Have you ever wondered how rare Checker taxis survived? there are several key themes for each example of a rare Checker’s survival post their taxicab service. In this blog, we’ll present the 1930’s era survivors and showcase how they survived.
One simple reason was CMC preservation. First and foremost, CMC leadership felt that there was some historic importance in saving these fine purpose built taxis and saved many cars. Despite exiting automobile production in 1982, CMC continued on as an automotive parts supplier well into the 21st century and continued to foster their interest in cherishing the corporate history of Checker.
Rod Walton, the assistant to CMC CEO David Markin wrote an article back in the Spring of 1995 titled “One Of The Good Old Boys Comes Home”. In the article he recounts how CMC had purchased a rare 1936 Model Y Taxi in August of 1994.
According to Walton’s story, CMC executive Steve Wilson was contacted by a gentlemen named F. W. Roe of Bay City, Texas in 1988 requesting help in restoring a 1936 Checker Model Y. Over the course of many phone calls and several years later, Steve Wilson was able to convince Mr. Roe to sell the Model Y to CMC. According to Rod Walton “ We really didn’t have much interest until the Checker line went down and decided that it would be nice to have the car for our museum”, the museum being the Kalamazoo Checker Cab Services showroom.
According to Walton’s article. The Model Y was originally used in Chicago as a cab and then migrated to Milton, Minnesota. Mr. Roe purchased the Model Y from Edward Suckow in 1964. Mr. Suckow owned three Model Y’s, one of the three was turned into a pickup, a fate that many rare Checker have endured. Ultimately two other Model Y’s (including the pickup conversion) were scrapped for metal leaving only one complete Checker Model Y left in the world.
A little history on the Model Y, Checker began development of a new taxicab, the Model Y in 1934. It was the third offering in the evolution of the 1928 Model K and quite striking in appearance, with many style cues reminiscent of its new corporate cousin, the Auburn, albeit an industrial version. The Model Y also served as a platform for many new Checker concepts to be utilized for the next 50 years.
The long wheelbase version could be purchased in 6- and 8-door variations and also offered with an integrated body trunk, a first in the automotive industry. Other features included a multi-position adjustable driver seat and glass windows in the roof that passengers would love when sightseeing in major cities. Looks alone were not the only similarities to Auburn; the Model Y utilized the Lycoming 148hp inline GFD 8, the same engine used in the Auburn 850, although later in 1936 there was the option of a 6-cylinder Continental engine. This taxicab would be produced until 1940, in 1940 CMC introduced the Model A.
The lone surviving Checker Model Y Taxicab was placed on loan at the Gilmore Museum where it remains today. After the CMC closure in 2010, the Model Y was donated to the Gilmore Museum by David Markin. Again as Checker fans, we are all very lucky the David Markin and Steve Wilson preserved Checker automotive history.
The other survivor co-efficient seems to be purposed based conversion to some other form of service. We have seen several Checker Taxicabs converted to farm or tow truck service. In addition to the Model Y taxicab at the Gilmore, there is an additional surviving 1936 Checker Model Y …..Tow Truck conversion. This vehicle was restored by Bob Welsh about ten years ago.
Originally a cab, the Lake City Taxi company of Minnesota converted to a tow truck in the post WWII era. This former cab moved through a number of Checker collections before Bob Welsh purchased it from a Las Vegas taxi collector. After Bob restored the tow truck he donated it to The Gilmore Museum about nine years ago. The Gilmore auctioned the tow truck on EBAY several years ago, its current owner is unknown.
Former owners include: Ben Merkel and Frank Fay, its been reported in other journals that this car was discovered in a junk yard and restored, it’s also been reported that the tow truck conversion was performed during world war II. The ICTA’s understanding is that Ben Merkel purchased the vehicle from the Minnesota cab company that converted the Y into a tow truck post WWII. The vehicle was never a junkyard save and has been various collectors hands for almost 40 years.
Another 30’s era Checker survivor is an example of farm service. Of the two surviving Model M taxicabs, one is farm truck conversion. This Checker became known to the collector community about twenty years ago. Unfortunately, unlike the Model Y above or the Model G truck conversion showcased in last weeks blog, little progress has been made in the restoration.
At this time based on Facebook posts, it appears that the current owner is working with the Buda engine. Beyond that, it does not appear that any progress has been made to get this rare Model M back on the road. Checker restorations require passion, drive and money, hopefully the current owner can muster up some drive, and get the job done.
One means of survival of Checker taxicabs was movie car service. There is one example of a 1933 Checker Model T on display at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum. Prior to being at the ACD, the car was owned by the Harah’s Las Vegas casino museum. While at the museum it was promoted as being a movie car used in many films including 1959 movie The FBI Story staring Jimmy Stewart (see header photo)
Recently on display at the Gilmore was a beautiful Checker Model M taxicab restored by Yellow Cab of New London Ct. It too is a former movie car. This particular car made many appearances in the 1960’s TV show The Untouchables.
On rare occasions many of these Checkers are put on display at the Gilmore museum, most recently the restored taxicabs were showcased in 2018. To see these great cars in their glory, just click on the video below.