Live Auctions

1 Of 45: 1972 Checker Marathon 50th Anniversary

Nearly every automobile enthusiast recognizes the shape of a Checker Marathon. They’re usually yellow with a checkerboard stripe down the side, but this one could likely be the rarest among the rare. It’s a 1972 model, one of only a handful, and it’s available here on eBay.

I could go on for pages and pages about Checker, its humble roots in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1922, it’s ceasing of car production in 1982, or details about the Marathon and Taxi and Aerobus and Medicar…..oops, there I go again. Long story short is that the Checker Marathons and taxis were produced in comparatively very small numbers throughout the 20-year run. In the case of this car, 1972 saw a total of about 5600 units built – that’s all models together, for the whole year. They all used GM underpinnings and drivetrain components under their universally-recognizable bodies. Checkers truly were an American icon, on-par with the ’57 Chevy, baseball, apple pie, and Old Glory.

This particular car is motivated by a Chevrolet straight-six and automatic transmission and allegedly has only traveled a few thousand miles under its own power. I did not find details elsewhere about an “Anniversary” edition Marathon, or independent confirmation of the seller’s claim that it’s one of 45 cars with the special roof and quarter-window treatment. The seller says that they have proof from Checker directly, but without seeing it in person, I can’t say for sure. Who was it that said “Trust, but verify”? Regardless, though, this piece of all-American steel is quite a sight and, if truly an Anniversary car and 1 of 45, could fetch a handsome sum. For what it’s worth, I found what looks to be the same car sold at Mecum’s Chicago auction in October of last year, and I found it listed a few other places around the web.

If anyone wants to learn more about Checker, I found their website where they sell some cars and parts and such. I also found a registry here of surviving taxis, and Paul Niedermeyer over at The Truth About Cars mentions these posts on that site: An Illustrated History of Checker MotorsVintage Checker Ads; and Tomorrow’s Checker? If that wasn’t enough for you, Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky wrote this piece in 2017 about the possibility of low-volume new production starting up. I know of two Checkers that are for sale “for the right price” near me…which means I probably won’t be making room in my garage anytime soon. There is an old wisdom which states that if one is going to get a collector car, one should buy the nicest example that one can afford. That being said: If you had the money, would you add this one to your vehicle collection? It is pretty nice…

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    (whistles) Fanciest Checker I’ve ever seen. Not so generic now, eh? Travis Bickle would be impressed.

    Like 13
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great write up Russell! This is a beut! Good catch with Travis Bickle Howard, at first glance for some reason I read it as Dick Trickle. I did not get the connection untill I read it again. Gonna get another cup of Joe. Happy St. Patricks day to all, Mike.

    Like 10
    • Russell Glantz Staff

      Thanks!

      Like 4
  3. Will Fox

    To all but a Checker freak, it’s a gold taxi with a vinyl roof/landau bar treatment. Few would bother to find out it was a 50th anniversary model. This one is probably as prestine as they come, and looks great. Finding this is as uncommon as finding the rare 1940 “Sunshine” model used in the CA markets.

    Like 7
    • Tim Rusling

      It’s rare, all right and very sweet. Worth a whole bunch to the right buyer. My ’79 that I had for 24 years is now starting its new life in France. taxifun.fr

      Like 3
      • Oingo

        Anniversary or not Checker it’s a six-cylinder.

      • Mountainwoodie

        Thats a great web site. Merci!

        As a little kid living in New York City I always loved it when my mom caught a cab and it was a Checker. Loved pulling out the jump seats ..with my mother saying STOP!. lol

        Later on I had a friend whose family only drove Checkers including a wagon. As I have said before , they kind of stuck out in a Buick/Ford wagon world. but good for them.

        This version tuurns the everyman sense of a Checker on its head.

        Like 4
  4. norm bissonnette

    I drove for a courier company back in the 70’s-80’s and we had two ( a short and a long wheelbase ) . The short was a blast to drive with an eight …

    Like 7
  5. John M.

