I think I have come to the checker hobby differently than many of its other aficionados. Most, I assume, remember the iconic taxicab not from one memory but from many years of city living and countless trips taken sitting in the back seat; and few likely from the front seat too. Others may remember the Checker not from its workhorse roots but from its more casual family-sedan offerings marketed as the Marathon.
I on the other hand spent my youth in a small Midwest tourist town with no taxis within miles. Only the typical classics from the Big Three at local car shows were around to capture my inner gear head growing up. My first ride in a cab was when I was twenty and spent a month touring Europe (It was a Honda Odyssey I’m afraid to say). My time in the Checker hobby is only a few months old. After selling a 1964 ½ Mustang coupe project last summer, I have been cruising classic car advertisements looking for something to fill the empty space – In the garage.
That is when I happened upon a Facebook Marketplace post for a brown Checker Marathon with an intriguing history. I feverishly began researching this quirky car that seemed to suit my personality to a tee! We have all since read of the 1979 diesel prototype that was recently acquired by a collector in Michigan. And with that first exposure, Checkerpox took hold of me and a high fever set in.
It was about this time that I met Joe Fay who turned me on to the ICTA.club website and its digital archives. What an amazing collection of information that is available to all who seek it. I have especially been taken in by the Engineering Memos. Its like finding a stack of your parent’s old love letters after they have passed away. These memos contain a treasure trove of information about the relationship between the Checker cars themselves and the designers who cared for them. And the other data available containing pictures, advertising lingo, part number spreadsheets and much more is a fascinating look into the fourth largest domestic automobile manufacturer in North America. To have access to that kind of information is none other than an incredible opportunity for us all!
Pouring over these digitized documents, one will read all sorts of fascinating bits of information. With the first page of the first document, the 1920 Commonwealth Four-Forty Manual, you will learn that these cars are, “An unusual car – marked so by the character of its owners as well as by its built-in-personality.” Examples of this personality available in the archives include EM348, which details the specification as well as the cancellation of the 400 Inch V-8 that would have been destined for the Aerobus. This version would have been choked with all the typical emissions control devices of ‘70, but with a little tinkering, what a monster this power plant could have been. The mind wonders at the possibilities. (A Checker to compete with the GM muscle cars? Wowee!)
Also detailed in many of the Model Year Parts Revisions Memos are notes specifying which chassis number a certain change was incorporated on. So if your Checker straddles a major model year or mid-production change and doesn’t look like it is supposed to, do some digging. You may find that your car is more interesting than you thought! Shop Manuals and other documents listed under various years are a great way to repair and maintain your car to keep it on the road for years to come. Need a starter solenoid to replace your 701365? Have a look at the AC Delco 1114344! Is the reassembly project of your jump seats leaving you with extra pieces? Pull up the Graphic Illustration for Seat Assembly. It will put you on the right track.
Are you the owner of the 1979 A-11E with the original checker border only around the roof? There is only one! Do you have one of the 146 A-12 Models made for 1980? Or one of the 1611 A-11’s made the same year? Of the 39 A12W6 cars made in 1967, 7 didn’t have a clock on the dash and only 2 had manual transmissions!
If number crunching is making your head spin, take a look at the sheet music for the song ‘Call a Checker Cab’. Writing a new chorus to the tune put $100 in someone’s pocket back in 1930. Or get lost in the countless advertisements and brochures available for nearly every year. I found it interesting to compare how Checker sold cars to cab companies vs. the general public.
When you find some fascinating information, be sure to share your experience with the Archives on the ICTA Facebook page too. I have begun to assemble a spreadsheet that details and cross-references Checker powertrain part numbers with supplier data. Also included, will be details on how to verify that your car’s engine is not only correct for the year, but was the engine that was installed in that car at the factory. More to come on that later…
Whether you spend a bit of time while waiting for an appointment to casually peruse, or plunge face first as I have done (and still haven’t come up for air), I urge you to check out the ICTA.club Document Archive section today, it will surely bring hours of enjoyment to your digital devices. And the wealth of knowledge you will gain about your most favorite vehicle may save you from a head-scratching moment years in the future. Happy motoring and if you need me, I’ll be lost somewhere in the 1978 Service manual supplement trying to identify engine stampings.
Editor Note. To hear the Call A Checker Cab song just click on the youtube link below