In 1920 Morris Markin loaned $15,000 to a fellow named Abe Lomberg, who had a business manufacturing auto bodies for Commonwealth Motors, an assembler of purpose-built taxicabs. Lomberg’s business and Commonwealth failed within a year of each other. Rather than take a total loss on the debt, Markin assumed control of both companies, merged them into a single firm, and renamed it after the company’s biggest client, Checker Taxi of Chicago.
How did Morris Markin happen to even have $15,000 in 1920? Morris Markin was a Russian-Jewish tailor who emigrated to the United States in 1913 when he was in his late teens. He settled in Chicago, found work in the city’s garment district, and within a couple of years Markin had his own business making ready-to-wear suits. When America entered World War I in 1917, he switched to making uniforms for the army. Morris Markin made a lot of money with military contracts, enough to build a Taxicab empire.
Twenty years later after Markin established Checker Cab Manufacturing, in 1942 he would be faced with the challenge of a US Government prohibition on auto production. To keep the company going with solid cash flow, Markin would have to go back to his roots as a contactor to the US Military.
Mr. Markin’s ability to serve the government was outstanding. At the height of the war, Markin employed over 800 professionals engaged in defense contracts. A patriot too, Morris Markin melted down all of the tools and dies for the new 1940 Model A and donated the metal to US government scrapping drives.
As many are aware and as we have shared in earlier blogs, Checker tried to get a piece of the Jeep manufacturing action during World War II. Checker entered an agreement with American Bantam to produce the Jeep as an subcontractor, the key terms of the agreement were: if Bantam could not fulfill the awarded government contracts to build the Jeep, Checker would fulfill the remainder of any open orders.
Unfortunately for American Bantam and Checker, the bulk of contracts were awarded to Ford and Willys not Bantam. Bantam did produce about 3600 Jeeps, but the order was too small to require any co-manufacturing with Checker.
Checker was awarded several contracts during World War II, all were for military trailers. This blog will attempt to give a complete run down.
T1 ¼ ton Jeep trailer
The loss of any Jeep work did provide another opportunity for Checker Cab Manufacturing, CCM along with eleven other US companies would produced the World War II era Jeep trailers. The other companies included: Willys-Overland Motors Co, ,Gemco Eng. & Mfg. Co. Inc., Pacific Car & Foundry Co., Converto Manufacturing Co., Fruehauf Trailer Co., Springfield Wagon, Adam Black, Strick Co., Utility Trailer, The Transportation Equipment Co. and Spen.
The T1 had many features: Outboard fenders, heavy duty shock absorbers as well as the same wheel rims as Jeep. The open top, metal box body construction with raised ribbing on floor pan of trailer body was the perfect mate for the Jeep. The military jeep box trailers were watertight, it could float with up to 500lbs of gear.
CC-1 Water Buffalo
Along with the T1 trailer Checker also produced the famous Water Buffalo trailer. The U.S. military employs CC-1 water trailers to distribute drinking water to field units.
Checker Cab Manufacturing produced 6,664 “Water Buffalo’s” from 1942 through 1944. The first production model was the CC-1, followed by the CC-1A, CC-1B and finally the CC-1C. Checker went into production in a big way, production order number: T-5255, was for a total of 3,000 units
K65 Signal Corp Trailer
During the very productive WWII period, Checker also was able to secure a contract to build the a trailer to be used by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Its used was primarily for use as field office for engineers running communication lines to the war front.
The K-65 house trailer was a drawbar type trailer, with a tandem type axle mount in the center of the trailer, it had 5 windows on each side including the one in the door. It’s net weight was 9.000 Lbs. and had electric brakes
M9 45 ton trailer
A big trailer, this rig was designed to transport tanks over the road to the combat zone while being pulled by Diamond T M20 truck. Checker produced 344 of the 6,143 produced by five different manufacturers.
An interesting trailer, as it has an integrated dolly at the front so they are both a semitrailer or a trailer when the dolly is taken as part of the unit.
M-105 1 1/2 ton 2-Wheel Cargo Trailer
After WW II Checker continued to secure US government contracts. As part of the military modernization post World War II, a new one ton trailer was developed. The new trailer was the M-105 1 1/2 ton 2-Wheel Cargo Trailer was developed in tandem with the M-series of cargo trucks that were fielded in the 1950s to replace the World War II vintage vehicles.
The M105 trailers were equipped with 9:00×20 tires, matching the M211 2 1/2 ton truck and other cargo trucks. The trailers were standardized with he M211 utilizing the the same tires, so the truck and trailer combination would ride at the same height.
The ton and a half cargo rating of the M105 was for off-road performance. On highway, the M105 trailer would carry up to 5,500 pounds. The construction of the M105 trailers allowed it to be completely submerged when fording. It was equipped with air over hydraulic brakes and a mechanical hand brake.
In summary, we always think about Checker as solely a taxicab manufacturer. Realistically, Checker was a diverse producer of transportation solutions. Automobiles, Transit Buses, Military Trailers and OEM Sub-Assemblies: a truly dynamic company.