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The Only One Left? 1949 Checker A3

Most people think of Checker Motors for its iconic and long-lasting Marathon, which was ubiquitous as a taxi cab for decades, but few people know that there were cars before that. In this case, it’s a 1949 Checker A3 and a 1952 parts car for sale here on eBay in Toledo, Ohio. Big thanks to reader T.J. for the tip!

First, a quick history: Checker came about as the brainchild of one Morris Markin in the 1920s, from a merger of two related businesses: Commonwealth Motors and Checker Taxi service. When WWII came, they paused cars to focus on the war effort. Afterwards, it took them a little longer than others to get back to peacetime production, for multiple reasons, one of which being some radical rear-engine design and engineering ideas that didn’t pan out.

https://www.xr793.com/checker-1940-1949

More specific to this car, we look to Checkerworld.org: “In December 1946, the imminent release of the new post-war Checker Model A-2 taxi was announced. Deliveries started in February 1947 with the new taxi costing $2,370. The design of these taxis were based on the prototype Model D chassis and the pre-war Model A body. Roughly 6,000 Model A-2 Checkers were built between 1947 and 1950. The A-3 cousin of the A-2 is released later in 1947. An 8-passenger limousine version of the A-3 comes on the market in August 1948. ” 

Hagerty published this article in 2020 about the last remaining 1939 Checker and interviewed past Checker Club president Jim Garrison and aficionado/researcher Joe Fay. They asserted that there are, to the best of their knowledge, only about two dozen pre-1958 Checkers in existence, one of which being an unspecified ’49 A3 in the midwest United States. Coincidence?

We turn our attention then to the car presented. We can see that it’s far from perfect, but from the looks of it, someone has genuinely tried to bring it back from the dead. The seller tells us that it’s 99.5% complete, the car has had metal and paint work, but there’s more to be done. All glass and rubber have been replaced, and it rolls on Studebaker wheels. We’re told that it started life in Oklahoma City but currently bears paint colors from a specific cab company in NYC

Interior appears to be present, and has had some work, but more attention is needed. We’re told that it needs a headliner and windlace, and the parts car has useful interior bits to help.

Under the hood is a 1963 version of the Continental 225 cubic-inch inline-six, and we’re told that it turns but needs wiring and clutch work to run and drive.

I did some deeper digging on this car, and Checkers in general. I couldn’t find a whole heck of a lot in a short time, but I did find that there are indeed not many Checkers left in existence, so this might actually be the only one left, or at least the only one that anyone knows about. Also, the Joe Fay mentioned above shows up as owner of the allegedly last 1950 A4 known to exist and at one point owned the car you see here, per this page on the Internet Checker Taxicab Archive. I also found this ICTA article by Joe about this car when he found it.

It sounds pretty cool to me, what do YOU think? Do you know of another one somewhere?

Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    Decent write up Russell, honestly probably have seen one in an old movie but not in person. Years ago I worked in the flats of Cleveland and the was a cab company down there. The Checkers lived a rough life and wrecked ones sat out back in a fenced in yard and they were stripped for parts as needed. So quite reasonable to assume not too many were retired in any type of drivable condition.

    Like 5
    • GCS Member

      I was just watching a Kojak last week and saw a Checker cab with Diesel across that trunk. It had me curious and I looked up the history. I saw these listed and a ton of info on different owners, buyers and My eyes glazed over until I found out the deal with the diesels. ( A phillips diesel I think that failed to sell due to no power). The history of Checker in General is so cool. We used one for my sisters rehearsal dinner with 6 of us shoved into one in Phila .PA. in the 80’s. It had a v-6 and was rough. It had the fucly pickup bumpers.
      I love the look of this. I hope it goes to a good home and is finished stock.

  2. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

    I had a pot-metal toy taxi of this model as a little boy. I remember filing the taxi pod of the roof for my first custom.

