Checker Motor Cars has announced it has started to develop its first new model in over three decades.
The American automaker is commonly associated with taxis, but it stresses that it is not planning on returning to the yellow cab business anytime soon.
“A lot of auto manufacturers already offer four-door taxis, so no, we’re not trying to bring back the taxi,” explained Steve Contarino, the owner of Checker Motor Cars, in an interview with Hemmings Motor News.
Checker’s first new model will be a stretched sedan called A888 that will be similar — at least on paper — to the long-wheelbase Aerobus that was built from the 1960s to the 1970s. Fitted with six doors, it will offer room for up to twelve adults spread out over four rows of seats. It will be primarily aimed at hotels and fleet operators who need an original-looking but modern vehicle in which to carry guests.
Surprisingly, the automaker’s second new model will take the form of a two-seater, two-door pickup truck tentatively dubbed Sport Pick-up Crossover. A niche model at best, it will be marketed as a more compact and less thirsty alternative to traditional pickup trucks. In a way, the Sport Pick-up Crossover will pick up where the Chevrolet El Camino left off in 1987.
The two new Checkers will look a lot like the iconic Marathon that roamed the streets of New York City for decades but they’ll be all-new inside and out. They’ll ride on a newly-developed frame built in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they’ll feature modern components such as rack-and-pinion power steering and disc brakes all around. The list of available engines is still being finalized, but it’s expected to include a V8 and a four-cylinder Duramax turbodiesel borrowed from the General Motors parts bin. All-wheel drive might even be offered as an extra cost.
Checker’s future largely depends on a bill called H.R. 2675 that would allow low-volume manufacturers to sell turnkey cars if they’re equipped with an engine sourced from a fully compliant model. Currently, most low-volume companies sell engine-less cars in order to skirt federal regulations.
If everything goes according to plan, the first Checker of the 21st century will go on sale in 2018. Pricing information and availability haven’t been released yet, but the company openly admits it expects to sell no more than 400 cars annually, at least initially.
Checker isn’t leaving behind the thousands of collectors and enthusiasts in the United States and abroad. It will continue to restore cars even after production of the A888 and the Sport Pick-up Crossover kicks off, and all of the new components — including the frame — that it is developing for the two models are being designed to fit older models with no major modifications.