Yellow taxicabs, like this 1980 Checker, were once a common sight
on the streets New York City.
The firm, which was located in nearby Kalamazoo, recently closed its doors after almost 90 years of operation.
Nearly 250 former employees and their families were treated to free admission to the museum, while 22 Checker vehicles were showcased during the special event. Checker cabs and civilian versions, most owned by members of the Checker Automobile Club of America, arrived from as far away as Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois.
The non-profit Gilmore Car Museum in southwestern Michigan has taken the lead in preserving the rich legacy of Checker Motors Corp. by establishing a permanent Checker archive, and it used the event as the kick-off for its new endeavor.
The museum seeks to obtain oral histories from former Checker employees; grow its archive collection of company photos, documents and sales brochures; and add to its related memorabilia. All of this will be used by the museum, which already exhibits three Checkers within its collection of Kalamazoo-built autos, to tell the story of Checker Motors and its impact on society.
The distinctive and internationally recognized Checker Cab was produced in Kalamazoo from 1923 to 1982, when the firm ceased car production and began supplying parts to the auto industry. Today, the Checker name and its trademark checkerboard pattern seen on its cabs are universally identified with taxis.
The Checker Cab became an American icon and was hailed in every large city in the nation and beyond. “Billions and Billions Served,” the famed McDonald’s slogan, could have easily been applied to Checker Motors and the cabs it built. Checker Cabs moved millions of people each day in cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. In fact, the Tri-State Transportation Agency tracked an average of 223 million taxi fares annually — in New York City alone — between 1963 and 1977, and most of those fares were in Checkers.
Checker Motors has a long, proud history and outlasted many other notable automotive makes. The company survived the Great Depression, World War II and a change from auto production to parts manufacturing. It was the poor state of the auto industry and recent bankruptcy of General Motors, Checker’s largest customer, that forced the firm to close its doors for good in early July of this year.
To learn more about how you can become involved in preserving the history of Checker Motors Corp., e-mail the museum at info@GilmoreCarMuseum.org, or call 269-671-5089.
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