We’ll had a tough act to follow, considering the 2016 Internet Checker Taxicab Archive convention was such a success. This past weekend we had our 2017 Checker event in Rockford, Illinois. Why Rockford? There were several points of interest in and around the area that provided fun activities to fill the weekend: The Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois and the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, Illinois. An as expected is proved equally fun and like last year, we had eight Checkers on display. Also like last years we were able to view over other Checker and classic cars on display!
The event started at the base hotel, the Holiday Inn in Rockford, late Friday. The first guest to arrive was none other than one of the ICTA’s biggest cheerleaders, Daniel Smith! Those familiar the Seattle Classic Cab Number 1 project know Danial Smith, formerly from the Rockford, Illinois area, Dan now resides in Arizona. Dan, a long time Checker fan, in the past has had extensive Checker experience working with Joe Pollard, the famous Checker supplier and salvager. A technical expert, Dan is familiar with every nut and bolt on a Checker. Dan seems to knows more about Checkers than any other member of the ICTA. Not only did Dan, visit the show, but he also visited his parents and his parents came to the show!
The next hardcore Checker fan to arrive was Ben Merkel and Pete Talanca. According to an article in Hemming Motor News blog in 2005 Ben Merkel purchased his first Checker back in the 70’s. “ Ben, of Middlefield, Ohio, east of Cleveland in Amish country, discovered Checkers from a collector’s standpoint when he bought his first Marathon for $600 in 1977 while in Santa Monica, California. He had a yen (“a latent disease,” is how he described it) for Checkers, and saw his opportunity to enter the hobby with that car. “It was one of those deals where I drove away waving, and the dealer and I were both thinking, So long, sucker, Ben said.” Over the next thirty years Ben would amass one of the biggest collections of Checkers in the world. Another one of those suckers is Pete Talanca, like this writer Pete purchased his first Checker from Ben some twenty plus years ago. Both are repeat ICTA convention participants!
Ben drove his beautiful 1982 Checker Winkoff, a stunner, it surprisingly was not the only Winkoff at the show.
Late Thursday we had another arrival, David Powers with a Beautiful 1967 Checker Marathon. David is a well known and highly respected Checker fans. A Checker owner for many years, This writer first met the David at the CCCofA conventions of 2004. David just recently finished the restoration of his Checker. The restored Checker was once owned by his father-in-law the late Steve Wilson, a former CCCofA president and longtime leader at Checker Motors Corporation. The Powers family have very strong emotional bonds with Checker and the club is very fortunate for their participation. Based out of Iowa, Dave is a Pastor with the Newkirk Reform Church. Sadly Connie Powers could not make the trip due to a family illness.
The Power’s Checker is very unique. Originally a company car for Steve Wilson, the car sports many non-standard Checker accessories. Painted silver, the Checker has a long chrome strip running down the rocker panel. The gavel card was never added as Mr. Wilson felt it was a rust trap. Perhaps the most unique feature is the brush aluminum dash overlay and chrome grab handles. The Powers Checker is great example of the ability of Checker to produce specialty cars.
Friday morning the big event happened, we paid a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum. The Illinois Railway Museum is the largest railroad museum in the United States and is located in Union, IL. About 25 miles from our base hotel in Rockford.
Since 1957 the museum’s mission has been to demonstrate the vital role railroads have played in the growth of the Chicago area as well as the United States as a whole. There are over 450 pieces of prototype equipment in its collection as well as numerous displays.
Special thanks goes out to Museum Facilities Manager David Diamond, he gave us broad access to the grounds and made sure everything was perfect. The highlight for many was to ride on some of the museum’s equipment, particularly the trolley, Pete Talanca rode at least three time!
We were allowed to pull our Checkers onto the museum grounds and display them at the museum entrance. ICTA members were provided with many great photographic opportunities and in one case was able to drive all over the grounds with a Checker filled with ICTA members!
Once set up on Friday, the first to arrive was: new to Checker collecting AJ Voiles of Belvidere, IL. AJ pulled in with a Checker Aerobus, which is undergoing a complete restoration. AJ Aerobus has a long way to go, but it wound up presenting a perfect example of the now rare Checker comradery and community, that was once displayed years ago in other Checker clubs, but long has since disappeared outside of the ICTA.
