Noted Checker fan Jim Garrison recently posted a comment on Facebook in regards to the dumping of 40 Checkers. Garrison posted in support of the Checker Motor Cars, the company that dumped the Checkers. In his post Garrison stated, “we did see that most of those vehicles were not worth much, certainly not worth the fuss made over them.”
Everyone has a right to their own opinion, that said, this blog will try to explain the “fuss” that was created over the Checkers dumped in Massachusetts and why the ICTA and its members attempted to save as much as we could from the Lawrence scrap yard. More importantly we’ll provide an update on the saved Checkers and share the benefits and motives of saving 20% of the dumped fleet.
So maybe we’re stating the obvious, but Checkers have not been produced in 35 years, knowing this, we as serious Checker collectors and restorers were alarmed by the elimination of a major spare parts inventory. We also made a fuss because it was clear that about one third of the dumped cars were viable restorable units.
The dumping also forced ICTA members to face the reality that Checker parts suppliers were being further reduced. Ben Merkel of Twilight Taxi shut down about 15 years ago. It now appeared that Checker Motor Cars is either shutting down or going on hiatus. Other big Checker traders like Turnpike Checker have not been on the radar screen in some time, only one Checker parts vendor appears to be a going concern, Checkerparts of California. How long Checkerparts will be operating is unknown, but it’s very clear, the Checker fan’s parts sources are drying up. ICTA member have to face up to the reality of this dire issue. If we want to keep our Checkers running, we need to have access to readily available parts. Scrapping viable Checker or trashing Checker parts is a issue the ICTA will make a “fuss” about.
Another major factor that motivated many ICTA members into action was the fact was that this was a second chance to buy cars that we missed out on several years earlier. This writer was actually able to buy a Checker Superba that was originally posted for sale on Facebook, in 2016. When I originally inquired to buy the Superba wagon, it had already been sold to Checker Motor Cars. Based on the registry the ICTA has built, our research indicates about 50 Checkers come on the market every year, over a two year span (2015-2016) Checker Motor Cars, purchased the majority of used Checkers on the market, effectively blocking out many folks looking to buy a Checker.
This past Fall, many of these same Checkers were being thrown away without notice or the opportunity to purchase. The dumping of Checkers angered many Checker fans who were aware of the impact of Checker Motor Cars had had on the hobby. This also played into the fuss, when an effective Checker interloper comes into the hobby in 2014, disrupts the market, then trashes the very objects that make up the hobby, Checker fans will make a fuss.
Some of the models were very rare, ICTA member Daniel Smith had been trying to buy a 76-77 Aerobus 15 for some fifteen years, now he had a chance to buy one in Lawrence. Thankfully Dan Smith led the brigade to save Checkers and Checker parts. Working with 495 Autosalvagers, Dan coordinated the salvage operation. Numerous ICTA members and other Checker fans were able to get parts that in a matter of weeks would be crushed.
Emerson Zentz pick up a rear frame that will be used to restored a recently acquired A11. This writer picked up a running Continental engine that will be used to restore a 1949 A3. AJ Voiles was able to acquire all the doors he needs to restore his O’Hare Aerobus. If you’re not familiar with AJ’s Aerobus, just check out the mid-sixties Checker brochure, the vehicle appears center stage. A full writeup about AJ’s Aerobus can be found on this link.
The fuss was made because we love Checkers and clearly our ICTA members saw value where others could only see a broken down and worthless Checkers. According to Adam Burlett ” Its not a bad car body wise. It definitely was worth the 1500 pre damaged Haverhill price. its a shame no one jumped on it. I really didnt need another something to do project. none the less i didnt want to see it crushed. here is the update of what is being found out. Someone who really didn’t know what they were doing got a hold of this car. I Think it all started with trying to make these wheels fit. Leaf springs were installed back wards. it moved differential back so when on the lift drive shaft came out of the transmission. lug nuts studs nut installed on the front causing wheel to go crooked on the smashed right front side. It has power windows we haven’t looked into anything too deep other than working on the brakes and suspension. Engine is seized up.”.
