1981 Checker Marathon (A12)
6-cyl. 229cid/110hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The 1963 Checker Marathon was a development of the company’s 1956 A8 taxi, and the new car was offered as both a taxi and for civilian use. It is most famously associated with the New York City streetscape of the second half of the Twentieth Century, and the Marathon was only subtly different from its predecessor, with a slightly different front bumper. Aside from the standard sedan, an eight-passenger station wagon was offered, as was an eight-passenger town limousine on a 129-inch wheelbase. The limo was exceptionally expensive at $4,625, which was 50 percent more than the base car. Options included power steering and brakes, heaters, and two-speed automatic transmissions. Continental 226-cid six-cylinder engines were fitted; one rated at 80 hp and the other 141 hp. In its first year, only 1,080 of the 7,080 Checkers delivered were not taxis.
Few changes were made in the Marathon’s 22-year run, and the changes that were made were done on a running basis, made when they could be fitted into the production line. In 1964, an OHV Continental engine was offered as an option and an eight-door airport bus was also offered with a Chrysler V-8. The 1965 model year saw Checker switch to 283-cid Chevrolet V-8s and 230-cid six-cylinder motors, with displacement choices growing to 327-cid in 1966. Air conditioning became optional that year as well.
Checker offered a new DeLuxe series in 1969, costing almost $1,000 more than the basic taxi, at $3,984 and with the 129-inch wheelbase from the old Town Custom. In 1970, Checker founder Morris Markin died, having run the company since 1921. His son David took over and engine options were reduced to two, the 250-cid six and the 350-cid V-8 Chevrolet engines. The cars got disc brakes in 1972, and long-wheelbase cars were dropped from the lineup in 1975. In 1977, the smaller 305-cid Chevrolet V-8 engine was offered with the slogan “Being practical is never out of style.” Sales held steady at about 5,000 cars a year through 1982, though engines shrank, with a 229-cid V-6 and a 267-cid V-8 offered in 1980. Production ceased in 1982, after just 2,000 taxis and private cars had been made.
Checkers were never about style; they were about capacity, utility, and durability and 400,000-mile examples are not uncommon. Even still, with an overwhelming percentage of production being dedicated to commercial use, many Marathons were beaten to death as taxis, so finding a solid example can take some sleuthing. Behind the wheel, the cars are fairly slow and thirsty, but are a unique choice for someone looking for something slightly different.