ICTA members climbed all over his Aerobus offering advise and counsel. Remarkably, many committed parts to AJ for free to help accelerate the restoration. It was refreshing to see true Checker fans help and create new bonds all based on a very historical car. AJ’s Aerobus can be seen in a 1964 Checker Aerobus brochure!
Later in the morning we met Matt Thomas. Matt is an Engineering Technician at Underwriters Laboratories and lives with his wife Leanne and three children: Annie, Simon and Elliot in Palatine, Illinois. A very active member on the Internet Checker Taxicab Archive Facebook page, Matt contributes significantly to the Checker Cab hobby. Matt arrived in his1966 Marathon. As expected Matt brought along the foil dash labels he developed to help restore Checkers and word has it, he sold a few.
Like all the members Matt participated in a live broadcast of the event on Facebook. One our first experiments with live video broadcasting, Matt provided a full review on his Checker. A unique vehicle, Matt’s Checker has a high performance engine and flame painted them on the body. The interior is very original and is a real standout. All of the videos can be seen on the Facebook pages.
Early afternoon on Friday, Emerson and Rachel Zentz arrived fashionably late. The Zentz own an entire fleet of Checkers. Not your ordinary Marathons, Emerson has purchased several authentic taxicabs from Ben Merkel. Base out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Emerson and his wife Rachel have a large pole barn filled with a number of cars, taxis and buses, to say the collection is outstanding would be an understatement. Both Emerson and Rachel represent a new younger demographic so important is ensuring that our hobby is carried onto another generation. Their late arrival was due to their 3000 mile trip picking up a new bus! More on that later.
Emerson and Rachel displayed there fantastic 1982 Checker Model A11E Super Cab. A very rare Checker indeed, the vehicle was in fantastic original condition. The Zentz also brought there green and yellow 1981 Checker A11, the two tone combination was striking!
Friday evening was expected to be an off night with no activities, but that changed late Friday. Thankfully, Matt Thomas found a casual dining eatery in Union, IL. called Checkers. After executing the instructions on closing up the Museum provided by David Diamond, the Checkers headed to Checkers. The food was great and so were the Checker’s staff who all lined up to have photos taken with the taxicabs.
The second day activities were held at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, IL. The Historic Auto Attractions Museum was just a short 15 mile hop on I-90 from Rockford to Roscoe. Over 75 historic autos were on display in the 36,000 sq. ft. building, including the world’s largest collection of presidential and world leader’s limousines, John Dillinger’s getaway car, Elvis Presley’s personal car, Indy cars, TV Land cars and movie cars such as the Batmobile. Kids will love the Turn-of-the-Century Room with old west style stage coach and other period vehicles.
Within the presidential collection, ICTA members viewed the Oswald Checker used as a get-away car after the JFK assignation. We had some unexpected guests for day two! Tim and Zandra Bower arrived in a stunning Model A11 Winkoff Marathon. Like Ben Merkel and Pete Talanca, the Bowers were repeat show participants, they even came in the same type of Checker, a Winkoff.
Late in the day we wrapped up the event in Roscoe and headed back to Rockford. Special thanks from this writer goes out to the Bower family for serving as a chase vehicle back to the Holiday Inn. According to the Tim and Zandra my top speed going downhill in a 1950 Checker Model A4 was an astonishing 52MPH!
On Saturday, Emerson Zentz surprise all by leaving his Checker at home, he brought the bus he had just driven from California! A very unique item and largely known only in California. Crown buses are much like Checker, old style but new in technology. The Zentz bus was designed in 1947, but production spanned 1947 till 1990. Touring the bus, it was shocking to see an almost new bus but it looked so old!
To cap off the event a dinner was held at the Hoffman House. Since 1958, the Hoffman House has taken extra effort to ensure that all functions are a truly enjoyable and memorable events. The hall is rented for three hours and a piano will be made available, sadly no one knew how to play the piano. Matt was joined by his entire family, Joe Fay’s wife Marie ,Daniel Smiths parents Mike and Judy and AJ Voiles’ wife Jennifer joined in the fun!
The ICTA is almost ten years old, originally established as the Checker Cab Club, we were happy to execute our second national convention. Plan for next year will be announce after Labor Day. As a teaser we will tell you this: we already have three shows planned for three regions!
Over the next couple of days, we’ll present more highlight of the 2017 show. If you would like to view the show videos, all you need to do is join our group
If you’re already a member to view the view video, just click here