I was all the way down near the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint when I noticed these 2 beauties gleaming in the sun:
2 Checker Marathons done up in full taxi regalia!
These are obviously advertisements/gimmicks for the hotel that they're parked in front of, but whatever the reason happens to be for their existence in 2014 they warrant a closer look.
Anybody of a certain age remembers these tanks as the ubiquitous taxicab of NYC. From 1961 to 1982 they soldiered on in uniformity. The only changes on the exterior for those 21 years were those required to comply with safety regulations. For this reason identifying the exact vintage is almost impossible.
To say these massive boxy beasts were hardy is an understatement; the last Checker operating as an NYC taxi finally carried it's last fare in 1999 at the ripe old age of 17! That's 500 in taxi years.
Big, roomy, and reliable were the traits that kept them on the road for so long. Since they almost never changed you could easily fix one after any mishap or breakdown. Look at that bumper though; usually it was the other guy that needed fixing.
Here is the proud Checker Motors Corporation logo held aloft on chrome wings. The company was based in Kalamazoo (home of Derek Jeter), and sold almost every one of their cars direct from the factory. There were no dealerships in the CMC name, and most of their vehicles were ordered by the fleet.
The overwhelming majority of Checkers were 4 doors in taxi trim, but there were other variants over the years. A 4 door station wagon was offered, but by far the coolest (and rarest) was an 8 door station wagon called the Aerobus. This humungous beast was intended mostly for airport shuttle use and seated 12 people + their luggage.
*There is literature alluding to a version named the Convoy, outfitted for prisoner transport but no proof that it was actually manufactured exists.
Bare bones is the name of the game. Bumper from a dump truck. Body like a rounded metal building. Taillights high enough to survive most rear-endings.
The second one is a creamy white dream that looks more like a non-NYC cab of old.
It too is in absolutely perfect condition. There is a civilian high-end trim model I've seen in the past that had a vinyl padded roof. The padded roof covered the furthest rear side window, leaving an oval "Opera Window" as was the style of the day. It looked utterly ridiculous on such a gargantuan 4 door car though! Every Checker is rare these days as their fate was hard labor from day 1, but the non-taxi models are almost extinct.
The Checker corporation halted production of the Marathon back in 1982, but continued as a supplier of parts for GM all the way up until 2009. Finally, 28 years after the last car rolled off the assembly line, the 78 year old president of the company his father started pulled the plug. It wasn't the Great Recession alone that did the company in, however; Checker Motors Corporation is listed as one of the entities wiped out by the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
For those who believe in reincarnation there is a silver lining though; the tooling from the liquidated company went up to Canada to manufacture the Buick Lacrosse.