru 1999.
For decades, Checker was the taxicab of choice for New York City and many other American cities. The size of the car with seating capacity consistent with pre 1954 New York City requirements, the robust construction facilitated by simplified parts management and the bolt-on fenders contributed to the Checker’s ubiquity on the streets of Manhattan.
We at the Internet Checker Taxicab Archive strive to preserve the history of our favorite taxi. Our archive is filled with thousands of key documents that shed light on the greatness of the beloved Checker. From these documents new history is being identified, history never told. Perhaps the surprising facts recently discovered in our files is that: New York Checker Model A11’s are actually different than any other Checker sold in any other city between 1964 and 1982.
Within the archive three engineering memos have been uncovered that shed light onto key differences of Checker Model A11 sold in NYC versus cities.
Dated October 30, 1964 engineering memo number 77 from Sab Hori (Checker Engineering 1946-1984) to Jim Stout (Checker Engineering 1922-1965), subject: Specific Requirements for New York Cabs, documents four key areas of differentiation:
- Front seating requirements, seat back upholstery must be pulled tight to obtain 18 inches of cushion depth.
- Auxiliary seating, a 14 inch wide seat is required
- Roof lamp wiring, an additional roof light is required, this change for NYC would allow Checker to meet new NYC top light rules enacted for 1965.
- New card case, with two lamps.
On October 4, 1972, a major comprehensive attack on the ever-increasing level of noise in New York City’ was initiated as Mayor John V. Lindsay signed into law the New York City Noise Control Code. Checker was required to comply as evidenced with Engineering Memo number 358 dated July 24, 1974. The memo states “ To conform with the New York City Noise Control Regulation, the New York City Country Horn will be cancelled”.
The law in New York prohibited the sale of claxon horns that created sounds more than 88 DB that could be heard more the fifty feet away from the standing vehicle. All Checkers sold in NYC post 1974 would sport quieter horns.
Perhaps the most significant memo documenting New York Checker specifications is Engineering Memo 428, subject: Special Modification for New York City Taxi Fleet (1981 Model Year) dated April 22, 1981.
The memo is comprehensive and covers a significant number of engineering parameters. The memo describes these changes as required “ to increase the durability of our vehicles due to the severe taxicab duty cycle in the New York City environment”.
Frame Assembly, for 1981 Checker would now have reinforced: rear shock mounting brackets, side rails, bracket to body frame center, X-frame member, engine supports, upper control arms, chassis skid bar and steering gear brace.
The NYC Checker would also sport larger G78-15 tires rated “C” and include additional straps for the radiator overflow bottle. The windshield washer bottle location would be moved to the firewall. The memo also called out that it was imperative that alloy front springs would be required for all NYC Checkers.
The body also required modifications for the New York City market with the addition of a front fender cross rods, hood reinforcement and cowl brackets. The cowl brackets had increase thickness in order to increase strength.
The interior of the 1981 New York City Checker also had modifications. Most of these mods were limited to front and rear floor mats. There was one change for the interior regarding ash tray placement in the rear passenger area.
So rest assured, if you own a New York City Checker you own perhaps the toughest Checker ever produced. For access to the full memoranda’s please click on the following links in the Internet Checker Taxicab Archive.