Jim Stout  1903-1996


    Automotive Icon Jim Stout, Creator of the Checker Cab and Jeep Dies at Age 93...

August 31, 1996

Jim Stout, creator and designer of virtually every model of Checker automobile ever built, including the famous Checker Marathon taxi cab, passed away on the afternoon Aug 31, 1996.  He died at the age of 93 in his Kalamazoo, Michigan home.

Prior to working at Checker Motors Mr. Stout worked as an engineer at the Roamer Automobile Company in Kalamazoo, Mich.  Mr. Stout and a few of his Roamer co-workers once modified an early model Roamer and established a new world land speed record at Daytona Beach, Fla. in the late 1910's.  One of Mr. Stouts prized possessions was his perfectly restored 1917 Roamer, one of only a few still in existence.

Mr. Stout started work at Checker as an engineer and draftsman in the early 20's. He had been their ever since, never officially retiring.  He worked on some special projects there until as recently as a few years ago.  He loved restoring his prized classics including his Pierce Arrow, Wills St. Claire, Roamer and the original Jeep.

Most people do not know that the Jeep was originally designed and developed with the help of Checker.  Working in cooperation with Bantam, Jim Stout lead the design and engineering effort in response to a government request for a 1/4 ton recognizance vehicle prior to WWII.  His design included not only 4 wheel drive, but 4 wheel steering.  4 wheel steering was utilized in order to meet the governments specification for turning radius.  Uncle Sam passed on the Checker design, deeming it unsafe as it was prone to rolling due to its high center of gravity and 4 wheel steering.  Checker sold the tooling to Willis who placed the Checker designed body, virtually unchanged, on an existing Willis 1/4 ton truck chassis sans 4 wheel steering.  Willis later won the governments business with their vehicle based on the Checker design. One of two original Checker Jeeps produced still exists, the other was destroyed during government testing. The remaining original Checker Jeep is currently on loan to the Gilmore Car Museum in Michigan.

Almost all of the automobiles produced by Checker were never sold to the public, they were produced for operation in Checker owned cab fleets all over North America.  In addition to taxi cabs, Checker also manufactured buses and trailers.  Some of their trailers were even sold by Sears and Roebuck Co. after WWII. Many of Checkers trailer designs were engineering master pieces including a special trailer, designed by Mr. Stout, for removing disabled tanks from battle fields.

Jim Stout was a very close friend of Morris Markin, or "the old man" as he referred to him, the founder of Checker motors.  Morris Markin's death in the 1970's was one the saddest days in Mr. Stout's life.  Although Checker stopped manufacturing cars many years ago the company still exists operating cab fleets in several large cities and doing special manufacturing for the automotive and other industries.  Checker is run today by David Markin, son of Morris.

Jim Stout was an extremely kind and generous man.  He always had a smile on his face and a great story to tell about the "automobile industry."  He knew and had worked with all the pioneers of the American automotive industry, including Henry Ford.  In his younger days it was hard to find Jim Stout without a cigar smoldering in the corner of his mouth.  He used to joke about how ugly Checkers were.  He said their beauty was in their functionality and durability.  He once joked that "a Checker wasn't broken in until it had at least 100,000 miles on it."

Mr. Stout is survived by his wife Dorothy, his son Bill, his daughters Joan Fraik, Eloise Lancaster and several grand and great grandchildren.

 

   

For more information please read:

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Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - A History of Coachbuilding

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Ivan Margolius - Automobiles by Architects

Jonathan Bell - Concept Car Design

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Frederick E. Hoadley - Automobile Design Techniques and Design Modeling: the Men, the Methods, the Materials

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D. Nesbitt - 50 Years Of American Auto Design

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Brian Peacock & Waldemar Karwowski - Automotive Ergonomics

Bob Thomas - Confessions of an Automotive Stylist

Brooke Hodge & C. Edson Armi - Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays

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Serge Bellu - 500 Fantastic Cars: A Century of the World Concept Cars

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