Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Checker Aerobus, The Big Question………..Why?


As discussed in past Checker Facebook Group blogs, it’s very clear that CMC was a true specialty car manufacturer.  Checker was forced into the consumer car business by changes made in New York City taxicab law in 1954. The new laws allowed operators to buy non purposed built taxis in order to improve automotive competition and reduce operator costs.  With the new law, Checker was now competing with Ford, Chevy and Plymouth and the results was that Checker started to lose market share.  Checker was forced to look for other ways to fill plant capacity and generate revenue outside of the taxicab market.

The consumer car market was Checker's first entry into a new market outside of the taxicab business. Checker started entry in the market in 1956 with the introduction of the A8 Drive-r-matic Special. Over the next five years Checker would slowly build out a national dealer and service network base large enough to support the different requirements needed to support retail consumers versus limited requirements to support an established fleet based taxicab companies.

Firmly established in the consumer car market in 1960, Checker was poised to enter another new market. Checker has produced six and eight door wagons as far back as in the 1930’s starting with the Model T.  Previous production appeared to be for Checker’s own taxi operating company “Parmalee”.  The entry into the mass transportation market would be Checker next new market and was a market the Checker understood.

1935 Checker Model Y Six door limo operated by Checker owned company Parmalee
1950 Checker Model A2 Six door wagon operated by Checker owned company Parmalee

Two companies Armbruster and Stageway companies were active in the production of the 8 door limos since the 1930’s.  Additionally these two companies were producing Checker eight door limos for export to Saudi Arabia based on A8’s. It would appear that Checker looked at Stageway-Armbruster and said to themselves “hey we can do that”.

Hey, we can do that. Was Stageway and inspiration to Checker?


An interesting photo appeared in the February 1960 of the American Taxicab Association magazine.  Hosting a group of Boston based taxicab operators, center photo Checker CEO Morris Markin stands in front of a Checker eight door sedan. Was this an Armbruster-Stageway? Was it a Checker prototype? We’ll never know, but what we do know is that Checker introduced the Checker Aerobus for 1961 months later.


In the Fall 1960 two models were introduced: a six door 9 passengers Aerobus wagon and a 12 passenger Aerobus wagon, the A12w9 and A12w12.  Being based on a Checker A12w wagon with additional doors and seats, the Aerobus was not equipped with jump seats.  Each unit had one  or two rows of standard bench style seating added to the standard wagon. Each model was equipped with a roof rack as well as window guards.  A heavy duty vehicle, the Aerobus was also equipped with 8 lug truck wheels, this was one big Checker.

Modified Checker Aerobus for.................any ideas?

The Aerobus was clearly the largest auto produced by any manufacture in the US at the time. The six door road on a 154.5 inch wheelbase with a total length of 235.5 inches and weighing in at 4330 LBS. The eight door road on a 189 inch wheelbase with a total length of 269.75 inches and weighing in at 4788 LBS. 35 and 70 inches longer than a standard Checker Model A11 respectively. 

Now those sound like big cars, but by today’s standards in the 21st century, believe it or not, the Aerobus is not so big.  Consider that in 2015, the Ford F150 Supercrew weighs in at 4686 LBS, yet only holds five passengers! One could make a compelling argument that the Aerobus was quite an economical in the mass transit business.


Checker would produce the Aerobus until 1974.  The major customers were airport transport companies, hotels, the military and corporate accounts that had a need to move a high number of people quickly and effectively. 

For thirteen years the Aerobus served Checker well, like the consumer car, it allowed Checker to expand beyond the taxicab business.

Coming up in the next blog, Aerobus variation and its larger replacement.  Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

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