Several blogs ago we discussed the Aerobus, produced from 1961 through 1974, the Aerobus was essentially a Checker wagon on steroids.  Available in 6 and 8 door configuration these mammoths shuttled passengers to and from airports and hotels until the gas crisis of 1973 forced operators to look for other more efficient options in moving people from point A to point B.

Holiday Inn Aerobus
                                                    The original wagon based Aerobus produced from 1961 through 1974

In 1975-1976 Checker started to look into new options too, the Aerobus being cancelled did not stop demand, many operators looked to Checker to come up with a replacement model.  The second generation Aerobus was officially called the Aerobus 15. The prototype looked like any other post 1958 Checker and like the Aerobus, it had eight doors, but there is a major difference from the first generation Aerobus.

According to form CMC Plant General Manager and Head of Engineering John Logan:  A year after the Checker wagon & the Aerobus was cancelled, John Love, VP of CMC, stated in a staff meeting one morning, “we need a 15 passenger Aerobus”. No one commented, except yours truly. I said “why don’t we build one?”.  This caught David’s (CEO David Markin) attention and he asked, how are we going to do that?  I explained we can build a 8 door Aerobus with a standard rear end with the extended, 9 inch rear door and export auxiliary jump seats. After some discussion, David says, Build one. I  with help of some key union people built a prototype. David approved it and we built 46 more that year and  60 the next year.

The Aerobus 15 was designed based off of a long wheel base A12E platform, not a A12W wagon platform.  From an overall size perspective, the Aerobus 15 is slightly larger than th original Aerobus,  but the extra foot in length allowed for three additional passenger capacity for the new Aerobus.  The Aerobus 15 was technically a more efficient vehicles from a passenger cost standpoint, the new Aerobus could carry more passengers with marginal impact on gas mileage.

                                                Note the rear door is longer than the Generation 1 Aerobus allowing for the added jump seat row

The increase in passenger capacity was possible by utilizing the long wheelbase sedan configuration.  It allowed Checker to add an extra row of jump seats.  On the downside, the use of the sedan based body did not have the same cargo space as the wagon based Aerobus but extra space could be leveraged by adding a wooden cargo carrier on the roof.

Prototype under restore
                                    The original CMC prototype being restored at Checker Cab Services Unit in Kalamazoo in 2002


The outward appearance is slightly different when compared to other Checkers.  The wheel openings front and rear were modified to allow for truck type eight lug wheels. On the inside floors and interior walls were also modified to allow for the larger truck wheel clearance.  As always with Checker,  the Areobus 15 was a specialty vehicle as accordingly production numbers would be low, sixty were produced for 1976 and 47 units were produced for 1977, the last year of production.

Survival rates are presumed to be low as these vehicles were put into commercial service.  Today these monster Checkers are highly sought after in the collector car and limo market.   The Aerobus 15 is the ultimate party wagon with room for an entire wedding or tailgating party.

Bill Beurkens
Bill Beurken’s Aerobus 15 undergoing restoration in 2014

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