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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Checker Cab -- a Hollywood Refugee -- Spotted in San Francisco

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge It's no movie prop (anymore). "It's a cab," says Kevin Carroll. "I drive it!" - JIM HERD
  • Jim Herd
  • It's no movie prop (anymore). "It's a cab," says Kevin Carroll. "I drive it!"

Many an aspiring star has taken a taxi to Hollywood. But how many of us have taken a ride in a taxi from Hollywood? Enough to keep Kevin Carroll in business. He's the owner of the gorgeous relic above, which, despite resembling a background vehicle in a period piece, is a working cab.

It's a 1979 Checker Marathon with a Chevy V8 engine "with a four-barrel Rochester in it," says Carroll with glee. When asked how many miles per gallon the hulking car gets, he laughs -- SF Weekly has reached him while he's at the gas pump. Yes, he only gets around 13.5 mpg. But he says he makes up for sky-high gas bills through the power of nostalgia.

Just about the only place you see a car like his these days is in an old movie -- and Carroll did pick it up from an establishment named Hollywood Motion Picture Cars. When it comes down to hailing a ride in a '79 Checker or any old cab, Carroll says he wins out every time. "You see mine versus a standard used cop car, you know mine attracts attention."

But he has bigger reasons for owning an odd old tank of a car -- literally. 

Carroll's son was born with multiple handicaps, and has been taking growth hormones since he was an infant. As a result, he reached a hair shy of 6-foot-5 by age 12. When the younger Carroll first sat in the Checker, "he said 'Dad! I can stretch out! I'm comfortable.'" So Carroll bought one. Actually, he bought two.

For $5,000, he picked up two Checkers -- one to drive and the other to use as a parts car. But he hasn't really salvaged any parts. "Thanks to the Internet, it's probably easier than ever to get parts now for a classic car," he says. "Right now [the second car] is in the garage. It needs a new head gasket. And I'm getting ready to sell it."

So, who knows? Maybe soon there'll be two Checker Marathons rolling through the city.

Carroll can be reached at (415) 789-5356. He does not pick up passengers in San Francisco as he is a licensed Marin County cabbie.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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