It seems like only yesterday that the last Checker Cab retired from the New York City streets. (It was back in 1999, actually.) I can never forget riding the iconic Checkers as a kid, bouncing around on the little pop-up stools that faced the main back seat. (Unsafe, much?) Now the only Checker you can still find is the one advertising the Caliente Cab Co. restaurant in the Village.
The Ford Crown Victoria that replaced the Checker as the main taxi workhorse—and became a stalwart squad car too, in its Police Interceptor configuration, for forces like the NYPD and the LAPD—is now fading away in its turn: Ford announced recently that the model is being discontinued, along with its cousin the Lincoln Town Car. Actually, the Crown Vic was discontinued for consumers in 2007, but remained in production since then for fleets.
The auto experts at Edmunds call the Crown Vic—with its body-on-frame construction, two-ton curb weight, huge trunk, and 4.6 liter V8—a "throwback," noting that its handling and "refinement" suffer compared to more modern vehicles. The Crown Victoria moniker dates back to 1955, and the present design is nearly two decades old, with relatively small changes since then. "Solid" is the word that comes to mind when I think about these cars. Solid and roomy. (And yellow.)
But these boats get only about 16 miles per gallon. (By contrast, my Honda Fit gets 38.) A few years ago the Taxi and Limousine Commission started to introduce various other car models as cabs: minivans, hybrid SUVs. Some have worked out better than others, but none feels like a true NYC taxi the way the Crown Vics do with their soft wide black vinyl seats and (most important) leg room.
Fortunately, there are plenty of them on the streets, so I guess it will be a few years before they all wear out and go the way of the Checker. As for the NYPD, we've been seeing Nissan Altima hybrids in action, and Ford has a new Police Interceptor; Dodge and Chevy models are also being talked about. As with taxis, there's room for experimentation: the NYPD has nearly 9,000 cars.