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With the advent of Uber, Lyft and other ride service providers, taxis may soon join cassette tapes and flip phones in the dustbin of history. But only a few short years ago, if you didn’t have a car, mass transit didn’t go where you wanted to, or you weren’t wealthy enough to be chauffeured around in the back of a limousine, you had no choice but to hail a cab to get to your destination. And in the 1960s and 70s, if you asked someone to think of a taxicab, you can bet that it was the image of a Checker that came to mind. Checker Motor Corporation was established in 1922 to manufacture taxicabs for the Checker Taxi Company, and in their heyday in the 1960s, Checkers were so ubiquitous on American roads that the company actually faced antitrust charges. The final, and most famous, version of the Checker Taxicab, the A11, and its consumer oriented sibling the Marathon, sported the same iconic 1950s styling right up until the day they ceased production in 1982.

Checker Motors founder Morris Markin’s route to the taxicab business was accidental. Markin was in the clothing business in Chicago and had made a $15,000 personal loan to the owner of an auto body manufacturer. When the business owner defaulted, Markin took over the company, which made bodies for taxicab manufacturer Commonwealth Motors. Although Commonwealth was not in good financial shape, they did have an order for cabs from the Checker Taxi Company, so Markin engineered a merger of his company with Commonwealth to fill the contract. For the first two years, Checker Motors built complete cabs in Joliet, Illinois, then production was moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. By 1937 Markin owned Checker Taxi, and shortly afterward took control of his Chicago competitors, Parmalee Transportation Company and Yellow Cab, to become the largest cab company in the U.S. Over the next several decades, Markin established Checker Taxi companies in New York and many other American cities.

Right from the start, the durable Checker cabs were a hit with taxi operators. While the design changed periodically through the 1930s and 40s, features were routinely included to please passengers and ease serviceability. The 1939 model, for example, had a retractable rear roof section so passengers could enjoy an open air ride if desired, and while this model’s open-sided fenders weren’t very attractive, fender repair was easier. As a small manufacturer, Checker outsourced many components, especially engines. The first Checkers used Buda 4-cylinders, then the company switched to Lycoming 6 and 8-cylinder engines. From 1939 to the engine’s end of production in 1964, Continental in-line 6-cylinder engines were used exclusively. A 3-speed manual was the only transmission offered until a Borg Warner automatic became available in 1956.

In the late 1950s, Checker decided to enter the passenger car market with consumer versions of their cabs. The Checker Superba was first offered in 1959, and was available in either standard or Custom trim, and in 4-door sedan or five-door wagon. The Marathon, a more luxurious model, was subsequently introduced in 1961 and Superba production ended two years later. Checker advertising emphasized quality, durability, and roominess. Although the styling of the A11 and Marathon didn’t change, the cars evolved mechanically to keep pace with safety and emissions requirements, and over the years shoulder belts, headrests, energy absorbing steering columns, power disc brakes, catalytic converters and other features were added. When the Continental 6 ended production, Checker switched to Chevrolet OHV in-line 6-cylinders, with Chevy small block V8s being optional. In 1970, the GM Turbo Hydramatic 400 3-speed automatic transmission became standard. A few specialized versions of A11s and Marathons were built including the Medicab, launched in 1969 as an ambulance or for transporting passengers in wheelchairs, and the Aerobus, which was a stretched 12-passenger Marathon designed for airport shuttle use. Stretch limousine Marathons were also made.

By the late 1970s, it was apparent that a more modern vehicle than the A11 was needed for Checker to continue manufacturing taxis. When a new vehicle based on a Volkswagen platform proved unsuitable, the decision was made to cease taxi production and the last Checker A11 rolled off the line in July 1982. Along with manufacturing vehicles, Checker had also been a supplier to various OEMs starting in the late 1930s, making bodies for Hudson, Ford, REO, and finally General Motors. The company continued in this business until declaring bankruptcy in 2009. In 2015, Checker Motor Cars, a firm that specializes in restoring and supplying parts for Checkers, but with no connection to the original company, announced that they were planning to build two modern vehicles based on the Checker Marathon, a 12-passenger limousine and an El Camino inspired 2-door pickup.

Today Checkers are collector machines, with a large number of owners and enthusiasts all over the world who belong to clubs, attend annual conventions, and network with one another to exchange information. Of course, considering how rugged they were built it’s no surprise that so many Checkers survive. If you own one or you’re a prospective owner, we have a large selection of maintenance supplies, repair parts, accessories, and appearance products to keep your Checker running well and looking good.

Dress your vehicle up. Keep it running at its peak or unleash its hidden power. Make it look like it just rolled off the show room floor. Take care of it and maintain it. You name it, we've got it. We have gathered everything you need to make your Checker perfect both inside and out. CARiD's job is to meet your every expectation and provide you with quality and durable accessories and parts designed with excellence in mind. Whether you're after luxurious style, brisk performance, or anything in between, our wide assortment covers all the bases.

Checker Accessories Reviews

55 reviews
Look good on my truck. Happy with them. Easy to install.
Posted by Josiah (Shelley, ID) / November 30, 20211992 Ford F-150
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