Checker Limo: The Iconic Taxi Cab Turned Luxury Vehicle - FAMF Limo Inc.

Checker Limo: The Iconic Taxi Cab Turned Luxury Vehicle

The Checker Limo, also known as the Checker Marathon, is an iconic American automobile that served as a taxi cab for decades before being repurposed as a luxury limousine. With its distinctive boxy shape, spacious interior, and durable construction, the Checker Limo has a rich history and enduring appeal.

History of the Checker Limo

Origins as a Taxi Cab

The Checker Limo began its life as the Checker Taxi, manufactured by the Checker Motors Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan from 1922 to 1982. Checker specialized in producing large, sturdy taxi cabs that could withstand the rigors of heavy commercial use. The cabs featured a boxy design with ample headroom, a spacious passenger compartment with jump seats, and a rugged steel frame.

The Checker Marathon

In 1956, Checker introduced the Marathon model which would become the most recognizable and long-lived Checker vehicle. The Marathon had a longer wheelbase than standard Checkers to provide more legroom for passengers. It was powered by a 6-cylinder Continental engine.

The Marathon underwent a redesign in 1958, getting quad headlights, a new egg-crate grille, and other updates to its styling. This would remain the Marathon’s look for the duration of its production with only minor tweaks.

End of Checker Production

Due to a variety of factors including slow sales, labor issues, and the high costs of meeting new federal regulations, Checker ended taxi cab production in 1982 after 60 years. The last Checker Taxi rolled off the assembly line on July 12, 1982. In total, Checker built 3,271 taxicabs during the company’s final year of production.

From Taxi to Limousine

Retrofitting Checkers

After Checker Motors stopped producing taxis, enterprising coachbuilders and specialty vehicle outfitters realized the potential of converting Checkers into limousines. The Marathon’s extra-long wheelbase, tall roof, and heavy-duty construction made it well-suited to be stretched even further and outfitted with luxury amenities.

Companies began stretching Checker cabs by cutting them in half behind the B-pillar and welding in extensions of up to 48 inches. Interiors were refurbished with new upholstery, extra seats, TVs, bars, and other limousine features. The jump seats were usually removed to maximize passenger space.

Gaining Popularity

The Checker Limo gained popularity in the 1980s and 90s as both a novelty and a practical choice for a stretch limo. The vehicle’s still-boxy shape and checkered paint scheme helped it stand out from the more generic Lincoln and Cadillac limos that dominated the market.

Many Checker Limos went into service with limo rental companies, becoming popular choices for weddings, proms, and nights out thanks to their eye-catching looks and abundant space. Some also found private owners who appreciated the Checker’s history and unique character.

Checker Limo Specs

While specs varied somewhat over the Marathon’s production run and between individual limo conversions, here are typical specs for a stretched Checker Limo:

  • Length: 22-24 feet
  • Wheelbase: Extended to 140-160 inches
  • Height: 74 inches
  • Weight: Approximately 5,500 pounds
  • Engine: Continental 6-cylinder, 141 horsepower
  • Transmission: 3-speed automatic
  • Seating: 8-10 passengers

Checker Limo Features

In addition to their stretched length, Checker Limos were usually outfitted with an array of luxury and convenience features, such as:

  • Leather bench seats
  • Color TV/VCR
  • AM/FM stereo system
  • Sparkling lights/disco ball
  • Wrap-around padded bar with ice bins and glassware
  • Divider window between driver and passenger compartments
  • Custom paint and checkered detail
  • Vintage taxi meter and roof light (decorative)
  • Custom embroidered seats and interior

The exact amenities varied between individual limos and coachbuilders. Many companies aimed to combine classic Checker details and styling with modern luxury touches.

Checker Limo Today

Declining Numbers

Due to the advanced age of the donor Checker cabs and the limited number of Marathon conversions made, Checker Limos have become increasingly rare in recent years. Many have been retired from limo service due to wear and tear. Others have found their way into the hands of collectors and enthusiasts.

It’s estimated that fewer than 1,000 Checker vehicles of all types are still on the road today, only a small fraction of which are stretched limos. As Checker Limos get older and scarcer, their novelty and historic value should only increase.

Collectibility and Value

For Checker fans and automotive history buffs, a Checker Limo represents a unique collector’s item with a special place in the American psyche. Checker vehicles in general are highly collectible today, prized for their distinctively vintage looks, rugged construction, and connection to a bygone era of taxis.

Checker Limos in good condition can be especially desirable due to their comparative rarity vs. standard Checkers. Prices for Checker Limos vary widely based on condition, mileage, and modifications, but generally range from $10,000 to $30,000, with especially pristine or well-optioned examples commanding more.

Maintaining a Piece of History

For those lucky enough to own a Checker Limo today, it represents a piece of automotive Americana to enjoy and preserve. While maintaining an older specialty vehicle like a Checker Limo requires dedication, it provides the opportunity to experience a truly iconic vehicle.

Owners should strive to keep their Checker Limos in top mechanical and cosmetic shape. This will not only extend the life of these increasingly scarce vehicles but will help preserve an important part of taxi and limo history for future generations to appreciate.


How many Checker Limos are still on the road?

It’s estimated that fewer than 1,000 Checker vehicles of all types, including taxis, personal cars, and limos, are still roadworthy today. Only a small fraction of those, likely no more than a few hundred, are stretched Checker Limos.

What are Checker Limos worth today?

The value of a Checker Limo depends on factors like its condition, mileage, and custom features. In general, prices for a roadworthy Checker Limo range from around $10,000 for a vehicle that needs TLC up to $30,000 or more for a well-maintained, low-mileage specimen with desirable options.

Can you still rent a Checker Limo?

With the declining number of Checker Limos still in service, they have become harder to find as rental vehicles. However, some limo companies, especially in major cities, still maintain Checker Limos in their fleets for those seeking a vintage limo experience. Availability varies by location.

How many passengers can a Checker Limo hold?

Most Checker Limos feature bench seating for 8-10 passengers, depending on how they were configured. This abundant seating capacity is one of the features that made Checker Limos popular for group events like weddings and proms back in their heyday.

What engine is in a Checker Limo?

Checker Limos have an inline 6-cylinder Continental engine. This was a sturdy workhorse motor designed for the rigors of commercial use in taxi service. In Marathon models, it produced 141 horsepower. The engine is paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Upgrade Your Special Event with a Checker Limo Rental

If you’re looking for a truly unique and unforgettable limo experience in Canada, consider renting a classic Checker Limo from Our meticulously maintained Checker Limos offers a spacious, luxurious, and retro-cool way to celebrate special occasions or make a splash on a night out. With their distinctive checkered paint schemes, vintage charm, and abundant amenities, our Checker Limos are sure to turn heads and transport you back to a more glamorous era. Book your Checker Limo with [Limo Company Name] today and arrive in timeless style!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *