Dirk's 1969 Checker Pickup
Copyright 2016 - Checker Car Club of America
The following is the transcript of an email stream between Dirk Johnston and John Weinhoeft that also appeared in the Winter 2016 CCCoA Checkerboard News.
Took note of the July 2015 Checkerboard News regarding the 1969 Checker Pickup that caught fire and
burned. I might have to disagree with Joe Pollard on this one (and I rarely disagree w/ Joe when it comes to
Checker’s) but I actually secured the one that was for sale in Portland and brought it to Texas to redo and
give to my youngest nephew.
It was/is in very rough shape, but if a conversion, done extremely well which is why I believe these examples may have been one’s done by the factory. [Note: See Update at bottom of story - The Editor] My nephew unfortunately grew too large on me before I got to restoring it to its original beauty, so it is stored until the time I have to take it on as another project.
I do have several pictures of it as it exist today. With the recent announcement of the “new” Checker Motor Cars planning to build an updated version, seems these originals and/or original conversion may be more collectible than ever before.
Feel free to share with the other members or if anyone is interested in taking on a restoration project, send my way as it deserves to be resurrected. Thanks and happy motoring. -Dirk Johnston
Thanks for the photos. I think I have one photo of the same car on a central or northern California highway. I'll probably do a story on it in the Winter issue.
Mostly out of curiosity, do you have the S/N handy (maybe on title or insurance paperwork) and could you check it to see if it has a wagon number? I've collected a number of pickup stories over the years and those stories have come with varying amounts of supporting proof.
Looking at the pictures, I'm pretty sure the original vehicle was an A12W. I agree it looks like the conversion is really well done. The question is who converted it.
Bob Chamberlain, who was one of the managers at the factory and later in charge of the restoration
business operated out of the old dealership building, claims only two pickups were done by the factory. Bob
owns the one that was converted to a stake bed, painted yellow and street rodded after the bed rusted out.
It was also confirmed by Chris Markin that Bob used to laugh and laugh whenever he let Chris drive the pickup because it was a real handful, especially the brakes. Chris joked Bob was trying to kill him with the pickup.
I've speculated in emails with Chris that the problem was, most likely, the lack of a pressure equalizing valve in the brake system, especially after it was lightened up. That yellow stake bed was the pickup that used to sit inside the old Cab Services Building.
The other factory one was supposedly scrapped when it got rusted out. Both the factory ones were a small cab; not what I would call an extended cab version like yours. I forget the name of the taxi company at the moment, but one of them somewhere like Wisconsin or Michigan converted a taxicab sedan into a rough pickup parts chaser for the cab business. I've seen a couple of photos of that one plus heard the story from two credible sources.
I've got a few photos somewhere around here showing a 4 door pickup someone made out of a wagon, like a Subaru BRAT, just sitting out in some woods rusting away. At one point someone did a really nice job on it, including a snap canvas or vinyl cover for the bed, because you can still see the snaps on the lip. But I have zero back story on this car. Unless quite a few people had the same idea of converting a wagon, I'm inclined to agree with you that a business somewhere may have done a few conversions. I have a guess but no proof at this time.
Another question. The pickup looks fairly solid, sheet metal wise, except for the hood. Is the hood the worst of the body issues? - John W
Thanks for responding. The hood is really the only unrepairable section on the car…rust is very minimal for a Northwest vehicle and having done a number of Checker restorations through the years, I think everything else is pretty well cosmetic. The VIN number is 50399400BA and the owner before me was Lucille Salmeier of Gresham, Oregon. She titled it as a 2-door pickup and it looks like she titled it in February of 1999.
I bought it from A-Better Deal wrecking yard in Portland, OR who was preparing to scrap it back in November of 2004. It’s an interesting one at that … let me know if you if you uncover any answers to the mystery. Thanks, -Dirk
Another question: no A11, A12 or A12W on the front of the VIN? I would have expected one. The reason I ask is the rest of the S/N -5039-9400B-A appears mostly valid for a 1969. For a normal sedan or 4 door wagon, it should
probably be an 8 where the B is, since the official factory S/N format for pre-1981 cars was ann-nnnnnnnnna
and sometimes lacking the last a, which denotes the engine option. For an Aerobus, 9400 is within the range used just for Aerobus production that year; the Aerobus numbers were separate from the sedan / wagon numbers but even those should have began A12W6 or A12W8. If that really is a BA at the end instead of a typo
of the 8A I suspect is actually stamped on the car, that might imply some kind of factory involvement on an
Aerobus variation. - John W
And for now that is the story. Maybe one of you can add to it ...
Update from John W: I chatted a bit today (Feb. 29, 2016) with Joe Pollard about this one. It was one of three wagon to pickup conversions done by a Checker dealer in Oregon. While we obviously know where this one is, the location of the other two are unknown today.