March 30, 2007

The Checker Station Wagon: SubUrban Family Truckster

Can America's best-known taxicab bring happiness to a suburban family while masquerading as a station wagon? The question is not nearly as facetious as it sounds.
- Jim Whipple, Popular Mechanics, Sept. 1962
Oh, I wouldn't be so sure, Jim.

First off, I had no idea that Checker even made a civilian version, much less a wagon. The only person I know who drove a Checker not for money was Fran Liebowitz, who is not a civilian in my book, more a Koch-era Manhattan mascot.

Anyway for all my nostalgia-soaked adoration of the Checker Cab, the best thing about them was that someone else was driving. Tooling around suburbia in one of these unwieldy beasts had to be some kind of grand, karmic payback for white flight.

For an urban parent, on the other hand, whose alternate side-parked car functions as a much-needed extension of his living room and/or hall closet, a Checker Wagon might be the ultimate city family truckster.

Let this Checker lumber around its natural, city canyon habitat while you run errands, haul groceries from the Harlem Fairway, and make the twice-monthly trip to Costco in LIC. You can't store any valuables in it, of course, but it's a great place to keep the other 96 rolls of toilet paper you just bought but can't fit into your apartment.

The one real dealbreaker--besides the absence of the jump seats, which, to my kid self, were the whole point of the car's existence--is the Hummerishly bad gas mileage: 14 mpg. Fuggedaboutit.

Scans of PopMech's 2-page Checker Station Wagon review are in the daddytypes photostream on flickr. [flickr]

1 Comment

just came across this.
My Family owned Checker station wagon. The passenger seat folded down increasing the storage space. The back opened downwards like the back of a truck, the back window could be rolled down (from the outside), the lightswitchs were well placed above & next to the doors, (not inconviently overhead with light itself) and the Overdrive made for fun trip through the hills of Maine. It was used as a unofficial bus during a strike - was able to carry lots of kids to school an it was used as additional camping space on camping trips. The downside was rust. When it was finally driven to the garage for the last time, the floor was rather thin - think future car of the Flintstones. But it was a great car for it's day.

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