Checker Aerobus

Some days, I feature a vehicle that people really seem to love. The Citroën CX Loadrunner was one of those—the six-wheeled, high speed newspaper delivery wagon. (Available in both high and low roof examples, of course.)

Hauling cargo is one thing, but getting people from A to B is a different challenge altogether. Unlike a limo, where the interior layout is most important, a shuttle vehicle should be able to quickly and safely pick up or drop off its passengers. 

What you really want is a number or doors so that each row can hop in with ease…

…the problem with that, sadly, is the vehicle's structure suffers. With so many openings, even a sturdy body-on-frame chassis will behave like a wet noodle.

When your company's entire model range consists of a single vehicle in various states of tune, you'd naturally try and amortize the development costs over a larger number of models.

Based on the Checker Marathon, a car that was cheap to make but overbuilt in just about every respect. From 1960 to 1982, major North American cities had swarms of Marathons on their roads, ferrying fares around. 

If you imagine that the modern Uber-equipped cab is like a technology-loaded Apple Watch, it wouldn't be a stretch to compare a Checker Marathon to a sun dial made from pig iron.

Very few changes were made to the Marathon range over its production run, something that kept fleet customers happy. So why not help them score more lucrative airport fares?

That's all the Aerobus is about. Sure, it looks goofy, but as a taxi driver or shuttle company, collecting 15 fares in one trip to the airport—often located outside of town—is a far faster way of making money.

Introduced in 1962, two years after the Marathon's debut, the Aerobus was powered by V8 engines, first from Chrysler, then from Chevrolet. At the very least, the Aerobus slinked from the factory with V8 engines tuned for durability, not performance. Only available with a power-sapping automatic transmission and power-sapping power steering, and power-sapping heavy duty air conditioning, in its fastest state of tune the Aerobus would top out at 160 km/h (99 mph).

Both wagon(!) and sedan versions were made, with either three or four rows of bench seats, with access doors on either side. The whole shebang weighed at most a mighty 2,405 kg (5,302 lbs).

Checker even envisioned a limo-like security van version, but instead of luxury, the "Convoy" model was to be used for prisoner or precious item transport. Experts say that none were built, beyond possibly a single prototype.

Just 3,568 were built in total—but with up to 15 fares on each trip, I can imagine that they helped a few drivers make good money.

 


Sources / Recommended reading