Live Auctions

Doctor’s Check Up: 1971 Checker

If you like unusual cars with interesting stories, maybe this 1971 Checker is the car for you. It’s for sale on the Central New Jersey here on craigslist and is located in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. According to its seller, this car was purchased new by a doctor in Arizona, and now shows only 23,000 miles on the odometer. In a way, the low mileage claim doesn’t really matter, as these cars were built to be driven hundreds of thousands of miles in daily taxi service. Given how few were made for consumer use, finding a Checker with miles this low has to be nearly impossible.

The seller lists everything that makes this Checker unusual. It was never used as a taxi, has no rust, still has its original paint, has never been in an accident and is claimed to run and drive like new.

By the 1970s, civilian issue Checkers could be had with most of the same creature comforts that the bigger manufacturers offered. Along with its reliable 350 cid Chevy V-8, this Checker comes equipped with an automatic transmission, power steering, and an AM/FM/CD stereo. It’s also got front and rear air conditioning, but that will need repair. I am pretty sure the steering column and steering wheel are also sourced from Chevrolet. That good looking upholstery is said to be custom. It’s not clear if that means it was custom ordered by the original owner or installed at some later date. Does anyone recognize this upholstery as being from the factory or does it just look too new for that to be possible? The seller also states that his Checker is wearing a full set of new radial tires.

Chicago based Checker Corporation was well known in America for many years as a manufacturer of taxis, going back to the 1920s. The company also owned its own taxi service, and manufactured truck bodies for REO at one point in time. In 1958, the company introduced a consumer version of its Superba model and in 1962, the now iconic Marathon model was also offered for consumer sales.

If you are interested in the history of the Checker company and its vehicles, there is a good article about them in Hemmings here and there is a Checker Car Club with a very nice website, which includes a fun online museum. The company got out of the automobile business in 1982 but managed to exist in various forms until 2010.

The Checker for sale here is one of 5163 made in 1971. I can’t tell from the production figures how many of these were made for consumer sales; maybe one of our more knowledgeable readers will know that number. In an article about the survival rate of old Checkers on the club website, Joe Fay projects that only 333 Checkers from the entire period of 1966-1982 still exist!

Many Craigslist sellers get excited about the cars they are selling and pepper their ads with capital letters and exclamation points. If you check out the original Craigslist ad for this car, be prepared. I’m not sure if this kind of typography helps sell cars or not, but it does get across what the seller thinks about his vehicle. And that applies to the price, what seems a steep $11,500! On the other hand, the value guides I consulted all say that this is the value for a Checker of this vintage in good condition, so maybe if the low mileage and strong condition check out, it will find a buyer soon enough. You can certainly imagine this as a fun cruiser for the entire family to ride in comfort and style, especially if you like to be noticed.

Comments

  1. Luki

    A Checker with a factory cloth interior?
    No way not in a million years.

    • Phish

      The Checker was favored by families with handicapped members. you could fit a small wheel chair through the door and mount seat belt straps easily. It was killed by the “fleet mileage” penalties. Cars like Rolls just paid. The Big Three built smaller models that let their taxis continue. But there was only the Marathon and the stretch airport limos. They had to pay thousands on every car. It killed their fleets, and their business.

      But they were great taxis. Seats for five (with the jump seats) and a HUGE trunk. NYC fleet cabs averaged 150K miles a year, and Checkers usually lasted three years.

  2. Rustytech Member

    I believe that the civilian Checkers did come with cloth seats, all the taxi models were vinyl. That said the fit on these does not look OE. This was the best new 1950’s car you could buy in the 1970’s. These were a tank, even with the hard driving they got as taxi’s, I saw them in the shop many times with well over 300k on the clock. I had one customer that bragged about having over a million miles on his, and was still using it every day. If you can get past the looks this would be a perfect driver for you, your children, your grand children, and maybe your great grand children!

    • Joe Fay

      Clearly not factory, Checker stopped producing cloth seats in the early sixties

  3. Dave Wright

    The GMC dealer that sold trucks to my dad for his truck company was also a Checker Dealer. They had a civilian version on the showroom that was really nice, leather interior, full power, everything you could imagine for an early 70’s luxury car. I remember talking to the salesman about it, he said the options list was like a phone book. You could get anything you wanted as they were mostly hand built and assembled. It really looked like Mercedes quality at the time and was very expensive.

  4. Blyndgesser

    That steering wheel is straight out of a ’69 Impala.

  5. David Miraglia

    My parents owned two Checker cabs here in New York city back in the 1980’s.
    They were tanks and roomy. Because we had just lost the Aspen. The First Checker had to also sub as the family car.

  6. Peter

    Checker’s were from Kalamazoo, Michigan, not Chicago. My old eccentric next door neighbor owned two of these and had the hoods painted flat black when new.

    • David Wilk Member

      Peter, you are right, of course – I should have said that Checker was founded in Chicago. Thanks for pointing this out.

    • Joe Fay

      Checker started out in Chicago and owned the Checker Taxi Company and Yellow Cab in Chicago

  7. CapNemo

    I’d own this all day long, if I currently had the means. Imo, it’s worth the price. Nice car!

  8. KeithK

    Another sweet period interior plagued by a modern radio. This is one of my pet peeves. Modern yet vintage looking units are readily available and cost about the same as a full featured millennial boom boom version. Newer single din radios often require enlarging the dash opening or cutting out the knob holes altogether . Oh the horror ! Kinda.

