1969 Checker Marathon Wagon - Seeking General Advice

When I turned 16 my father offered to by my first car. He suggested a Mustang. I chose a 1969 Checker Marathon. Long story short… we restored it to “like new” (mechanical and exterior) Everything, except for the interior, which was still in pretty good condition. I drove the car for years, all the way through college. Now that I’m almost thirty, have a family and a job, it just sits in my garage gathering dust. It still looks beautiful, but hasn’t been run in two years. I’m trying to decide if it’s best fixing up, selling, or leaving alone. My wife and I are teachers and we have two small children. One is about to be out of daycare, freeing up some financial resources. We have two newer cars and a motorcycle that are paid off and don’t currently have to make a car payment. I love the Checker. I would want it to be a daily driver and would be willing to give up my current car and motorcycle, along with some cash, to make my dream a reality. Suggestions?

I don’t know much about them but it is a classic. I don’t think you want to make it a daily driver. There have been a lot of safety features added to cars since 69 and I think it would be cheaper and safer to use a newer vehicle. Plus parts must be getting to be a problem. Keep it as a classic or sell it as a classic.

Checkers were basically simple car mechanically that are relatively easy to work on. Many parts were sourced from other manufacturers, ie transmissions and motors. The real issue is getting replacement parts. I’d expect there is an active “Checkers” owners club that can help with sourcing parts. I don’t see any reason to not drive it daily, expect for gas costs which will be high since this was a big and heavy car. You know the mpg but it likely is about 15 in town and 20 or so on the highway.

Someone mentioned safety and likely this car is not safe by today’s standards. It has a strong frame and a lot of metal so occupants are safe in that way. The interior has no real safety features so it would be very important for everyone in the car to have a seat belt fastened.

On a car this old, before putting it back in service I’d inspect all the brake lines and likely replace all the rubber sections of brake lines.

Here’s what I think. I think that you if sell that thing you will go to grave still regretting it. Its practically a picture of you and your dad doing stuff together, not to mention the piles of memories throughout school.

Your two small children are going to be of driving age pretty much after the next time you sneeze. Ask me how I know. Let it sit while paying attention to how to minimize any negative effects. Once your first kid is getting up to the age, then you break it out and you and your kids fix it back up.

Yep, all comes down to emotional attachment. Not a daily driver. If you are really attached to it, keep it. If not, spend some time cleaning it up and sell it. Look at Hemmings.com for typical asking prices, and the ‘completed items’ on ebaymotors.com for what the market will spend (often a fraction of the asking price).

Something like this is a major space and $$ commitment, so keep it if you WANT to, not just because you think you should.

I don’t think that the Checker will make a very good daily driver because of the safety factors and the fuel economy issue. I’m sure it does not get great gas mileage and gas prices are not going down. If you have an emotional attachment and can afford to keep the vehicle then keep it. If not, it’s time for the Checker to find another home.

Never fall in love with something that can’t love you back…

Was your car originally a taxi or was it one of the few that were sold to individual buyers? Most Checkers had 350 Chevy, TH-350 transmissions, a stout body and frame construction and a flat foot area for the rear seat. If your car is rust-free, it’s an easy restoration but it’s still a Checker Marathon…A complete restoration to “like new” condition will cost you far more that you could ever sell it for…

There is no doubt that Checker made a very sturdy vehicle. The station wagon was most likely one that did not see commercial service. Until 1960, few Checkers were sold that didn’t see commercial service. However, in 1960, Checker did begin selling its vehicles to individuals. The vehicles sold for the non-commercial market were about the same except for the lights on top and the “hail me” paint job. About 1965, Continental quit supplying engines to Checker and Checker began using the Chevrolet engines–both the V-8 and the 6.
Restoring an automobile is expensive. I once bought a 1948 Dodge to restore. I had the engine running beautifully, but realized that the body work would eat me out of house and home. I was driving it down the street one day and was offered more than I paid for the car, so I grabbed the cash and ran. I bought a new Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 in 1978. By this time, all the 4-4-2 meant was a trim package. The car had a small 260 cubic V-8 engine and a TMS 200 transmission. I sold the car this past November after owning it for 33 years. Even though I had the money to restore the car, I realized that I would never get my money back. My son was 5 years old when I bought the car. He learned to drive in the car and I let him take it to college for his freshmen year. In his sophomore year, he had an internship and needed a car more suited to driving the interstates, so I put him in a newer vehicle. He is now 38 and has no real interest in cars except for transportation.
Had my Oldsmobile been a 4-4-2 manufactured before 1973, it might have been worth restoring as a muscle car. However, the later models were just ordinary cars. The Checker does have a small following, but does not generate a lot of interest among automotive enthusiasts. You would be unlikely to get your restoration costs back if you did decide to sell.
One rule I heard for special interest cars is that one needs to cater to the market for people between 35 and 55 with cars these people drove as teenagers. Those younger than 35 don’t have the disposable income for a hobby car and those over 55, if they have an interest in cars either have their special interest car or have other interests. For example, I am 70 years old. The old cars that appeal to me are the 1955-1960 cars that I drove as a teenager. Today’s people between 35 and 55 didn’t have the fun of driving a 1957 Chevrolet when they were new cars. My late father was born in 1904. When we would go to an old car show, he gravitated to the Model T Fords. My advice is that unless you have the space and monetary resources, sell the Checker. If your children become interested in old cars, they will most likely want something that was “cool” when they were a teenager.