    Like 8
  3. Todd J. Member

    I think this is part of U.S. automotive and cultural history that should be saved for posterity. (I admit this could make an incredible street rod, though.)

    Like 13
  4. Howard A Member

    Checker usually brings to mind the standard image of a generic taxi, but they had some funky designs, like the A1(?) that preceded this. I never knew this model existed. For the record, I read, this was the 1st Checker to be sold to the public, and this car was never a cab. I read, taxis did not have a trunk, as it was illegal for taxis to have trunks in some areas. It dated back to prohibition days, apparently. This car offered to the public had a trunk, more chrome and a bench seat, that I don’t see. Also, I never heard of a OHV “Red Seal” Continental 6, which, btw, was 226, not 225, in fact, it’s not even listed in the list of motors. As said, taxis led a rough life, and not many survived.

    Like 7
    • Joe Fay

      I am techically the second owner of this car. I purchased from the original owners estate in 2008. Its a A3 which is technically a pleasure car, not a taxicab. The Model A2 Taxicab had a single bench seat and partition. The A3 had a full bench seat and a trunk. That said, this car was painted yellow and green from the factory, and was put into taxicab service in OKC. This car was purchased by Charles Benard and put into service as Yellow-Checker Cab. I was restoring as a cab and installed a partition and bucket seat. The seat was fabricated using wooden templates provided by the Finland Checker taxi boy. A woodworker in Chicago then built the frame. Fun project, but my priorities have changed

      Like 17
    • Lou Rugani

      Also, isn’t the 226 Continental engine an L-head?

      Like 3
    • Jules Rensch

      Agreeing Howard….engine looks to be OHV General Motors as do much of body parts…..if it has 10mm spark pugs it’s probably a Chev Stovebolt 6….later they changed to 14mm plugs…Rochester carb

      • Joe Fay

        Its a Continental 226 OVHD Engine, not a Stovebold Chevy. There is not a single GM part on this car. Checker Cab Manufacturing stamped all their own body panels.

        Like 2
      • Rick

        The Chevrolet engine’s valve cover was held in place with two studs and nuts protruding through the top.

        The engine in this car has bolts running through the gasket flange.

        Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Howard,

      In 1972 I found a 1948 Packard Taxicab, back when even the most informed Packard Club experts thought the last Packard cab was in 1947 [there are only 3 1948 Packard Taxicabs known to exist today*]. I did a lot of fascinating research into not just Packard cabs, but the industry in general.

      The New York Taxi and Limo Commission published a long and very detailed list of special requirements to operate a Taxicab in NYC thru the 1950s. One of the requirements was that any enclosed trunk are could not be used to store passenger luggage, so all the NYC cabs have a folding trunk rack in the back. Taxicabs with the spare tire inside the trunk had a special inside metal cover making it impossible to house anything other than the spare tire and jack/tools.

      The 1949 photo above shows a 1948 Packard LWB Taxicab in NYC, and the 2 orange cars in the background are DeSoto taxicabs. You can see the trunk rack on the Packard, along with the license plate location high up on the trunk lid instead of just above the bumper. It’s my favorite NYC Taxicab photo.

      I was very lucky to find a guy who ran an antique shop in my small hometown of Kensington, MD. His name was Bob King, and his shop was called “King’s Things”. Until 1956 Bob and his father ran the export and commercial vehicle division of Packard Motor Car Co, known as Packard Federal.

      In addition to long “Packard talks” at his home, Bob gave me all the Packard related paperwork he still had, and that little hoard contained a lengthy pamphlet put out by NYC listing all the special requirements for NYC cabs. Bob said that while it was possible to order a NYC spec taxi for use in other cities, he didn’t remember any being sold outside NYC, & I have never seen any photos or cars.

      * Sadly my Packard Taxicab was destroyed in a massive fire when lightning struck my restoration shop in 1995.

      Like 8
      • Mountainwoodie

        HoA is The Man!