    I’ve built plastic model cars in my youth and I wished that the companies that made them such as AMT, MPC and Johan would have produced a Checker model kit. It would have been a blast to built one.

    Like 7
    • norm bissonnette

      lots of diecast versions in many scales .Franklin Mint had a 1/24 version sometime back that is very nice .

      Like 6
      • John M.

        Never knew that. I’ll look into them. Thank you.

        Like 2
  6. JimmyinTEXAS

    As much as I want to want this the utter hatred of vinyl roofs makes this a non-player. I think with the quarter windows removed it would look sillier without the vinyl. Moto-Exotica always has the price set as if theirs is the best in the world. Ask for everything and accept something less. Good business I guess. Nice car except for the roof. lol

    Like 4
    • dweezilaz

      Another instance of a vinyl roof effing up the looks of a car. The standard Checker is much more purposeful looking, which is it’s reason for being.

    • Chunk

      They yanked the listing when bidding stalled at $9300. :)

  7. redwagon

    I would hold out for a Checker wagon. They exist. They are hipster cool. Might drive it for a few years and then flip it or keep it.

    Like 4
  8. Suttree

    I had one painted mint green from the factory.
    It was a six banger too. The Chevy 400 turbo transmission, truck brakes and Dana rear end were a great match for the hot rod 383 I installed.
    Lots of power and it drove great.

    Like 5
  9. whmracer99

    Proof positive that rare, low miles, and excellent condition doesn’t necessarily equal valuable. Of all the available vehicles, this makes you wonder why someone would purchase this particular car and hide it away. BTW — interesting looking overspray and/or undercoating in the engine compartment and no undercarriage pics would make me wonder about it’s overall lower body and chassis condition. Is it another “if it’s too good to be true……..”.

    Like 4
  10. M.Balmer Member

    Hey fellow Barn Finders,I’m thinking about bidding on this one. My question to you all is there a national inspection service that can go to the dealer and do an inspection for me since I don’t live near there? I thought I’d tap into the collective wisdom and experience of you guys to help me out. Thanks.

    Like 3
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      I think being a member gives us access to inspectors. I would use the contact info below and ask what is available. Best of luck on the Checker! Mike.

      Like 3
      • M.Balmer Member

        Thanks for the tip, leiniedude.I just did what you said. I owe you a beer or three!😜👍

        Like 5
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Always happy to have a beer or three with another motorhead M.Balmer. Keep us posted on your Checker chase. I hope you snag it. It is pretty cool! Take care, Mike.

        Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      M.Balmer,

      Check out a recent copy of Hemmings Motor News, they have a section on appraisers, you should have no problem finding one there who can do the job. And remember to choose one that does a full mechanical and visual inspection, not just a value appraisal.

      Like 1
      • M.Balmer Member

        Thanks Bill,I will do that!👍

  11. Mitch Ross Member

    Beautiful car and so far, super cheap. I had a 1970 Marathon wagon in 1984. Foolishly sold it when the fuel pump went and I was too stupid to know what the problem was and the mechanic conned me into thinking the motor was shot and bought it from me for $200. If I wasn’t up to my eyeballs in progect cars, I would throw a $6000 bid on this one.

    Like 2
    • M.Balmer Member

      Sorry to hear that you got screwed on that deal, but I believe in Karma and you may not get to witness it, but it will come back to bite him when he least expects it to 😉

      Like 3
  12. Joe Fay

    We’re aware of 3 Anniversary survivors. Here’s more info on the 50th anniversary model http://www.icta.club/1972-checkers-golden-anniversay/

    Like 2
  13. CCFisher

    45 copies of a 50th anniversary edition? OCD ALERT! OCD ALERT!

    Like 2
  14. That Guy

    Asking price on Motoexotica’s website is $22,500.

    Like 1
    • Tim Rusling

      Rare Checkers in great shape have sold for a lot more than that. These aren’t mass market cars and their survival rate is very low. They were hand-built and can be seen on the production line with body parts being pulled off the presses in the now-gone Kalamazoo factory on North Pitcher St. in the movie Blue Collar with Richard Pryor.

