For a certain generation of people, Checker’s Marathon brings back the happy days when a taxi could take five passengers, and wasn’t a bland hybrid hatchback. The Checker was the American equivalent of the London cab, without the insanely tight turning circle or miserly diesel engine. Just like the London cab, it was also rather frumpy and out-of-date when it debuted, and unlike the London cab, it was offered to the public as a regular production car. But can you imagine how antique it looked next to any other 1977 car (aside from a Beetle)? Check out this 1977 Checker Marathon for sale for $3500 in Beaverton, OR.
Who is the person that bought one of these in 1977? Someone who wears the same pair of jeans until his wife forces him to throw them out because she can see “cheek”? When your other car is indeed a VW Beetle, an MGB, or one of the other long-in-the-tooth cars you could get in 1977? When the argument is “I’m a Checker man for life”? Kidding aside, with the benefit of hindsight, this is a neat way to get in a kind of pre-restomod – 1950s styling with 1970s mechanical pieces. And this one looks pretty good – straight body, complete trim, and that styling that will have every baby boomer (and their parents) coming up to you at gas stations.
Checkers were also sold for fleet use, so perhaps this is an ex-government car. It is said to have an expired registration, and to need tuning to cure high hydrocarbon emissions. The power steering is noisy, surface rust is minor, and the gas gauge does not read accurately when it’s low. Those bumpers really look like they took some roadside barriers from the nearest highway and repurposed them for their cars, but should do a great job protecting you in most parking situations. Blue on yellow Oregon plates are neat and likely original, but are expired, and the paint looks to be a little chalky.
The headliner and seating surfaces are said to be good, with the exception of the front passenger seat. There’s some unexplained wiring hanging down from the dash, and a tear in the carpet covering the transmission tunnel. Everything else looks decent – note the auxiliary gauges in the radio slot, with the radio mounted below. Remarkably, Checker continued making the Marathon until 1982, and thereafter was a supplier of body stampings to the Big 3.
By 1977, the Marathon had an AMC Matador radiator, Chevrolet 350 V8, TH400 transmission, and front suspension parts adapted from Ford products of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Aside from the emissions issue, this car is said to have an EGR valve tick, noisy power steering, and slightly elevated oil use. The seller was told this is the car’s second engine, and estimates total mileage at 234,000. This looks like a fun way to get into an icon while allowing the better parts access of a newer car. Would you try it out?