By on April 15, 2010

Someone has posted a treasure trove of Checker photos at Flickr, and I’ve pulled a few of the ads to share (thanks, whoever you are!) because they’re irresistible. Checker obviously couldn’t afford the big agencies and ad campaigns, but their quaint and home-baked ads are as compelling in telling the Checker story as the cars themselves.

Checkers were valued not just in the US, but were exported successfully for their rugged service and longevity. Those were the days, when American-built products still had the reputation of being exceptionally well made.

As we mentioned in our CC, Checker made the decision to sell their cars for retail customers beginning in 1959, and I vividly remember some of the ads extolling their virtues.

In 1962, Checker was celebrating its fortieth anniversary.

I don’t know how many dealers signed up at the NADA convention, but the “high gross (margin)” line probably didn’t hurt.

The Checker wagon could swallow 4×8 sheet goods as readily as haul the cake to a picnic.

In a stark sign of the times, in 1971 Checker offered the first bullet-proof taxi partition (“costs less than a nickle a day…pretty cheap when you consider it’s your life we’re trying to save”)

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15 Comments on “Checker Thursday Finale: Vintage Checker Ads...”


  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’d love to get my hands on one of those Checker wagons. Hopefully the kids are optional.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Do you suppose that the lovely lady in these ads (the one with the Wilma Flinstone pearls at the top) is Mrs. Markin?

    The special frame really pays off in that wagon, no wheel wells cutting into the load space.

    Also, note the text in that last ad: “bullet resistant” partition. So, just how “resistant” is it? After all, the front seat is “bullet resistant”, as is the driver himself.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Martin

      The “bullet-resistant” partitions that started showing up around 1969-70 were pretty stout. The glass could withstand a 38 and the seat protector was about .25″ thick steel with no voids.
      Some of we drivers didn’t like them-they cut us off from our passengers, hurt tips. I wasn’t held up in the two years I drove for Yellow Cab in Chicago.
      For those of you out there who are delusional, separate body-on-frame is not stronger that a unit body. A taxi fleet that I worked for in San Juan, PR used mid-sixties Dodges while I worked there and they remained tight and quiet longer than the Checkers. Plus they were lighter and got better gas mileage.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Checker never forgot what’s the most important: The passengers. The Checker cab is a box dressed up with minimal consideration to aerodynamics and styling. The floor is flat. The side glasses are flat. There is almost no “tumblehome” (inward tilt of the greenhouse sides) The trailing edge of the rear door is vertical (no dog leg cutout for the rear wheel opening) All the side glasses roll all the way down. The B and C pillars are vertical.

    Nobody does that anymore. The first gen Scion xB came close, but not quite. This is a market niche that’s been unfilled for too long.

  • avatar
    vermontwalton

    I sort of saw them as America’s “Volvo” at one time before safety considerations came into the picture.
    My cross country running coach had a wagon. Small team, so we all fit in for “away games”. Comfortable ride as I remember.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    So? What would a 2011 Checker look like? What would be it’s engine? It’s transmission? How would it be priced? How would it compete with the Camcord crowd?

    If you produce a retro Checker, wouldn’t it be another retro-styled ride like the PT Cruiser, the Chevy wagon, or the last Thunderbird or New Beetle? What made Checkers work design-wise?

    What is it about this car you think you’d like to see?

    Wouldn’t a new Checker be similar to a Ford Flex, but with heavy-duty interior design?

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Your ideas not bad. Maybe if Ford had kept producing the Fivehundred for just taxi use that would be a close analogy. I work with a guy and we were discussing cars to replace his old Buick Lesabre and I brought up the Fivehundred (he only buys used). He looked at me and said, “Oh you mean that car that looks like a Taxi Cab?”

      My girlfriend refers to the 500 as that “any-car.”

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      Ford Flex bears some resemblance, but it’s missing more than a few essential ingredients: The floor isn’t flat. It’s not as rugged (unitized FWD/AWD, not BOF). Much higher complexity (especially the EcoBoost version) And last but not least: No spare tire!

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Does anybody remember the Checker Airport Limos? I recall these from my childhood – stretch Checker wagons with multiple side doors (6 or 8, I don’t recall). I think I saw one of these in the early 70s flick Dog Day Afternoon – the bank robber demands a limo to the airport for himself and hostages and got a Checker.

    Those Checker airport busses ruined the concept of the stretch limo for me. Whenever I see a really long limo, I think of one of those Checkers.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I remember that a pizza place near my home aptly named “Checkers” had a Checker Aerobus in front of the place as a “mascot”. A Cartoon Checker Marathon also appeared on the pizza boxes. That big monster had been sitting out there since at least the mid 90s, and I saw it all the time growing up; I had no idea what it was, and thought it was a custom-made limo. It was only a few years ago that I learned about Checker and the Aerobus. The place shut its doors two years ago, and IDK what happened to the Aerobus. I hope a car as rare as it is found its way into good hands.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v516/Karrmann/Wikicars204.jpg
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v516/Karrmann/Wikicars203.jpg

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I like the line in the ’71 ad, “the only real taxicab, the only cab that looks like a cab.”
    Ed Cole tried to update Checker in the 70′s, but died before anything could come of it. I seem to remember a concept car somewhere.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Talk about coincidences! This afternoon I’m driving down Main, and there in a parking lot is a Checker Marathon wagon (the civilian version, not a cab). The first I’ve seen around here. I took a couple of photographs. It was in pretty good condition for its age. At supper I tell my wife about this unusual car sighting. And then this evening I look at TTAC and it has a nice bouquet of articles on Checker Motors and its products! Thanks, TTAC, for reading my mind.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Fun fact:

    When 5mph bumper standards came out in ’73, Checker was ill-prepared for it – I think the R&D budget was $0.

    They welded plates on the backs of the stock bumpers, filled them with water, and filled the holes with rubber plugs. In case of impact, the water would absorb some energy, and the plugs would pop.

    This passed crash tests!

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Love these ads. When I was a kid I sent away for their brochures.They were just so strange and retro for the time. Like something still being built from the 50s.

    Eggsalad> I used to see cars retrofitted with the water bumpers in the late 60s. Someone in the town where I was living in Utah had a couple of his cars converted to them and was part of a franchise that was promoting them. The car I remember best was a 67 Ford LTD. This is some aftermarket addition the cab company made I suspect, not factory.

    The 73s have similar bumpers as the former models, but more stout and suspended away from the body. They look awful, BTW. Check Google images. They look like they’re simply hung onto a frame

  • avatar
    Steve W. Crowell

    I have always had a sneaking suspicion that the reason Checker closed its’ factory was because of litigation involving the partition. There are two problems with “bullet-resistant” partitions. First, they never keep the driver from being shot… easily through the side window. Second, in collisions – people are injured and killed hitting illegal partition features. I admire Checker for everything they did except their overestimation of what a partition can do in an assault and underestimation of the need for safety law compliance.
    Shortly after Checker closed I innovated the partition design
    so that it moves with the seat, its’ angled to eliminate reflections, no window edge, no coin tray protrusion. It is the only partition ever certified to comply with applicable federal standards.
    Bring back the Checker, without a partition.


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