Checker Marathon

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Checker Marathon
Checker Marathon sedan
ManufacturerChecker Motors Corporation
AssemblyKalamazoo, Michigan
Body and chassis
Body style4-door sedan
5-door station wagon
LayoutFR layout
RelatedChecker Superba
Checker Aerobus
Wheelbase120 in (3,048 mm)
129 in (3,277 mm) (limousine)

The Checker Marathon is an automobile produced by the Checker Motors Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan, between 1961 and 1982. It was marketed as a passenger car for consumers, as opposed to the similar Taxi, which was aimed at fleet buyers.

Marathons were produced in both four-door sedan and four-door station wagon forms, and the rare eight-door, 12-seater "Aerobus" wagon.


The Marathon was introduced in September 1960 for the 1961 model year, alongside, and later superseding, the Checker Superba Custom and differing from the Superba with its better interior appointments. Originally, it retained the Superba's A10 body code, whereas A9 was the code used for taxis. The exterior of the Marathon had a full-width egg-crate grille, differing from the Superba's narrower grille and inboard parking lights. After a minor facelift for 1963, chassis codes changed to A11 for taxis and A12 for passenger versions.[1] Also in 1963, the Marathon Town Custom, a limousine version on a longer (129 versus 120 in) wheelbase appeared. This version, which seated eight, received the A19E chassis code.[2] A few years later, this was changed to A12E.

With the exception of United States government-mandated 5 mph bumpers in 1974 and ongoing mechanical changes, the Marathon remained virtually unchanged during its 21-year production run. However, Checker did comply with all safety and emissions requirements while in production. Some of these changes help in identifying the year of a Checker, and included:

  • 1963: Front parking/directional lamps changed from white to amber
  • 1964: Standard front lap belts
  • 1965: Engines switched from Continental inline-6 to Chevrolet OHV-6 and small-block V8s
  • 1966: Standard front and rear lap belts
  • 1967: Interior safety package, including energy-absorbing steering column and wheel, padded dash, recessed knobs
  • 1967: Dual-chamber brake master cylinder
  • 1968: Side marker lamps on all fenders, amber in front, red in rear (round on all Checkers)
  • 1968: Front shoulder belts for outboard passengers
  • 1969: Headrests
  • 1970: Locking steering column (Checker used full-size Chevrolet steering columns and wheels)
  • 1974: Larger, heavier silver-painted "girder"-style bumpers
  • 1975: Catalytic converter required unleaded fuel
  • 1976: Radiator (AMC Matador), engine (Chevy 350 V8 2-barrel carb, cylinders were over-bored, requiring larger pistons and rings), transmission (TH 400: Turbo Hydra-Matic), rear end (Spicer 44), front lower A-frame (Ford 56 Thunderbird), front upper A-frame (63 Lincoln Continental), steering was rear draglink until 1980, pittman arm bushing tends to loosen and should be tightened every 10k miles.
  • 1978: Parallel action windshield wipers introduced
  • 1978: New "Delta"-style Chevrolet steering wheel (sans the Chevy bowtie)

The final Marathon was manufactured in 1982, when Checker exited the automobile manufacturing business. The company continued operations for an additional 27 years producing body stampings for General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, until January 2009, when it entered bankruptcy liquidation as a result of the downturn in the USA auto industry.[3]

Notably, the Marathon's front suspension A-frames interchange with a 1956 Ford. The engines used were originally Continental-built L-head inline-sixes (OHV units for the wagons), but these were exchanged for Chevrolet sixes and small-block V8s for the 1965 model year.[4] These continued to change as Chevrolet introduced modifications, peaking with the 1969 L-48 350 V8 which produced 300 hp (224 kW) (gross).[5] In 1969, a Perkins 4.236 L diesel nonturbo engine was available as an option for all models, but for only one year. By 1973, power for the 350 had decreased to 145 hp (108 kW) and in 1975 catalytic converters were introduced. For 1980, the engine lineup was changed entirely, with a 3.8-litre V6 replacing the old inline unit, and a smaller 267 ci (4.4 L) standard V8. The big news was the Oldsmobile LF9 engine, a 350 cu in (5.74 L) diesel V8.[6]

Checker did not have a nationwide dealer network and sold most of its production for fleet service.[7] Apart from taxicab use, Marathons were also bought by police departments, most notably in Kalamazoo, where Checker had its factory.[8] In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, some black SCV-plated (Stato Città del Vaticano - Vatican City) A12 Marathons were used to accommodate Pope Paul VI's entourage in motorcades.

