Decommissioned Cab: 1979 Checker Marathon Taxi

Watch any movie from the '60s, '70s and '80s set in one of America's major cities and chances are you'll see a classic Checker Marathon taxi cab being used.

The Checker Marathon was THE taxi cab on the mean streets of New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and many other cities for a good chunk of the late 20th century period.

I love these things.

Checker Motors Corp. was an auto manufacturer based in Kalamazoo, Michigan from 1922 to 2010.

The Marathon was their range of full-size, rear-wheel drive sedans and wagons produced from 1961 to 1982, which is quite a long time. It went largely unchanged for years, except for government mandated bumpers added in 1974 and various engine refinements.

The styling must have been considered already dated for a 1961 debut. The car looks more like it's from 1955, but that's part of the charm and perhaps a key to its longevity. Was it the first intentionally retro-styled car? I'm not sure, but the designers definitely crafted a memorable instant classic.

This 1979 example was produced toward the end of its run. The Marathon came with either a 6 or 8-cylinder engine. The seller doesn't state which engine this has, but it looks like an inline 6-cylinder from the pictures. By '79, the I6 produced between 110-155 horsepower, depending on the number of carbs. That's not a lot of power, especially for a large and heavy vehicle. But these weren't supposed to be racecars, so power is beside the point.

The seller is located in Illinois so this thing probably prowled the streets of Chicago for years before ending up on ebay now. The patina is incredible. It's a good thing rust is red-brown, because it blends perfectly with the bright taxi yellow body paint. The roof looks scorched from sun and rain.

The seller states the odometer displays 26,360 miles and doubtless turned over given how much these were driven. They do say the engine runs and drives, which is great news. However, they say the speedometer isn't working correctly, steering feels hard, and door handles are missing.

Cosmetically, there are also a number of issues. Rust is just the least of the problem. The seller says there appears to be several previous attempts at painting and repairing the body.

Inside, they say the headliner is sagging, door panels are coming off, the floor is rotted and the seats are slashed.

In short, this Checker Marathon has seen some wild times.

Can you imagine all of the crazy passengers and incidents that happened in this thing?

This has been run on ebay dozens of times over the past few months and I've been dying to spotlight it here. It's back again this week, but with only a couple days left. The seller must have a certain figure they want for it. Current bidding is at $1,175. They may have a point. The Hemmings CPI Value Guide places the value of a 1973-82 Checker Marathon at $2,400-$11,500, with a 3% increase in prices. The value of these are rising, and they are definitely a collector car. Although many were made over many years, most used as cabs were junked, for obvious reasons as newer cars replaced them and the old ones were usually beat. Finding any Checker Cab is seeming like a hard thing. That makes this one, despite the poor condition, still a good find. I kind of like the condition, too, it's perfecting fitting their gritty utilitarian usage.

Actually owning one could go either way. The car begs for a full restoration to glory, or could be a vintage piece to just let sit, as-is, and imagine all of the loony antics, rainy late nights and long kisses goodbye this car must have witnessed.

Find it here on ebay.

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