It’s A Diesel? 1969 Checker Marathon A12


I’ll be honest, even as a Checker fan, I didn’t know they were ever offered with a Perkins diesel! And then–guess what–it’s been on Barn Finds here already with a terrific write up from Scotty G! This nice looking Marathon sedan dates from 1969, has only 32,576 miles and is listed here on eBay with bidding starting at $1.00! It’s located in Murphy, North Carolina, and I decided it was worth you folks taking another look, especially since it’s listed for less than it was the first time.


As it turns out, the diesel Marathon was a terrible failure. Only offered for 1969, the Perkins 88 horsepower and 210 ft-lbs of torque weren’t enough to move the massive Marathon with enough oomph to deal with traffic. With a 0-60 time of 23 seconds and a quarter mile time of 23.5 seconds (I’d love to have been there for testing!) the 236 cubic inch diesel four cylinder just couldn’t overcome the over 4,200 pounds the Checker carried.


It doesn’t matter as much now, and it’s quite possible that this is one of the nicest, if not the nicest 1969 diesel Checker (there were some others made towards the end of Marathon production with GM diesels) around! The seller tells us there are a few rust spots and that they paid $10,000 for the car. Apparently they expect to get less for the car in the auction, as they mention taking a loss. Perhaps there will be a bargain here?


Although there are a few tears in the seats, as a whole this interior looks like the mileage claim may be true. It’s rare to see a Checker in this nice condition on the inside. I’m surprised there isn’t more wear on the carpet under the gas pedal considering the limited acceleration available!


Here’s that Perkins diesel. Gee, it doesn’t look that weak of an engine, does it? I’ll bet it will at least last a long time, and with that low mileage, it’s barely broken in! Since I live in North Carolina and have been a Checker fan for a long time, I’ll be watching this one closely. Will you? Maybe it will be better luck for the seller this time around?


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  1. 68 custom

    pull that dog out and install a duramax!
    nice Cheaker BTW.

  2. Righteous Bob

    Hey, how about a Turbo??

  3. Tony Lice Pigg

    I had a 63 109 Land Rover ( a real jungle bus not those over priced pimpmobiles yuppies drive) which turned the 1/4 mile in 23.56 at Dover and the crowd wanted to kill me for taking so long. Wish I had a match race with this Checker as it would have been a neck and neck photo finish. The Hudson Hornet I ran against creamed me.

    • Chris In Australia

      But did you break out of your dial in time?

  4. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    My Dad’s boat had twin Perkins Diesels, but they were sixes.

    Perkins made a quality engine but parts were from the U.K. And tended to be overpriced, but a good parts store could match them.

    Put a turbo on this, and I’m pretty sure this was available as an option at least in the boats, and it might cure some of the power issues, obviously not all.

    Like the color combo, different and unique.

    • Dave Wright

      Parts availability is quite good……in a last resort go the Massy Ferguson dealer, Perkins were also used in there diesel tractor. Most problems with Perkins are caused by poor maintenance. I still run many in boats, some with over 20,000 hrs. IHC and Jeep also used them.

      • Alan Brase

        20,000 hours? wow. I see some in sailboats for sale. Is that what you do, Dave? Marine power?

      • Dave Wright

        I own a marine salvage company and am opening a new industrial/auto body and paint shop. Have done Marine salvage for nearly 30 years. I also buy and sell equipment…..sort of an addiction, And have a small ranch in Idaho. We work all over the west coast from Mexico to Alaska.

  5. Alan Brase

    The Duramax is a little overkill. Maybe 4BT cummins. Maybe just put a turbo on it, I bet Perkins already did turbo that engine in some applications. Might get up near 150hp. with that hp it would be incredible road car. Probably 30mpg.

  6. geomechs geomechs Member

    That doesn’t look like a 236 to me; it looks more like a 203, the same motor that powered many forklifts. It uses an indirect injection combustion chamber versus the open/direct design of the 236. I see the injection pump is a Lucas/CAV DPA(H) type which has a hydraulic governor, much the same as used in a typical forklift. Nothing wrong with it except that if you pulled up near a stack of pallets, it might try to hook onto one and lift it up. Not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. I still like the car….

  7. MSG Bob

    Up to 4 grand now…

  8. Fred W.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the performance as it could stay right with a non turbo Mercedes 240 or 300D. If you must keep up with traffic put a turbo on that sucker. Non taxi Checkers are a rare beast.

  9. juan

    These engines sucks, here in Argentina put them on most of pick up trucks, they were waaaay underpowered, slow, shacky and noisy, they burn a liter of oil every 600 miles, put a turbo on it and don´t expect a great difference; I drove at least 3 F 100s with these engines (a 1980, 1983 an a 1992) I hated every single one, fortunately nowadays is really hard to find one.
    I don´t know what the pepole in Checker´s were thinking when they got the idea, in the US customers really expect way much more power/comfort even in an utilitarian/beater car like it was.

  10. Bill McCoskey

    Perkins was trying to make inroads to the USA market back in the 1960s, and several auto companies experimented with the Perkins 4-cyl diesel. Studebaker tested a fleet of larks equipped with Perkins 4 cylinder engines. A friend of mine, Torrey Kirby, bought a 2-door Lark Diesel at a local used car lot in W. VA about 45 years ago. At first he thought someone had done a conversion, but he checked with the factory in South Bend, and found out it was indeed a test car. I drove it a couple of times. Even with the fairly light Lark body, the car was terribly slow.

    Torrey said they were all assigned a six-cylinder body number. Torrey thinks there were six two-door sedans built, 10 station wagons and an unknown number of taxis. They were all assigned six-cylinder numbers. His is the only Studebaker-Perkins known to survive. I believe it’s now in the Studebaker-Packard museum in South Bend.

    I’m attaching a photo of the engine in Torrey’s Lark

  11. Dave Wright

    I would think a little diesel would be ideal for a city taxi cab but probably not versitle enough for most people. Economical and when geared properly would be as fast as anything on the street in reality. It would need low gears so would not make a good road car, or if it was high geared for the road, it would be terrible to get moving. Industrial diesels like these have very short power bands so need to be most efficient within maby 1200 to 1800 RPM so gearing is critical.

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