July 03, 2009

Checker Marathon

A little history

Twenty-seven years after it disappeared, the Checker Marathon is still inextricably linked to New York, which streets were ploughed by thousands of these yellow dinosaurs for many decades. This image is etched so deep in one’s mind that many would forget that Marathons were also used elsewhere in the U.S., were not all yellow and, furthermore, were not all taxis.

Checker’s history can be traced back to as early as 1922, when it was founded by Russian immigrant Morris Markin. He would hold the helm of his company until his death in 1970. His son David took over, retaining most of his father’s power over the enterprise until its final floundering in 2009.

In such a long period of time, Checker obviously produced many models, but no one was as iconic and enduring than the Marathon. Born as the Superba in 1955, it appeared in revised guise and bearing its final name in 1962, by which time it already looked outdated. Private cars followed trends, but taxis were expected to be practical and durable. The Marathon was just that.

A passenger car version was produced, though never seriously advertised. Its buyers were people scorning fashions, and rather looking for an indestructible mean of transportation. A station wagon also existed, along with the eight-door Aerocab, designed for airport use as its name implies.

The Marathon never changed much throughout its long career. It lingered until 1982, by what time its maker had proved unable to finance its replacement. Checker fired most of its personnel but remained in existence by producing parts for General Motors. The moribund U.S. automotive market finally brought the old company to its knees in January 2009, when it declared bankruptcy. All operations ceased June 30, 2009. Hey, this is a blog about car history, and I’m giving you the latest news!

A personal note

When studying in Texas during the early Nineties I saw a movie featuring at length various stations of the Checker production line. Though the factory remained unnamed throughout the picture Marathons were easily identifiable. I was curious to find the title of this movie while writing this post, and made a quick search on the net. Answer is Blue Collar, shot in 1978 and starring Richard Pryor.

About the model

Model: Checker Marathon
Year: 1980
Maker: Ixo
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Altaya as no.2 of its Taxis du Monde press series
Acquired: second hand with mismatched stand and box, in October 2007, through mail from a fellow collector from Rouziers de Touraine, France

I remained for a long time without a model of this historic car. I missed one Ixo/Altaya in Hong Kong, then passed on the opportunity of buying a poorly-reproduced Marathon of unknown brand in Manila. Shortly thereafter, I found this one as part of a set sold by a fellow collector through an ad on the net. Nothing extraordinary about the model, but that’s probably because there was nothing extraordinary with the appearance of the original either… Ixo did almost well, but missed the front end, far too simplified and toy-like. This model should probably receive an 11/20 rating.






Gaucho Man said...

I love this car, as an iconic photo from NY.
surprisingly, ixo is the only version in 1/43, and more suprisingly, the model is very neat, moreover if you consider the low range price.

lorenzo721 said...

Hello Gaucho Man,
Well, as I mentioned above, I already saw another model of the Marathon in 1/43. It doesn't seem common and unfortunately I forgot the brand...