  9. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    This thing is pretty nice. Not that I do not believe the story, but a doctor buying something like this? I do like the checkered striping though. Fitting touch.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      My older brother’s orthodontist drove a black one with no striping. I think his braces paid for half of it. :)

    • Joe Fay

      Checker owners covered a wide range of buyers. Happy Rockefeller was a big fan of Checkers. The Doctor story rings true to Checker fans. The Checker Cab Club is made up of many poor and rich.

    • Chris Boyd

      I own a 1980 Checker which was purchased brand new in Florida by an orthopedic surgeon.

  10. The Walrus

    While it’s well thought out, I’m not buying the link to the number of Checkers left (333 from 62-82 ~500 overall). The decay formula is based on cars in active service. While the projection did make some adjustments, the application of decay rate for ‘normal’ cars compared to ‘Checkers’ misses some important factors. In general, once a vehicle hits 20 years old or so, the decay rate is no longer applicable. In certain cases there is a positive effect (growth) of a given model after 20 years, as those individual cars that were out of service for significant issues (rust, mechanical, wreck, etc) are restored and rejuvenated. However, the niche market for Checkers, which were not really mass marketed, implies ‘specialized enthusiasts’ owned them when new. This and their known durability would probably put the civilian models in a decay rate more akin to a Rolls than a Buick. The commercial examples would have likely had no value when taken out of service. Perhaps there is an undiscovered pile of them somewhere. In any case, they are listed for sale too often for there only to be 300 of them out there.

    • Joe Fay

      After I wrote the survival forcast, we actually built a roster of known Checkers as of April 2016. Here is the roster https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13n0AnYj5CQwHBxhEMikZs8hlZbVSXMJ-3JFSVGCIses/edit#gid=621490929

    • Joe Fay

      According to our blog created after the roster was created we can account for only 19 1971 Checkers http://checkercabclub.org/2016/10/22/checker-cab-club-registry-joe-fay/

    • Joe Fay

      We built the roster as we were challenged by a number of folks. The forecast was very accurate regarding non commercial Checker, but very off on the commercial taxi model. The assumption now is the many Taxicabs were sold to retail consumers

    • Joe Fay

      With respect to the forecasting model, once the roster was completed, based on 30 years of Checker knowledge, forecast accuracy for 1971 was very accurate, the forecast was 20 and actuals are counted at 19

      • The Walrus

        What confidence interval does the 19 represent? In other words, did you find 19 and stop counting? In my experience, registries, registrations, etc. generally account for only a fraction of remaining cars. For instance the official Shelby Registry for 1987 Lancers has about 30 cars listed. I have personally tracked on a spreadsheet each that I have seen for sale over the last 3 years (by dash plaque number). Currently my list is at 117… so, I have a hard time believing you found all that are out there…

      • Joe Fay

        Walrus, I have run any math on the numbers to generate statistical confidence but I can tell you the roster/registry just updated uses CCCofA original roster that dates back to 1985. The forecast model was created seperately and was blind to rosters. Using actual CMC production reports, I broke down each year by taxicab versus retail car sales. So for 1972 we only saw 304 Marathons sedans produced versus approximately 4000 cabs. Survival rates for commercial cabs are rediculouslly low. Most were run till the wheels fell of, then scavenged for recyclable parts. Once the Roster was updated, I then compared to the forecast model. The 1970’s fell in line. I was way off on late 70’s and 80’s. It appears that many dealers were buying cheaper Taxicabs and then loading up with dealer option, selling pigs with lipstick. Two dealers were well known for that practice. In terms of durability, Checker are rust buckets so perceived durability does not impact the forecast. Last point Checker fans represent a small population, even the company was run as a family business, I have met former employees that remember my car being produced in 1956. It’s a very small community’s

      • The Walrus

        As I’ve said before… there was good work done in that model. Practically speaking… I can’t accept it. I’m a good ‘guesser’. I don’t have exact data in this case, but based on what you’ve supplied, what I have observed in the market, and just a gut sense of things, my ‘guess’ is that there are, at a minimum, 3500 Checker Marathons (of various origins, not just private) out there in various states of driveability.

      • The Walrus

        Oh, and if my model is wrong, I suppose my retirement dream of owning a bar/restaurant that offers patrons passage home in a NYC taxi lookalike are doomed ;)

    • Joe Fay

      No problem, you have the right to an opinion. I’ll send you my email address, so you can point me to all these Checker you see for sale. I typically count about 3 a month on Ebay, Craigslist combined. Its been years since any Checker that I see on the market is not a car that I know or is already on the registry. I hope there is 3500 Checker out there…..but I can assure you they are all gone.

  11. Audi Dudi

    I ride by the old Checker plant almost daily–the test track is still there, though the last building was razed last summer. My buddy worked on the line as a college student during the summers in the early ’70s and states “Checkers are known to the workers as the car built by Budweiser” for obvious reasons. The movie “Blue Collar” was filmed at the Kalamazoo Checker plant.

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Sad story Audi, I grew up in Janesville, Wi. Home to a long gone Chevy plant now. I went to school with a ton of guys that got hired there. A coin toss, Bud or PBR. Funny they even ran.

  12. Joe Fay

    Total production from Checker Marathon in 1971 is 304 units. The full report can be found on the Checker Cab Club site https://s3.amazonaws.com/checkercabclub.org/Website+Load+Summer+2016/Checker+Production/Checker+Production+71+Body+%26+Parts+Analysis071.pdf

  13. Ernest M Graham

    Back in the late 60’s, my dad worked for Yellow Cab in Philly. He drove a Checker Marathon “Cabulance” it had a long wheel base, single drivers seat, a stretcher on the passenger side of the vehicle. He would take me with him when he covered football games at Franklin field and JFK stadium. Having trouble finding a picture of one if anyone comes across one please post. Thanks.

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