|Our friend John Rupert in 1981 with our Checker Marathon|
When I married Bob Biggar, I knew he liked to tinker with cars, but I didn’t realize just how much. The story of our thirty-two year marriage was interwoven with stories of his various automotive projects. Most of the time he’d find unique used vehicles and rebuild them to his own specifications. He only kept them until he came across the next project. But one memorable vehicle was brand-new.
The Christmas of 1974, we lived outside Fairbanks, Alaska. The temperature hovered between -30 to nearly 60 below, but the children and I had a good time making our own Christmas tree decorations. We’d enjoyed a special morning of gift-giving and receiving. Then Bob told me my present was in the front yard. I looked out through the frosty window to see a big, battleship gray “tank” looming in our driveway. One glance at his pleased face told me this was no joke. I choked back my dismay.
He went on to tell me the car was a Checker Marathon, brand new, and we could have it painted any color I desired. Yes, it was made by the company that made the big yellow cabs with the black-checked trim, but he assured me it wasn’t a cab. It would carry nine passengers when the jump seat was down. It had a powerful engine and air conditioning, although I didn’t think we’d need that in Alaska.
Still suspicious that Bob had really picked out this vehicle as a present for himself, I chose a beautiful green metallic paint that changed the whole personality of the car. It soon proved its value as transportation for our kids and their friends. It was heavy enough to feel safe on snowy back roads, and after the snow melted and dust from the unpaved roads billowed around us, the air conditioning pressurized the car and kept the dust from entering.
Although we had other cars during this time, that faithful Checker was mine for ten years. It made several trips up and down the Alaska highway and helped us move to Anchorage. When we had to leave Alaska because of Bob’s poor health, we left it behind for 18-year-old Rob to use while he worked in Anchorage for the summer.
Its heavy frame kept Rob from injury when someone ran a red light and T-boned him. The insurance company totaled the Checker and we never saw it again.
And what did Bob do? He bought another Checker Marathon, this time bright red.