Checker & Other Cabs In 1924

Copyright 2018 - George Laszlo

1924 was the first full year of production at the new Kalamazoo plant location for Checker Cab Manufacturing Corporation. It was also the first year that Checker participated in several car conventions that focused on taxi operators (e.g. New York and Chigaco).

1924 Checker Model E

Their ads in taxi industry trade publications touted the exclusive features of the Checker Model E taxi such as:

  • Interchangeable upholstery

  • Double step footrest

  • Self starter guard

  • Strapless adjustable windows

  • All-metal driver's cabin

  • Unique ash receiver

The reality in 1924, however, was that most cabs were pretty much the same as the following chart will show.

The key competitors were Driggs, Elcar, Pennant*, Premier, Rausch & Lang, Reo**, White, Willys-Knight and Yellow.*** Some of these cabs are shown below.

1923 Driggs Cab (Probably Model D)

1922 Elcar Cab

1924 Pennant Cab

1924 Premier Cab

1924 Rauch & Lang Cab

1924 Reo Cab

1924 Willys-Knight Cab

1923 Yellow Cab

The first important similarity among these cabs is that Checker, Pennant, Premier and Rauch & Lang used the same Buda WTU 4-cylinder engine. Performance with these engines is another matter.

Note that the Checker weighs in at 4,100 pounds while the Rauch & Lang is 3,200 pounds. As the Rauch & Lang ad above states: "With an R&L cab you run lighter with a full load than the other fellow does empty".

They are not only taking a swipe at Checker but also establishing who they think their most important competitor happens to be. Given that the price differential between these two cars is negligible, it would have been correct to assume that the operating cost of a Checker would have been higher.

The other cabs used either their own engines or purchased them from Continental, Lycoming or Knight. An interesting piece of trivia is that the Knight company refused to sell engines to any car company if they also did not agree to adding their name to the car. Hence we have Willys-Knight. One wonders to what extent this demand reduced their ability to stay in business?

The specification chart also shows that many components for these cabs were sourced from companies that (for the most part) are still with us today: Bosch, Westinghouse, Delco, Spicer, Timken, Stromberg and Carlson. Note that the latter two companies were separate back in 1924. The same is true for Borg & Beck and Warner, companies that merged in 1928 to become Borg-Warner.

From the pricing perspective, it is easy to see the correlation with horsepower and wheelbase size. Note that only the Driggs and Yellow A2 models cost under $2,000. The horsepower rating for the Driggs is 1/2 that of the Checker. The Driggs photo above clearly shows that this is a much less substantial taxi. Of course, it still got people from point A to B.

Note the weight differential between the Driggs and the Yellow A2. Although these cars cost under $2,000, the Yellow needed 7 additional horsepower (11 vs. 18) to get the job done.

Although the tech specs do not show anything about the bodies of these cabs, it was still common practice for these to be made of wood. The most sturdy ones were made of ash, the same as baseball bats. As the Checker ad at the top boasts, "All Metal Driver's Cabin" was a feature back then. It would take several more years for 'all metal' modies to become the norm.

Cab bodies were also sourced by many of the manufacturers at the time from other companies. Millspaugh & Irish was one of these body makers who sold them to several taxi makers, including Checker. This may explain why so many of the taxis looked about the same. In some photos from the early 1920's it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between and Checker and a Yellow.

No matter what the tech specs may say, the success of any taxi manufacturing company is best appreciated when its longevity is examined. The death notices are as follows:

  • Checker: 1982

  • Driggs: 1925

  • Elcar: 1931

  • Pennant: 1925

  • Premier: 1926

  • Rauch & Lang: 1932

  • Reo: 1975 (but taxi production ceased in the 1920's)

  • Willys-Knight: 1933

  • Yellow: 1925 (sold to GM)

It is a testament to Checker Motors Corp. that it continued to manufacture taxis until 1982 or nearly 50 years more than the competition back in 1924.

The End

* - Pennant was manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan by Roamer.

** - REO was named after its founder Ransom E. Olds

*** - According to Checker Car Club historian Michael Angelich, only Checker, Dodge Brothers, Yellow and Elcar had any significant presence in the taxi trade in 1924.

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