Several years ago Checker collector Ben Merkel sent this writer some rare Checker photos from Kalamazoo photographer Ward Morgan. Morgan was Checker’s go to guy for photography during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Within the stack of rare Checker Model A4 and A5 photos was a surprise photo of a Checker I never knew existed! A photo of a Checker Model A5 six door limo wagon!
A promotional photo for Checker, this clearly indicated that the limo was something that Checker produced for its Parmalee transportation company. Upon review of all the standard vintage automobile catalogs, there is no reference for this car. More importantly, of the limited production reports available from Checker, there are no references to this car. Checker was pretty good at documenting its history, likewise, there aren’t any references for this mystery six door wagon.
So the first big question that came to mind was: is this a one off prototype or did Checker produce a a larger production run for this wagon? The second question was, did Checker produce this car, or did they sub contract production to a limo company.
Years later we have an answer to the prototype question, recently ICTA member Laddie Vetek shared a color photo of a fleet of the “mystery 6 door wagon” on our Facebook page. A beautiful color photo, (see header) the limos are parked at a Chicago taxicab staging area with other Checkers. Clearly a Chicago photo, the taxicabs depicted are Checker Motor’s Chicago Checker and Yellow fleet taxicabs. So now we know that these cars were produced in number and appear to be all operated by Checker’s Parmelee fleet.
Did Checker produce these cars. My educated guess is: yes. Checker typically produced there own bodies and also operated a third party stamping business. This writer just can’t imagine that Checker would farm out stamping that they could have done themselves.
Upon review of the photos, its clear that two left and right side door outer panels are rquired. Additionally, it appears that inner door stamping would require just two dies. The following other panels are different than standard Checker A4s: roof, tailgates (upper and lower) two inner and outer cargo panels and the floors. All in all, about ten or twelve new stamping would be required to produce the wagon.
Now that we have started to break down the mystery of these units, the ICTA developed a line drawing of the car to gain a better understanding of the vehicle metrics. The line drawing provided some great perspectives of the mystery car. Sourcing standard metrics from a 1950 Checker taxicab brochure allowed this writer to estimate the actual size of the six door wagon.
Based on review of the photos, it appears that the rear doors are the same size as a standard A4 rear door, except all of the passenger doors have a squared-up window frame. Being an owner of a real Checker A4, I was able to take some metrics not found in the brochure. The spacing between the rear door and the rear fender also appear to be same on my A4. The integrated rear bumper and rear fender set up appears to be exactly the same as an A4 except that the bumperettes have been shaved on the top to allow for lowering of the tailgate. Therefore the rear passenger doors are the only added section in the body design. Knowing that the rear door is thirty-four inches long, adding an extra door would add make the total length of this car a whooping 242 inches on length and the wheelbase is 158 inches.
None of these cars have survived and quite frankly no one seems to be aware of their existence. At least now we have a nice color photo and some additional perspective on the rare Parmelee six door wagon.