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William A. Schaum started out producing an odd two-cylinder high-wheeler named the Seven Little Buffaloes in 1908 which, in a complicated sequence of events, led to the formation of Checker Motors Corporation in 1922. Just how complicated you ask, well in September 1911 the Deschaum-Hornell Co. became the Suburban Motor Car Corp, then in 1912 a Mr. Palmer became involved with the corporation, the company then becoming the Palmer Motor Car Co. Not having a good dealer network, Palmer went into partnership with Partin cars, from which the Partin-Palmer Manufacturing Co. was formed.

Two years later it became the Commonwealth Motor Co. and moved to Joliet, Illinois, when the first links with Checker were formed – the year was 1919. Shortly after their move the American taxicab industry entered a boom time, and Checker Taxi of Chicago quickly acquired the smaller players in the greater Chicago area. Needing stronger more durable cabs, Checker approached the Commonwealth Motor Co. in 1920, awarding them a contract to assemble taxicabs using bodies supplied by another Joliet based company, Markin Auto Body Corp. Markin was to merge with the faltering Commonwea1th Motor Co. at the end of 1921, and by May of 1922 the Checker Cab Manufacturing Co. was born.

Originally manufacturing 3 cabs a day, by 1924 they had lifted production to over 4,000 units. Many trials and tribulations were to follow in the following decades, but it was in 1960 that Checker manufactured two private passenger car models, the Superba and Superba Special. These morphed into the vehicle the company is best known for today, the Marathon. Lagging sales and tougher government regulation forced Checker to cease production in 1979, but such was the strength of their vehicles that they would remain a part of the American automotive landscape for decades to come.

Checker Marathon

Checker Marathon

1956 - 1982
For those not born in the US, the classic looks of the New York cab do not give any hint as to the manufacturer of the vehicle. Rugged and reliable, it was in fact manufactured by Checker and was even available as a passenger car from 1960 to 1982. More >>


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