        On a barely related topic there was a family in the town I grew up in that only drove Checker Marathon Wagons. This was back when Marathons ruled NYC. As a kid with a 1950 Packard I thought that was strange. Of course I was a little strange. :)

      • Arfeeto

        The’47/’48 Buick sedan next to the Packard isn’t too shabby either.

        Like 1
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      Welcome back Howard.

      Like 2
      • stillrunners stillrunners Member

        Didn’t miss……..

        Like 3
  5. Big_Fun Member

    Looking at that Continental engine, is that referred to as a ‘flow through’ design, with the intake on one side and the exhaust on the other? I remember a talking to a gentleman 25 years ago, very knowledgeable about his collection of antique tractors, and he brought up this design. This design seems more logical than the up/down design.
    Doesn’t the back seat bottom cushion seem low? Just like sitting in the third row of a 1st gen Tahoe.

    Like 2
    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Every Saab, BMW, etc I’ve owned has had the intake on one side and the exhaust ports on the other. Jaguar as well and I’d bet lots of others. I know the slant 6 and Jeep 6’s have them on the same side as well as Japanese inline 6’s

      Like 1
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      The American “flow through” design was known as “cross flow” in UK.

      Like 2
  6. Will Fox

    This is not only extremely rare, but cosmetically body-wise in great shape! This needs to fall into than hands of a Checker club enthusiast that is a historian for this generation Checker. It needs to be properly restored.
    Now that I see the dash for the first time, overall I see alot of `46-`48 Chevy in the design. Not a shock, but more in line with other designs of the period. A valuable piece of History that needs to be displayed when finished.

    Like 12
  7. Emel

    Checker cabs were the standard. Huge inside, with jump seats for even more passengers. Fortunately I did get the pleasure and memory of riding in several Checker cabs as a kid. In both Atlantic City & some eastern cities.

    Like 6
  8. Emel

    To bad uber drivers don’t have access to these. I ordered an upgrade suv and still have a lot of difficulty getting in & out of the back seat. Think it was a Honda Passport or something like that. Can’t imagine getting into the smaller cars that most of them have. Most cars will not fit me, head room wise
    or body wise. As far as sedans only Cadillacs will, Escalades are the best
    room wise.

    Like 2
    • Stu Neilson

      As an Uber driver and an old car buff, I can appreciate your concern. We drivers provide cars that are affordable to us. Uber knows what we are driving.
      It’s their choice to assign us to carry a passenger who requires any special needs aka larger seat, pet, blind, deaf etc. I have never in 7 years received and special instructions from Uber. I have received special instructions from the client, thru the app, regarding special needs. I try to accommodate.
      When using Uber or other venues. Communicate your needs to the driver. He can indicate that he cannot accomodate and cancel. Allowing you to move on to the next available driver.

  9. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    My father had 2 Checker Marathons. A ’67 that my mother totalled flipping it on its roof (didn’t know you could do that in a Checker) and a ’70 which actually had factory a/c.
    I am no aficionado to Checkers by a long shot, but I was always under the notion that Checkers started in the mid 50s, so seeing this ’40s Checker is a pleasant surprise. Guess I have to do more studying on the background.
    You know, as far as the ’70 Checker we had, I have no idea what happened to that. It was that way for a lot of cars in my family.

    Like 11
  10. Mike

    Mind blowing how there are so few left. 250k built and less than 1000 still running.

    Like 5
  11. Joseph A. Fay

    Joe Fay here, yup its mine. I do own a 1950 Checker A3 and a 1957 Checker A8. Now that my name is on it, I am selling cuz I just found a super 1961 Dodge Polara CHP Squad Car, that has been on my bucket list. I just sold my Dekalb REA van and put the two Checkers up on Ebay to fund the Dodge project.

    Like 4
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Thanks for chiming in with info Mr.Fay……..

      Like 2
  12. Rick

    If designers from Chrysler, GM, Nash and Packard had gotten together and created one vehicle with something from all four mindsets, the end result would probably look a lot like this Checker.

