Monday 18th June 1923
The first Checker cab was produced by the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. The Checker name came from a Chicago cab company that in 1920 began buying cars manufactured by the Commonwealth Motor Company. The cab bodies for the Commonwealths were manufactured by the Markin Autobody Company of Joliet, Illinois. In 1921, Morris Markin absorbed Commonwealth into his own enterprise, and he subsequently discontinued all passenger-car manufacturing. He moved the new company, which he named Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was able to take over factories previously used by the Handley-Knight and Dort automobile companies. By 1925, Checker, with a production of over 1,000 cabs per year, was the largest exclusive cab maker in the country. The firm’s competition, John D. Hertz’s Yellow Cab Company, continued to manufacture passenger cars. In 1933, Checker briefly became a part of the Cord empire; then, in 1937, the SEC charged E.L. Cord and Morris Markin with manipulating the stock of Checker, Parmalee Motors, and Chicago Yellow Cab. Both men denied the charges but agreed to abide by a court order forbidding them to engage in any trading in violation of securities laws. The same day the court order was issued, Cord disposed of his shares in his far-flung automotive enterprises. Markin retained control of Checker, the only company that had been one of Cord’s holdings to survive the liquidation. In 1958, Checker released the Aerobus, a 12-passenger stretch cab intended for use as a ferry for air travellers. The following year, Checker returned to passenger-car production with the introduction of the Marathon, a car similar to the company’s A8 taxi, introduced in 1956. Production of the Marathon never exceeded a few thousand units per year. Sales for the Marathon were largely limited to a handful of large cities, such as New York, and to the scattered few who liked the idea of owning a car that emphasized interior roominess and durability. Checker was one of the few automotive manufacturing companies to boast a continuous run of production from the 1920s to the 1980s. In the early ’80s, though, production fell to 3,000 units per year and the company was losing money. Checker had never enjoyed success in the replacement market because one of its earliest advertising claims–that “no Checker Cab has ever worn out”–was largely true. Also, economic conditions saw the taxicab companies convert to smaller, more fuel-efficient standard Detroit cars. The 4,000-pound Checker had become a dinosaur.