The “Chagster”! 1982 Checker Marathon

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Getting picked up in this 1982 Checker Marathon taxi and telling the driver to “Step on it” could render a unique car hire service experience. At first blush, it’s obvious that it’s hardly in what would be considered an original taxicab format but there’s no mistaking the Chicago cab livery of green, beige, and a “checker” stripe. You gotta appreciate a sense of adventure…T.J. found the listing for this unusual mash-up, it’s located in Yorktown Heights, New York and is available, here on eBay for $9,100 with the reserve not yet met.

I have a fun hot rod taxicab story to share. About 30 years ago my wife and I were in Chicago and had to catch an early flight from O’Hare but we had plenty of time and there was really no rush. The hotel doorman flagged us a cab, it was an ’80s vintage 9C1 Impala that was on its second life after knocking out probably 100K miles with the Illinois State Police. Anyway, the driver was Asian and spoke little to no English and I guess he interpreted something that I said as “We have to hustle, step on it”, or words to that effect. The next thing I know, we’re on I-90, heading west, and the Chevy’s “Police Certified” 125 MPH speedometer was hovering around the 115 mark. It was early on a Saturday, so there was little to no traffic, and I don’t think that old B-body had any rear shocks as we were catapulting around in the backseat like we were in a bounce house at a kid’s birthday party. It was a hair-raiser, to say the least! We got out of the car, a bit discombobulated, and I paid him and suggested that if the taxi thing didn’t work out, he should consider heading south to Charlotte and see if any NASCAR teams were hiring. He just smiled, nodded, and drove off.

Back to this Checker, being a 1982 model means that it’s the end of the run as that was the last year for Marathon production. The original engine was likely a wheezy 115 net HP, 267 CI V8 but that’s hardly an issue now. This beast is running a blown 383CI  “stroker” small block. As for engine internals, there’s no mention but the twin four-barrel carburetors feeding the supercharger make enough of a visual statement that additional details probably aren’t necessary. The seller says nothing of this car’s operating prowess but does suggest, “Whether you’re a seasoned racer or just looking for a fun ride, this car is sure to deliver, and fast“. A Turbo-Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission provides the connection for the rear wheel hook-up. Here’s a video of this cab pulling into the taxi waiting line… (not really).

Outside, this sedan looks just like a taxicab – if, you can ignore the pro-street tucked-in slicks, the wheelie bars, the parachute, and, oh yeah, the blower sticking up through the hood, but other than that…Yes, it’s in fine nick and presents well. This thumper is still wearing its five MPH bumpers!

Inside doesn’t look too much like any Checker cab that I ever rode in or that ex-cop Chevy that got me to the airport in warp speed. Nope, it looks like a dragster with its racing seat, trans brake lever, rollbar, rocker switch box, and fire extinguisher. There’s no back seat image and I have to imagine that’s because there isn’t one – no taxi meter either.

Yeah, it’s cool but what are you going to do with this four-door flyer? The seller suggests, “This Checker Taxi Dragster is the perfect vehicle for anyone looking to make a statement on the track or on the street“. Another thought is Uber, can you imagine the look on a rider’s face when you pull up in this rig?

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  1. 370zpp 370zppMember

    love it.

    Like 7
  2. Moparman MoparmanMember

    But, but, there’s no meter inside of it, and t doesn’t look too comfortable for passengers!! LOL!! :-) !

    Like 1
  3. Big Al

    I need to get to the airport in 20 minutes !!!

    No problem …. Hang on !!! 😂😂😂

    Like 8
  4. Maggy

    An asian guy driving fast?…cmon man. Sounds like a little malarkey. Lol. Yup you’d definetly make a statement at the track.I don’t think uber would let you use it…maybe?

    Like 4
  5. Big Bear 🇺🇸

    I would put a back seat with racing seat belts. Then charge admission for a ride of their life. Also get a hack meter for fun. I would love to pull up to the Taxi stand at JFK airport just to get a reaction from the other drivers and people getting into cabs! 😂

    Like 11
  6. John EderMember

    While many of us likely have “scary taxi stories”, for me it was in the back of a Toyota Corolla taxi while stationed in NE Thailand in the USAF. The road into town was two lane, heavily used by big trucks. My friend said to the driver “bi lao”, meaning “go fast”. The driver floored it (blinding acceleration) and pulled out into the opposing lane. As we were passing a long line of cars, a heavily loaded oncoming Isuzu log truck was getting closer and closer. I was thinking, “This isn’t how I imagined dying in service to my country…😉”. At the absolute last second, the truck moved on to the shoulder just enough to avoid hitting us and we cut back into our lane. The driver was laughing the entire time, probably because he was watching our faces in his rear view mirror. It was the closest that I have come to winding up as a hood ornament…

    Like 8
  7. TheOldRanger

    I wouldn’t want this car, but I did have a friend who was an auto nut, and he owned a Checker Marathon… he used it for his fishing trips. I couldn’t believe how much room that thing had.

    Like 2
    • Rw

      I would pay 5 bucks to go from one stop light to the next

      Like 1
  8. macvaugh

    Looks like you guys added the model “Marathon” to the eBay description. I recall that “Marathon” was the name for the cars that were *not* taxicabs. Wiki agrees with me:The Checker Marathon is an automobile produced by the Checker Motors Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan, between 1961 and 1982. It was marketed as a passenger car for consumers, as opposed to the similar Taxi, which was aimed at fleet buyers.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      I think you are being selective in the text that you boosted from Wikipedia – not always an accurate source. Read further on and you’ll find:

      “The size of the car (seating many passengers), the robust construction, the lack of yearly changes to the styling (Especially the 1958 and later models, simplifying parts management), and the bolt-on rear quarter panels all contributed to the Marathon’s ubiquity on the streets of Manhattan”.

      Further in, it states, “The last New York City Checker cab retired in 1999, operated by Earl Johnson from 1978 onwards. The Marathon covered over 750,000 miles and had three engine replacements over the years”.

      Additionally, “Apart from taxicab use, Marathons were also bought by police departments, most notably in Kalamazoo, where Checker had its factory”.

      The Wiki account cuts both ways.


      Like 1

    Rode in many in Chicago back in the day … the rear had twice as much legroom as any other sedan back then … as far as a cabbie story, I was working with Bell Labs, heading back to Chicago from Piscataway, dropped off my rental in Newark and caught a cab to La Guardia … Chicago cabbies have nothing on New York cabbies … this guy rarely used the brakes, just sped up and would change lanes with about two inches to spare between him and the car he cut off … that was the year a plane in Chicago dropped its engine on take-off and the flight was delayed many hours while they cleaned up O’Hare …

    Like 1
  10. Mel Hilgenberg

    i want it !

    Like 0
  11. Dave

    Arrive at your destination in record time, as long as it’s 1/4 mile away!

    Like 0

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