Instead, this time around we are dealing with a Checker model that is only liveried to resemble the iconic taxicabs of yesteryear. Actually, this started its life as a 1965 Checker Marathon. Not to be confused with the technically similar Taxi, which was specifically designed for fleet buyers. Meanwhile, Checker Motors created the Marathon as its consumer market alternative, produced in large numbers both in the renowned four-door sedan form as well as a practical four-door station wagon.
So, we are dealing here with a Checker Marathon station wagon, one that obviously wasn’t dressed up in yellow and probably even lacked the easy-to-recognize checkered pattern. Although it’s currently in possession of an owner that looks to be extremely passionate about classic taxicab models, there isn’t much information about its early life.
On the other hand, from 1977 onwards, its story has taken a decidedly quirky and emotion-infused turn. It was back then when the Lynds Camper Service in Cardena, California, resolved to convert the Marathon station wagon into a one-of-a-kind camper. According to its current owner, Bill Beurkens, who is a “nationally renowned authority on Checkers,” if we are to trust the good folks over at Silodrome, this unit might be the only one in existence.
Thanks to its rather basic configuration, the Checker Marathon station wagon wasn’t a bad patient during the camper surgery. All Marathons came with a sturdy body-on-chassis design and a front-mounted engine sending all the grunt towards the live rear axle. Many powertrain options were offered over the years, and the sedan/station wagon body styles were even accompanied by the Checker Aerobus, an official eight-door limousine conversion.
Speaking of conversions, the transformation into a camper was quite an in-depth one, nonetheless. Lynds chopped the entire body from the B-pillar back to make room for the camper shell, while a 400ci small-block Chevy V8 was snatched from a 1977 GMC one-ton van to motivate the new assembly. There’s also an automotive detective’s mystery currently unfolding around the heavy-duty 8-lug rear axle that came in to handle all the extra heft. So far, the current owner has only managed to identify certain parts that match the ones found on both a 1975 Ford F-350 as well as a 1975 International Scout.
Although Beurkens probably had the Checker camper – now affectionately known as “Champer” – on his radar for many years, it was only recently that he managed to acquire the all-season road trip vehicle. This is because the Louisiana-based parents of the previous owner wanted to hold on to it as much as possible after the untimely demise of their offspring in a helicopter crash. Ultimately, it was the annual hurricane season and its continued impact on Champer’s health that led to the decision.
Now that Bill has the 1965/1977 Checker Camper securely on his driveway, it was only logical for some TLC to kick into high gear. Initially, it was all about safety and reliability, so the braking and fuel systems were the first ones to get his attention. A set of new tires and refurbished wheels came next, along with all the maintenance required by the powertrain after sitting unused for so long.
Understandably, this is currently a work in progress, but it turns out the owner already gets more looks when driving around than his other Checker oddity, an eight-door Aerobus limousine. But, as far as we can tell, there’s a lot more sweat to be drained before the Champer returns to its former glory. When that happens, those long all-season road trips are going to be of the epic sprinkled with awesomeness variety…