      Like 3
  15. dweezilaz

    The Checker is my spirit vehicle [with 6 of course].

    This one is wayyy too fancy, but look at that flat front floor, unencumbered by a gigantic plastic log, styling that didn’t follow fads or fashion [which makes that vinyl top and landau bars absurd ] and stout simplicity with bolt on fenders on all four corners.

    I hope this one finds a good home. Even with the vinyl top it’s a nice historical Checker milestone.

    Like 1
  16. STEPHEN SKELLCHOCK

    I drove many a mile as a cab driver in checker marathons. If you hate the old fashioned looks and technology consider the fact both you and I will be long dead and checkers will still be running around
    Truly the best car ever built.

    Like 2
  17. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    In 1968 my father purchased a used 1967 Checker Marathon from a private owner. It was army green with a mint green interior. I hated that car! It was square and ugly. My aunt next door had a beautiful 1968 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.
    I’m not sure what engine it had in it but I’m thinking it was a V8. Power steering, no power brakes, no power windows, locks ,seats or any real creature comforts. BUT, it did have, from the factory, a three speed on the floor!!! Still, I hated that car.
    In 1969 my mother completely demolished the Checker in the winter snow by hitting the mountain and rolling it several times. I used to have pictures of it, but there was not one body panel on that car that did not have a dent in it. It landed on it’s roof and my Mom crawled out the rear window.
    She replaced it with a 1962 Buick Invicta convertible. There’s a car I loved. So much so that I purchased a 1962 Buick Electra 225 convertible.
    So, in 1970, my father took me and my mother to the one and only Checker dealer in New Jersey and ordered a brand new Checker Marathon. V8 Chevy engine, ps,pb, auto, am/fm radio and a/c. I wanted it in black, so it would look like a limosine. My mother wanted a blue interior. That was a much nicer car than the first one. But I still hated it. Big, boxy with no flair.
    Of course, now a days I wish I had one. Those cars were TANKS! Except for rolling down a mountain, there was no way to destroy those cars. Body on frame tanks.
    I’m 65 now. Mom is gone and Dad is 97. I’m going to get one eventually to relive my youth.

    Like 2
  18. Neil

    And gone @ $9300.00. I think someone got a very sweet deal. I was looking to bid. In H.S. a gal I went out with Dad bought his first NEW car. It was a ’69 Checker. It was the V-8, brown w/ tan leather seating. She was embarrassed to be seen with, or near the thing. I had a ’66 GTO at the time and I went to pick her up one Friday night and I was gushing to her Dad how much I loved it. He said. ” go ahead, take her out tonight”. The gal was pissed, but when I pulled into the local drive-in, all my motor head buddies were freaking over the thing. The gal lightened up a bit after that. The car drove like a dream, and ton’s of room in the back !

    Like 2
    • Steve

      Indeed. See my post below. A teenager showing up in one, especially being driven by a parent for a drop-off or pick-up, was the height of embarassment in late 1970s Kalamazoo. “Love your disco outfit, Muffy. Why do your parents drive a fancy taxi cab?”

  19. Steve

    I grew up in Kalamazoo, and, as a teenager, parked cars for Checker CEO David Markham a time or three when he threw summer parties. He let us take his MGB TD down the street to the liquor store when they ran low on booze. He was big into cars, and kept two identical contemporary Porshe (Turbos?), one black and one red, in his garage. He had his own personal mechanic, who’s job it was to make sure every car he owned was running perfectly and was detailed immaculately. As far as the Marathon goes, in civilian dress, they were a novelty buy for the monied-set in and around Kalamazoo. I always equated someone driving around in one with a sort of inside-jokey-ostentationess.

    Like 2
    • Tim Rusling

      David Markin.

  20. JimmyinTEXAS

    “…kept two identical contemporary Porshe (Turbos?), one black and one red…”
    I hate to be THAT guy, not so much I won’t say it anyway… Identical, really?
    Good natured fun, right? lol

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