The most expensive one I saw for sale was $14,000 for a 1978 that looks fully restored. One that needs work will likely sell for less than $3000. Here’s the Checker Taxi Stand URL (Checker Club):


They are rare, but not highly sought. I did not see any wagons for sale.

This is no suggestion to sell. I’m just providing price information you can use to decide how much work to put into it no matter what you do with it. But since you can’t get a lot for it, a light restoration would allow you to drive it occasionally and still have a lot of fun. Maybe the Taxi Stand can help you figure out what it might really be worth.

If it were me, I put it back on the road and enjoy it!

Have a bigger family :slight_smile:
The Checker will be the car of choice then.

safety and fuel mileage aside, I wouldn’t stand too close to that car while it was running. No emissions equipment on that thing means very nasty, very deadly, exhaust fumes.

OP, I agree if you sell it, you will regret it the rest of your life. And, you will never have another one like it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you should not sell it. As Tom and Ray often say, your wife’s feelings must be considered.Whether she is right or wrong, if she has strong feelings against it, I’d have to say let it go. I supplied no-fee counseling services to divorced men for ten years, and this may affect my viewpoint, heh, heh.

As far as safety, they were built like tanks. I agree make sure everyone wears a seat belt, front or rear.

I must admit when I was young, I wanted one, but never got around to it until it was too late. I don’t think I’d bother with one now, unless I won the lottery, and could find a mechanic to keep it in top condition.I liked the large internal dimensions.

I am pretty well locked into my Sienna now. By far the best car I ever owned. I have thought of getting a Mexican Ford F-150 for driving in rough terrain here in Mexico. I would get an automatic transmission, and probably just plan on a transmission rebuild. People here know nothing about changing auto fluid, so a used one will certainly fail soon.

So, a Checker will have to remain a fantasy of my youth.

I had a chance to buy a Checker Marathon sedan from a university fleet. The Checker had been traded at the local Ford agency. The price was right, but as a graduate student, I couldn’t swing the deal. I understand that there is a Checker in the Smithsonian that racked up a million miles. Had I been able to buy the Checker, I wouldn’t have had to make a car purchase for a long time.

If you do decide to keep it, you might consider getting a Hollywood agent for it. I don’t know how to go about it, but there should be agencies that keep a list of things like old cars etc. for use as movie/ad props.

I’m going to go back and side with Bing and the others. If you can’t afford to keep it as a classic, I would sell it. I would love to have one also, but the paid for and safer cars you have would not be worth giving up as daily drivers.

“I am pretty well locked into my Sienna now. By far the best car I ever owned”.
I also have a Sienna. It’s been a great car so far. Mine is a 2011 and I haven’t had that first problem in 26,000 miles. However, I wish that it had an interior like the Checker. The interior of the Checker (at least the taxicab version) was made to be hosed out. Some municpalities had a ordinance that cabs had to be hosed out every day. You could wash a Checker with the windows open.

some of the things that happen inside a cab, you’d WANT to hose it out daily.

I think cigroller has a great idea. I agree with everyone that the car has a lot sentimental value, and the thought of passing the experience of working on it with your dad down to your kids will be priceless. I’m in the same generation as the OP, but without a wife or kids, and I love the idea of having a new generation be able to have the experience of tinkering with an old car with dad.

I still vote to keep it.
A neighbor of mine had seven daughters and in lieu of SUVs they had two Checkers. both with two rear bench seats that faced each other. ( The forward-most rear seat faced rearward its back resting at the back of the front seat. The furthest back rear seat faced forward. )

During their early empty nest days they sold one for a Taurus but then realized it wouldn’t be long till the kids would be visiting with their kids !

They’re glad they kept the second '79 Checker.