About four years ago many members of the Checker Car Club of America received a mailing from Adamson Industries announcing their intent to develop a Checker restoration shop in Haverhill, Mass. Beyond the mailing to Checker fans, press releases were distributed across the country to various news outfits for publicity. The following was reported in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune on October 14th 2014
Now, in addition to outfitting police, sheriff, bomb squad and other municipal vehicles with equipment such as special lights, sirens, decals and communications equipment, Adamson Industries Corporation in the Broadway Business Park is restoring old Checkers. The company is also supplying parts to the owners of these iconic American automobiles. “America is all about baseball, apple pie and Checker cabs,” said Steve Contarino, vice president of Adamson Industries. Many of these easily recognizable Checker vehicles served as taxi cabs in cities across America and in other countries from the late 1950s through the 1990s. They are still popular among collectors around the world and with hotels in big cities that use them to transport guests. Adamson Industries unveiled its new business, “Checker Motor Cars,” this month in the business park off Route 97. “We trademarked the name,” Contarino said.
Many reported the Adamson has secured or bought the rights to the Checker name. Patently untrue, Adamson Industries and it’s agents merely filed a $350 trademark application with the USPTO for the long abandoned trademark of a defunked company. No monies changed hands between Adamson and the Markin family, the family that operated Checker from 1922 till 2010.
The real big news came out about a year later when it was reported in the New York Daily News headline “Revamped Checker Motors announces two new concepts including El Camino-style sport pickup”. The article reported: Checker Motor Cars, a Massachusetts-based company that recently secured the trademark rights for the famed brand, has released concept sketches for two new vehicles that it hopes to send into production in the fall of 2018. The first concept, dubbed the Sport Pick-up Crossover, is designed in the style of an El Camino or Ranchero. The original Checker Motors Corporation, which was based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, stopped producing its signature Marathon cab in 1982 and officially ceased to exist in 2010. Contario’s company has been providing parts and repairs services for Checker cars for more than a decade and recently acquired rights to sell cars under the brand’s name.” Note that the news item reported that the company had operated for 10 years restoring Checkers, this contradicts the press releases from a year earlier when the new company was created.
Also in early October 2015 Hemmings Motor News Reported Contarino plans to build prototypes starting early next year (2016) and get into full production in 2018. He also intends to keep the Checker restoration business in operation even after production of the two new models begins.
Checker Motor Cars posted in Facebook a photograph of an El Camino/Checker prototype under construction. In the post it was claimed that the car would not be ready for the Kalamazoo show of 2017. The company also posted a comment claiming that four El Camino donor cars were used to produce the mockup. Upon close examination of the photo it’s clear that the “beta” car is not even a Checker! It appears to be a 55-56-57 Chevy with a El Camino bed grafted in the rear. The shop in the photo does not appear to be Checker Motors Cars shop. Most likely, this was a photo that was found on the internet.
Little was seen in the development of the new Checker, over the course of several years Contarino was frequently posting on Facebook. Contarino created his own Facebook page and reported on the progress being made to build a new Checker. Over time many Checker fans started to doubt his ability to produce a new Checker. Checker fans would post the obvious, the company was a restoration shop that had no experience developing or building cars. Additionally a significant number of members were frustrated by Contarino relentless effort of buying and hoarding Checkers. There were also many complaints about the high prices of the parts sold by Checker Motor Cars.
In the course of two years, Checker Motors Cars did produce a new Checker hood ornament and plastic Checker grille. Neither are parts in great demand as grilles and emblems are still plentiful.