Classic New York City taxicab[edit]

Checker Marathon taxi

For decades, Checker was the taxicab of choice for New York City and many other American cities. The size of the car (seating many passengers), the robust construction, the lack of yearly changes to the styling (Especially the 1958 and later models, simplifying parts management), and the bolt-on rear quarter panels all contributed to the Marathon's ubiquity on the streets of Manhattan. For example, virtually any film set in New York City in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s will show a Checker Marathon. A knowledgeable Checker viewer, however, will note that many 1950s and 1960s movie scenes use Checker cabs built in the 1970s and early 1980s, since the bodies were virtually the same, and due to the lack of usable early specimens. Also, in works depicting the Soviet Union or East Bloc countries, such as the film Gorky Park and the original Mission: Impossible television series, Checker Marathons were used to depict Soviet-made Chaika 13 (GAZ 13) automobiles.


Six-cylinder engines
Model Years Layout Size Fuel system Power Origin Notes
1961–1964 L-head I6 226 cu in (3,707 cc) single carb 80 hp (60 kW) at 3,100 rpm Continental Sedans only until 1963
1961–1962 OHV I6 226 cu in (3,707 cc) single carb 122 hp (91 kW) at 4,000 rpm Continental Station Wagon only
1963–1964 OHV I6 226 cu in (3,707 cc) 2-bbl carb 141 hp (105 kW) at 4,400 rpm Continental $57 option
1965–1968 OHV I6 230 cu in (3,769 cc) single carb 140 hp (104 kW) at 4,400 rpm Chevrolet base
1969–1970 OHV I6 250 cu in (4,095 cc) 2-bbl carb 155 hp (116 kW) at 4,200 rpm Chevrolet base
1971–1972 145 hp (108 kW) at 4,200 rpm 110 hp SAE net
1973–1975 100 hp (75 kW) at 3,600 rpm low-comp, EGR
1976 single carb 105 hp (78 kW) at 3,800 rpm 8.2:1
1977–1979 110 hp (82 kW) at 3,800 rpm 8.3:1
1980 OHV V6 229 cu in (3,751 cc) 2-bbl carb 115 hp (86 kW) at 4,000 rpm Chevrolet
1981–1982 110 hp (82 kW) at 4,200 rpm LC3
V8 engines
1965–1967 OHV V8 283 cu in (4,638 cc) 2-bbl carb 195 hp (145 kW) at 4,800 rpm Chevrolet
1966–1968 OHV V8 327 cu in (5,354 cc) 4-bbl carb 250 hp (186 kW) at 4,400 rpm Chevrolet 10.5:1
1969 235 hp (175 kW) at 4,800 rpm 9.0:1
1968 OHV V8 307 cu in (5,025 cc) 2-bbl carb 200 hp (149 kW) at 4,600 rpm Chevrolet
1969 OHV V8 350 cu in (5,733 cc) 4-bbl carb 300 hp (224 kW) at 4,800 rpm Chevrolet 10.25:1
1970 250 hp (186 kW) at 4,500 rpm 9.0:1
1971–1972 245 hp (183 kW) at 4,800 rpm 9.0:1, 165 hp SAE net
1973–1976 2-bbl carb 145 hp (108 kW) at 4,000 rpm
145 hp (108 kW) at 3,800 rpm
8.5:1, EGR
catalyzed from 1975
1977 4-bbl carb 170 hp (127 kW) at 3,800 rpm 8.5:1
1978–1979 160 hp (119 kW) at 3,800 rpm 8.2:1
1977–1979 OHV V8 305 cu in (4,999 cc) 2-bbl carb 145 hp (108 kW) at 3,800 rpm Chevrolet 8.5:1, 8.4:1 after 1978
1980 155 hp (116 kW) at 4,000 rpm 8.6:1
1981 150 hp (112 kW) at 3,800 rpm 8.6:1, higher torque (LG4)
1980 OHV V8 268 cu in (4,390 cc) 2-bbl carb 120 hp (89 kW) at 3,600 rpm Chevrolet
1981–1982 115 hp (86 kW) at 4,000 rpm L39, electronic feedback carb
1980 OHV V8 350 cu in (5,737 cc) diesel 125 hp (93 kW) at 3,600 rpm Oldsmobile
1981–1982 105 hp (78 kW) at 3,200 rpm improved "DX" version (LF9)
  : SAE gross figures, others are SAE net


  1. ^ Naul, G. Marshall (1999). Ron Kowalke (ed.). Standard Catalog of Independents: The Struggle to Survive Among Giants. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-87341-569-8.
  2. ^ Standard Catalog of Independents, p. 34
  3. ^ Evans, Scott (20 January 2009). "Checker Motor Corp., Former Taxi Cab Builder, Files for Bankruptcy". Motor Trend. Retrieved 7 April 2009..
  4. ^ Standard Catalog of Independents, p. 35
  5. ^ Standard Catalog of Independents, pp. 36–37
  6. ^ Standard Catalog of Independents, p. 41
  7. ^ J. "Kelly" Flory (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. p.1
  8. ^ Policeyskye mashiny mira. Nr. 35. Checker Marathon (in Russian). De Agostini, 2014. ISSN 2305-3992.

External links[edit]