Leyland F. Goodspeed was chief of engineering staff at Roamer, with over twenty years of experience as an engineer. Goodspeed was a true auto enthusiast, not only a patent holding engineer, Mr. Goodspeed was a race car driver having participated twice in the Indianapolis 500. At a national level, Goodspeed was a minor celebrity in various automotive circles: manufacturing as well as racing.
In the Fall of 1921 Commonwealth Motors was having financial difficulties. The producer of sedans, tourer and taxicabs. The standard automotive line was in decline, the basic design dated back to 1915 yet the Taxicab line of Mogul taxis was doing quite well and expanding.
Morris Markin was both a Commonwealth supplier of taxicab bodies and a large customer too, buying Commonwealth Mogul Taxicabs for his Chicago based cab syndicate. Markin had control of the Checker Mogul taxi operation in Chicago and sourced all cabs from Commonwealth. Concerned about his investments he merged his companies into Commonwealth and effectively took control of the Commonwealth operations. Over the course of the next two years Markin would transform Commonwealth and create Checker.
By November of 1921 Markin’s impact on Commonwealth would be felt. In the November 21, 1921 Automotive Industries magazine the following item appeared: “Leyland F Goodspeed for the past five years or more Chief of Engineering staff of the Roamer has resigned from at Barley Motor Car Company Co to join forces with Commonwealth Motors of Chicago and Joilet, Illinois. Has been elected vice president in charge of engineering of commonwealth Motors which at the present time in working on a new passenger car.”
By May of 1922 Markin had forced a reorganization of Commonwealth and created Checker Cab Manufacturing. The Commonwealth passenger cars were discontinued and only Mogul Checker taxicab production continued ultimately transforming into the Checker Model H in 1923.
Goodspeed was retained, but he effectively had a new job, turning around production and moving the company from Chicago to Kalamazoo. Goodspeed lead the effort to take over the Knight-Handley and Dort manufacturing facilities. Additionally Goodspeed re-engineered the Model H and launched the Model H-2. The primary difference was the switch from the Herschell-Spellman engines to Buda.
Goodspeed would later bring his former colleague from Barley, a 20 year old Jim Stout onboard in 1923. Working with Stout, the two would turn around business from consumer cars to taxicab production.
Although Plant 1 was used to produce Checker until 1982, the production processes set up by Goodspeed and Stout would be very different in 1923. The vehicles were “assembled” hand build cars. Frames were outsourced to Parrish & Bingham, engines to Buda and electricals to Westinghouse and Scintilla. Checker would essentially produce wood bodies and press metal parts such as the hood and fenders then assemble and shipped.
The production process was long. According to Jim Stout, it could take a body twenty days to clear the paint shop. They were also hampered with a limited number of machine capacity. Again Stout told stories of lines forming around the drill press.
The May 1924 issue of Motrcab News documents the process established by Goodspeed and Stout. A little grainy, but are fantastic as they present and describe the process.
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