    Like 3
  13. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking car. Assuming parts are available, I can imagine this being a good resto project. It could either be used as a taxi, or other use.

    Like 3
    • Joe Fay

      Parts available, its the only one in the world! Why would you rod a rare car. It would be like putting a Bee Hive haircut on the Mona Lisa

      Like 13
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        Exactly! Why would anyone want to do that?

        Like 8
  14. Lee

    Would make a great party wagon!

    Like 2
  15. cyclemikey

    It really says something about the culture of our times when both of these statements appear in the same feature:

    “…this might actually be the only one left, or at least the only one that anyone knows about”

    “…this could make an incredible street rod”

    Like 13
  16. Ted Walther

    Joe Fay nice write up about your other one.

    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/2016/03/30/worlds-only-running-and-restored-checker-a-4-to-debut-at-checker-cab-convention

    Yes if I had this I would restore it as a 1949 NYC Taxi.

    Like 4
    • Joe Fay

      Thanks, its a keeper. Also keeping my Checker A8 too

  17. Gary

    Tail lights look chevy may be 1941

    Like 1
    • Joe Fay

      Kaiser Frazer tailights

      Like 4
    • Jules Rensch

      many items were purchased as GM ready mades by Checker…window regulators , winders, door latches made for GM by Dura of Toledo “Detroit Harvester” for the GM brands…after 1965, Chevrolet engines (inline 6’s & small block V-8’s) were used in Checkers…not sure about window glass, I’ll ck with Libby Owens Ford Glass Co. here in Toledo…

      Like 2
    • Jimmy Novak

      The tail and parking lamps are also ’46-’48 Kaiser Frazer.
      Mechanical parts shouldn’t be a problem as they were also proprietary with contemporary cars.

      Like 3
      • Jules Rensch

        nice detective work Jimmy….Spicer and Dana Corporations in Toledo were heavy hitters that supplied many major components for these similar low production vehicles after WW2

  18. charlie Member

    My father took me to New York City when I was 10, in 1951, and I thought I knew my cars. I could tell a ’46 Chevy from a ’47, a ’49 from a ’50, (very little difference in each pair) and a ’34 Ford from each year thereafter, including a Deluxe which was basically the previous year’s Standard, trim wise, or, paint wise (the ’40) vs. chrome.

    And, on the streets were these Checkers, like the one above, and I could not figure out what it was. It looked like GM, but, not really. It took a few years for me to figure it out that it was an independant make that basically just made taxis, and of the big cities I had been in, being Boston, Hartford, Providence, and the smaller cities in NH and Mass, there were none, since the rules were looser than New York City’s, and they used Plymouths (and Dodges), Fords, and Chevies. My father knew how intriguied I was with cars, and we hailed one to ride in, complete with jump seats. My father explained, at the time, that they would go over 100,000 miles (rare in the early 50’s) because they were rarely turned off, just to check the oil, then restarted when hot so that the cylinders, etc., never had the wear that non-lubricated parts did upon a cold start. The drivers did 12 hour shifts, so the taxi was never idle. And, as I observed, they peed in a bottle and dumped it on the street, or, just opened the driver’s door and unbuttoned (or unzipped) and let it loose onto the street. In Europe, in the early ’60’s, where there were pissoirs on the sidewalks, the drivers exited the taxi and went there.

    Like 2
  19. Ronny Reuter

    As a kid in the late 40’s and early to mid 50’s I remember these cabs in NYC. They were usually Green and had a pale yellow tops. There were Packard Clipper cabs too and they were usually dark brown and tan. GMC made most of the buses, with a few older ACFs still being used in the early 50’s. Mack made buses in the late 50’s as well. The yellow taxis were usually deSoto suburbans with the extra fold down seats between the front seat and the rear seat. Those jump seats made it possible to hold 5 passengers in the back, and 2 in the front with the driver. Those were the days.

    Like 1

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