In 2017 it was reported in Yahoo News “New Checker Vehicles Are Still Coming in 2018”. Writer Steph Willems wrote:
While sourcing bumpers and manufacturing the iconic front clip isn’t a problem, a question mark surrounds the body shell. At this point, Checker isn’t sure what material to use — steel, fiberglass and composites are all in play. “We have proposals for all three,” said Contarino. “There’s advantages to each.” Right now, there’s a key unknown that could hold up the company’s plans. Essentially, the problem lies with the NHTSA, which oversees replica vehicles built under the new law, and the potential limitations it could place on low-volume manufacturers. “Right now, there’s no requirements or guidelines for a replica automobile,” he said. “Will they say that you just need seatbelts, doors and four wheels, or will they hold us back? Without any guidelines on body integrity, where do you go with that? You can make the vehicle, but at the end of the day we don’t know what the NHTSA might want to change.” Contarino has written to the regulator in the hopes of finding some clarity, but hasn’t heard back. He claims that, like himself, other potential low-volume producers are just “waiting to see who builds the first car” under the new law. The reborn DeLorean Motor Company could be that company, he added. As for his own company’s production target of late 2018, Contarino claims the timeline hinges on body shell development and a timely go-ahead from the NHTSA.
Based on this report, it appears that nothing had been accomplished. Despite reports that a prototypes would produced in 2016, in 2017 Contarino was not even sure what material would be used to produce a new Checker body? In 2018 Contarino posted “doors have the same shell as a 1972 Chevy pickup with the top frame as part of it. Rear door is from a 1972 Chevy Suburban. Door panels are all from 1972 Chevy pickup.” Based on this report, its not clear that the new Checker would be anything but a replica Chevy!
Its now the fall of 2018, what progress has been made over the last four years? Apparently very little. It also appears that Checker Motors Cars, is in the process of winding down its failed attempt to manufacture a new Checker. When one looks back on the last four years, one has to wonder: was this ever a serious attempt to build a new Checker or just a sad attempt for attention with press releases and fan fare? The best way to determine the lack of success is to look at the accomplishments of Checker Motor Cars. A quick list of accomplishments is impressive for a hobbiest, but not too impressive from a real products manufacturing standpoint.
Checker Motor Cars accomplished the following
- Built a Facebook page
- Built a website
- Paid for someone to paint pretty pictures of new Checkers
- Purchased a large store of New Old Stock Checker parts to be sold on the website for over inflated prices
- Produced new tooling for plastic Checker grille
- Produced a new Checker plastic hood ornament.
- Acquired approximately 40 Checkers in various states of condition and parked them behind the Adamson Industries building. the cars would be dumped with a crusher in 2018
- Based on a recent post on Facebook, Contarino claims that he has restored 15 Checkers. The current inventory appears to be six restored Checkers on the lot.
This past month Hemmings Motor Reported: Steve Contarino, head of Checker Motor Cars in Haverhill, Massachusetts, said he disposed of as many as 40 vintage Checkers last month as part of a renovation of his building on Haverhill’s Research Drive, from which he also runs Adamson Industries, which outfits lighting and emergency equipment on public safety vehicles. “We’re deleting parts cars that are too far gone for restoration,” This report does not ring true. The signage and all evidence of Checkers has been removed form Checker Motor Cars facilities in Haverhill, Mass. Additionally, the Checker parts coordinator, “Donna” has been layoff from the company. Other sources indicate that the remaining NOS Checker parts and two partially restored Aerobus’ are available for sale in a bulk purchase for $30K. Combined with the mass dumping of Checkers, it does not appear that the new Checker will ever be produced. It’s also important to note that about 25% of the dumped fleet represents restorable cars six cars have been sold to Checker collectors as of this publishing date.
Perhaps we will never know the true story of the New Checker, but the ICTA did make an interesting discovery at the 495 Auto Salvage yard in Lawrence, Mass. We found the Checker El Camino prototype. Unfinished, the unit is based on a Checker Marathon for door sedan. An El Camino pickup bed is grafted into the rear section of the Checker. The unit is unfinished and when viewed in person, it’s quite ugly. The proportions look all wrong and the modern 80’s era tailgate, does not mesh well. It’s highly possible, that when moving from the paper to an actual prototype build, the professionals at Checker Motor Cars realized how horrible the end product would look, when the prototype was finished. It appears that they killed they the project before finishing the horrendous UTE prototype.
The ICTA is proud to report, that at the parts saving exercise in Lawrence, we had the honor of personally directing the crushing of the prototype. We hope that the crushing of the vehicle puts an final end to the half ass idea of the New Checker.
For more details of the 2018 Checker Motor Cars update on production please check out this blog