This wagon is depicted in the header photo and is currently being used for training mechanics. According to Burlett the folks in training ” are learning suspension, brakes and differentials. Front disc brakes and working on putting together rear diff, changing to GM style brakes. Sometimes experience is the best teacher. We just got done with transmission class . Next semester is brakes and suspension. We got a bit carried away. This suspension was cobbled together the wrong way. So the best of what not to do is what we are learning now.” so in this case, “the fuss” in the end is benefit all in the old car hobby, the vehicle is being used to train mechanics.
Stephen Disbrowe in the UK was able to buy a rust free south western Checker wagon in Lawrence. According to Stephen “I am starting a USA road trip company and am planning to write a blog to help promote it. One of the items I want to blog about it saving the wagon and document the process of recommissioning it and then driving it along Route 66.” The car has been transferred to Arizonia and is currently in the hands of Dan Smith. Dan will be making the car roadworthy so Stephen and his wife Chantel will be able to make there trek across the US on route 66 in 2019. So in this case the fuss was created in order to create a new excursion company and use while vacationing in the US.
David Kniffen was able to secure a Checker Marathon A12 sedan. For Dave, it became a family event, he and his entire family trekked out to Massachusetts to see and film all the Checkers. David is toying with the idea of restoring his Checker with Ghostbusters movie themed project. According to David, “my 4 year old loves the movie.. watched it twice today… besides what better way to make a car fun.”
According to Trailer Life magazine “The ideal Marathon (trailer towing) package would consist of the optional 327 cubic-inched, OHV mill, with a quad carb, churns out 250HP, locked in with the automatic and a 3.31:1 ratio semi-floating rear end”. This writer was able to find a 1967 Checker Marathon wagon equipped exactly like the perfect Checker depicted in the Trailer Life Magazine.
Where others saw junk and rust, this writer saw a solid wagon that could easily be brought back to road worthy condition. Rolling the car off a tow truck we discovered the brakes were still working despite not being registered on the road since 2013. The long term plan is to make this Checker wagon my official tow vehicle. Next time you see me towing a Checker to a show, I won’t be using a U-Haul truck anymore, I’ll be using my Checker tow wagon.
Most recently, the 1960 Superba tailgate is was installed on the 67 Texas wagon….. that’s one way of fixing a rust issue. The taillights have been polished up and I am currently in the process of stripping many coats of paint, looks pretty good. Will continue to strip the paint and find all of the potential rust holes thru the Winter. My plan is to get the wagon running and roadable for Spring 2019. I also hope to get the Checker Model A3 running this coming year by leveraging the engine from one of the Lawrence cars.
As you can see from the picture on the left, this car is shaping up. Shiny original chrome bumpers and a solid frame, this car clearly deserved better than being dumped in Lawrence. Under the paint I have found a very solid car. A couple of areas need to be addressed such as the front hood and the drivers floor. This is no different than the two other Checkers that I have restored. The wagon is a keeper.
In all six of the forty Checkers have been sold. The majority of Checkers left have been crushed. That said, there is most likely a few left for possible sale. We wish we could have save more and stripped more, but limited time and money prevented the wholesale parting out of the cars. A big thank you goes out to Daniel Smith for sacrificing one week of time and leading the charge and supervising 495 Autosalvagers in the salvage operation.
In summary, ICTA members are diehard Checker fans. If its one Checker that is getting dumped or forty, we’re going to make a fuss. We drive and restore Checkers. Our club is dedicated to helping Checker fans obtain parts. We’re not necessarily interested in picnics in the Amish country, we’re interested in keeping our cars on the road. We love legacy Checkers 1922-1982 and have not bought into the egos and hype about new Checkers that will never be produced. There is only one real Checker and we are dedicated to keeping them on the road. That’s why we made a fuss.
To gain a full view of the “Fuss”, check out this video on YouTube