Slow and Thirsty: 1980 Checker Marathon A12 Taxi Cab – SOLD!

Nov 2020 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Malaise Monday

Update – while this “Classifind” expired recently, given the seller’s past history we suspect may not actually be sold yet.  For now, we’re labeling this ride “Sold?” However, we will keep an eye for updated listings. In the interim, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

November 15th Update – While preparing for our latest Malaise Monday features, we discovered a fresh listing for the Checker Marathon we first featured at the end of September. While the description and pictures remain the same in the new listing, the private seller reduced their price to $5,550.

Long before Ford’s Crown Victoria became the Taxi of choice among cabbies in major cities across the U.S., there was the Checker Marathon. Bumpy city streets, high mileage, and many hours of idling sent most of the over 100,000 units produced between 1958 and 1982 to the scrap heap. However, it’s nice to come across a low mileage example such as this 55K mile 1980 Chevrolet V6-powered A12 originally listed in September 2020 on Craigslist in Somers, New York. The asking price of $6,500 falls between the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool’s #3 “Good” appraisal of $8,700 and the #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $5,400.

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.

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)

Notably, the Marathon’s front suspension A-frames interchange with a 1956 Ford. The engines used were originally Continental-built L-head inline-sixes, however these were exchanged for Chevrolet sixes and small-block V8s for the 1965 model year. These continued to change as Chevrolet introduced modifications, peaking with the 1969 L-48 350 cubic inch V8 which produced 300 horsepower. By 1973, power for the 350 had decreased to 145 horsepower and in 1975 catalytic converters were introduced. For 1980, the engine lineup was changed entirely, with a 3.8-liter V6 replacing the old inline unit and a smaller 267 cubic inch standard V8.

Checker manufacturer the final Marathon 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.

This Bloomberg Quick Take published in 2014 and currently posted on YouTube provides a great overview of the cars from the perspective of one of the better-known parts suppliers for Checker Marathons:

Despite the kitschy taxi cab livery, the A12 VIN and low mileage indicate this Marathon likely spent its early years as a rare non-commercial model.  The vast majority of people won’t know or won’t really care as the exterior is what every who sees you driving around will really be nostalgic for.  With a fresh electrical and brake system, this Checker has a high probability of getting you back and forth to each car show at a slow and steady pace, all while barely achieving ten miles per gallon.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1980 checker Marathon (A12 vin). Chevrolet V6 with turbo 400 transmission, power steering, and brakes, am/fm blue tooth radio. The car has been fully gone through and can be driven anywhere. The electrical and braking systems are all new. Runs and drives great. Has rust bubbles here and there as you can see in the pictures. The trunk is original with spare and jack. The seats are not ripped, the wooden beads are there for decoration. Real NYC Taxi light works with signals and lights up when the car is running. New radial tires. All lettering and checker strip is vinyl and can be peeled off easily. The tassels can be removed as well but gets a lot of attention when driving around. 54,000 original miles with many original features such as engine block heater. The car is not in perfect cosmetic shape but is a great driven and enjoyable.

Do you have a Checker Marathon story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

1 Comment
  1. Philip Freer

    In the early 70s I worked for two divisions of Gulf + Western. One was developing modern bumper systems and our test mule was a Checker Marathon. Heavy, stodgy and built like a brick to the point that it could be scary to a guy who drove VWs, Hondas and similar. But I knew that if I hit anything or was hit, I was likely to survive, as would the Checker.


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