The 1939 Checker Model A was a watershed taxi, perhaps one of the most significant taxis Checker ever produced. It served as the basis of all Checkers until the end of automobile production in 1982, with all Checkers subsequent to the Model A sharing its basic underpinnings. The popular Model A11 taxi is a direct design descendant. The most notable feature of the Model A is the steel chassis. This would be modified over the years, but the basic frame would continue till the end of production in the 1980s.
When the Checker Model A was introduced in 1939 it had more interior room than any previous model produced. It was also the first Checker to migrate away from the limousine concept with its driver dividers, focussing on the taxi commodity business: indeed in the Model A brochure, significant emphasis is made that taxi operators should consider themselves the seller of a commodity and should think of new ways to attract customers.
On the Model A, Checker incorporated new features to enhance the taxi passenger riding experience, including the new landaulet top, where at a touch of a finger, the driver could lower the back section of the roof so that passengers could ride in an open-air mode. If shade was required, a cloth awning could be inserted to reduce the effects of the sun, yet still maintain the open-air feel. Passengers in the jump seats were not left out of the experience, because above their heads was a ventilated glass roof that passengers could open to increase the flow of fresh air, yet still sightsee through the glass roof. Both the glass roof and the landaulet roof were Checker exclusive features, patented in 1936 and 1939 respectively.
The taxi driver also rode with the comfort of Checker exclusive features. Checker claimed that the seat could be adjusted in no less than 15 positions, because the company had always maintained that a comfortable seat would allow the driver to drive longer shifts and yield greater profits for taxicab operators. This Checker exclusive had been patented in 1931. Above the driver’s head was a vent in the roof to allow fresh air to flow into the driver compartment. The driver compartment was now protected during all four seasons and for the first time was heated. Gone were the days of drivers being exposed to the weather. The manual transmission shift was moved to the steering column, again in an effort to improve the overall driving experience.
From the rear back, the Model A has the very tasteful streamline styling that was very popular at the time, that said the Model A front end has always garnered strong opinions from automobile fans. Early artist renditions of the Model A depict an integrated streamline design from fore to aft, but the production car sports a very unique, even gothic front clip. It’s unclear why the major change in the front end styling was made to the production vehicle, but it has been said that the “sugar scoop” fenders, inherited in part from the preceding Model Y were purpose built to provide safety from tire damage in minor city traffic accidents. At the time, other taxis with streamlined fenders ran the risk of having a tyre pierced in a minor accident, whereas the Model A had a higher probability of driving away. Some may find the headlights, centred into a Checker shield, ugly, but they also appear to be a way for Checker to integrate their branded logo as an integral part of the overall taxi design.
Checker offered an unlimited colour combinations option, and the common belief is that with the unique front end and spectacular colour combinations, a person trying to hail a cab curbside could easily identify the Model A Checker and a potential ride.
The Checker Model A was only made for two full years; 1939 and 1940. 1941 was a shortened model run due to WWII. Over the years the rumour grew up that Morris Markin melted down all the body tools and dies for the war
effort. Automobile production ceased during the fight against Adolph Hitler and the Japanese. During this period, Checker participated in the fight by supplying the army with trailers to be used with that new invention of the war,