This weekend Emerson Zentz and partner in crime Laddie Vetech proved that you can still have fun with a Checker in the cold season of mid November.  Emerson and Laddie trekked up to Ohio this weekend where they paid a visit to Ben Merkel’s Twilight Taxi and took delivery of a very special Checker.  A New York City taxi!  But wait! There’s more:  A New York City Fiberglass taxicab!

Laddie Veteck, Emerson Zentz & Ben Merkel

Before we discuss the intriguing story of the Fiberglass Checker, let’s frame out the story of the New York City Checker.   The New York Checker Model A11’s are actually different than any other Checker sold in any other city between 1964 and 1982.

Differences can be found in many of the Checker Engineering Change Orders found on this website.  Here are just a few of the distinctly different features of the New York City Checkers

Key areas of differentiation:

  • Front seating requirements, seat back upholstery must be pulled tight to obtain 18 inches of cushion depth.
  • Auxiliary seating, a 14 inch wide seat is required
  • Roof lamp wiring, an additional roof light is required, this change for NYC would allow Checker to meet new NYC top light rules enacted for 1965.
  • New card case, with two lamps.
  • Claxon horns that created sounds no more than 88 DB that could be heard more the fifty feet away from the standing vehicle.  All Checkers sold in NYC post 1974 would sported these quieter horns.
  • Increased durability for severe taxicab duty cycle in the New York City environment frame assembly, for 1981 Checker had reinforced: rear shock mounting brackets, side rails, bracket to body frame center, X-frame member, engine supports, upper control arms, chassis skid bar and steering gear brace.
  • Straps for the radiator overflow bottle.
  • Windshield washer bottle location would be moved to the firewall.
  • Front fender cross rods, hood reinforcement and cowl brackets.  The cowl brackets had increase thickness in order to increase strength.

Now the Fiberglass lesson.  Back in the mid 1970 Checkers started to experiment in the use of Fiberglass.  This was primarily an exercise to reduced weight in order to improve gas mileage.   Replacing steel panels, hoods and trunk lids with fiberglass would reduced the 4000 LBS Checkers by as much as 250-500 LBS.  The resulting Checker had significant improvement in mileage, but taxicab operators likely challenged the impact of the overall Checker strength and tank like toughness.

Fiberglass never made it into production Checkers, but fiberglass ultimately had a major impact on keeping Checkers on in  the road long term after Checker production stopped in 1982.  As we all know Checker rust very easily,  operators who continued to operate Checkers post 1982, needed a cheap way to keep their Checkers in service.

Several independent companies produced Fiberglass Checker panels for after market use by taxicab operators.   As one would expect major parts like Fenders, hoods and decklids were offered.   Surprisingly, other major sections were also offered:  door panels, rockers and even front floor sections were available.  This allowed operators to keep their rusty Checkers in service by removing rusted panels or cutting out rotted floors and adding lower cost fiberglass parts.

Which brings us to Emerson Zentz’ latest acquisition,  the New York Fiberglass Checker.  This Checker had been in Ben Merkel’s personal collection for many years. One of Ben’s most interesting Checkers, this one has an extensive amount of Fiberglass body parts.  One could claim its more fiberglass than steel!


Ready for Start Up!

As this blog is being written Laddie and Emerson are heading home.  We hope they have a safe journey and look forward to more updates from Emerson and he starts to dig into this interesting Checker.