The Uber transportation network has had its share of legal woes. When there’s a Wikipedia entry specifically on protests and legal action, including hundreds of lawsuits, against Uber, you know the company is doing its part in keeping attorneys employed.
Uber’s legal matters include claims of employment discrimination, harassment and retaliation, invasion of privacy, labor law violations, an intellectual property dispute with Alphabet/Google’s Waymo division over autonomous vehicles, the use of “grayballing” software to avoid detection by police enforcing local taxi laws, the possible criminal use of an application named Hell that tracked its competitors at Lyft, plus continuing drama involving Uber’s previous CEO Travis Kalanick.
That may seem like a unsavory stew of legal problems, but it’s small potatoes compared to the early days of the taxicab business, when bribery, stock manipulation, trademark infringement, jury tampering, bombings, and even murder was how business was done.
I like unusual cars. I’ll walk right past a half dozen ’57 Chevys and ’69 Camaros to see a single 1961 Rambler American. The Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti is penciled in as an annual stop for me. From that info you can probably figure out that I dig Checker cars. If a Checker is unusual, then a Checker Aerobus is unusual squared . The Aerobus, as the name implies, was typically used as an *airport shuttle and came in seven and nine door wagon body styles (and 8 door sedans in 1976-77). Essentially it was an A8 Checker (taxis were A8s, retail models were Marathons) with a special double reinforced long wheelbase frame and extra doors. When I saw that one was listed locally on Craigslist, I had to check it out, or at least make a preliminary phone call.
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.
[Note: Three related Checker posts: 1967 Marathon Curbside Classic; Vintage Checker Ads; and Tomorrow’s Checker? Also note that these pictures were found at a variety of sites, but it appears that the original source for most of them were posted on this Flickr account by Drivermatic. Thanks for the superb photographic resource!]
For sixty years, Checker Motors had a record unbroken run of profits building a few thousand cars per year in a small little factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1981, it posted its first loss, $488,326, and its owner made good on his threat to stop production of the iconic Marathon if his workers didn’t accept wage concessions. But Checker continued to stamp out body parts for GM into 2009, including for the Buick LaCrosse. The Carpacolypse of 2009 finally shuttered the ancient plant, but no need to shed a tear for the original owner’s son, David Markin: his wealth is estimated at over $100 million. And it was all due to a shrewd investment of $15,000 that his father made in 1920, which put him in the driver’s seat of Checker Motors. Let’s take a ride through Checker’s history. Taxi!
If you hadn’t seen the title, and I told you I had found a rare 1966 Beijing Sedan (aka: “The East Glows”) or a GAZ-13 “ Chaika” would you believe me? Maybe, if you were under a certain age and hadn’t lived in a big city with lots of taxi cabs, or were just gullible. OK, the Checker is iconic. But there’s something so distinctively un-Detroit about this Checker; well, lets just say that it’s all too obvious that Harley Earl, Virgil Exner or their kind had nothing to do with it. It looks a crappy commie imitation of a real American car, drafted by a civil engineer while gazing at some car ads in old US magazines and assembled by political prisoners in a little brick factory to fulfill the specialized fleet needs of the party bosses. Paint it black, put a couple of red flags on the front fenders, and no one under thirty-five will be the wiser. Welcome to Checker-land, the car that snubbed its nose at Detroit, and perpetually made money doing so.