The Taxi Cab

The Taxi cab has been with us a long time. What was the very first taxi cab company? The first cab company, the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, operated in New York City as early as 1897 employing twelve electric hansoms. There was also the Columbia Electric Company.

columbia electric car

Columbia Electric advertisement

This was that time between the horse and the automobile. Believe it or not there were a good number of people who preferred the horse. The Columbia Hansom taxi cab was designed with two motors at the rear of the vehicle and could carry four passengers. The cab could carry four passengers. The problems with the Columbia cab were the batteries which obviously needed constant charging.  The automobile would finally begin to take shape in a usable form right at the turn of the century. In fact, a good number of the early car makers and auto experimenters were involved in the carriage building business.

During your travels today you might very well see a lot of Yellow Cab taxis but chances are you won't run across a 1950 Dodge Yellow Cab like the one we are showcasing here. The surprising thing about the Yellow Cabs is how long they've been working on American streets.

The Yellow Taxi Cab Co. began in New York City in 1912. Actually, there were more than just one cab company that utilized the color "yellow". In 1909 there was a Yellow Cab Company of Baltimore founded. John Hertz founded the Yellow Cab Company of Chicago in 1914, totally different from the one operating in New York and Baltimore.

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1950 Dodge Meadowbrook

 

The taxi cab game was taking off. This was at a time that the automotive industry itself was just getting started. Another interesting difference between the two companies was that they used very different vehicles. For one thing, John Hertz used cars from his Chicago car dealership. To add a bit to the confusion of names, in regards to John Hertz in Chicago, he also founded the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company in 1920 which was totally separate from his Chicago cab company. In case you're wondering, this was the same John Hertz whose name is used on the large car rental agency. Hertz would eventually be in a hot competitive taxi battle in Chicago with Morris Markin's new Checker Cab company.

The Yellow taxi cab concept really took off. Just a few years after the cabs appearance on the streets of Chicago, Yellow Cabs became a common sight on the streets of four of Australia's capital cities. The concept truly went international.

Popular Yellow Cab Vehicle Types

By the 1920's several players were involved building taxi cabs. Ford and general Motors were involved. The potential of the taxi cab market was obvious to many of them.

checker motors

Checker Motor Company logo

Although the big automakers like Ford and GM had the lions share of the market, some others did emerge. One of the biggest builders was the Checker Motors Corporation based in Kalamazoo Michigan. This company built taxi cabs used by the Checker Taxi company. These cars were considered very good for taxi work since they were both quite rugged and had plenty of room for passengers and baggage. One advantage was their large rear seats. The company actually entered the consumer car business in the late 1950's and had a dealer network set up. Production peaked in 1962 with 8,000 unis built. The future involved buyouts, mergers, recession set backs and at one time renamed Great Dane Limited Partnership. Eventually the company acted as a subcontractor for GM but ended up filing for bankruptcy in 2009. This ended an 87 year history. People today might remember those large yellow and black taxis that would become a highly recognized symbol.

dodge yellow cab

1950 Dodge Yellow Cab

Two additional photo articles we've published you'll find interesting are the 1953 Pontiac Chieftain with it's unique hood ornament and the 1947 Pontiac Streamliner representing sleeker post World War Two designs.

The 1950 Dodge Meadowbrook Yellow Cab

The vehicle highlighted in this article is a 1950 Dodge Meadowbrook. The Dodge Meadowbrook was a full size four door sedan built by Chrysler. The Meadowbrook models were produced from 1949 to 1954. In fact, when they were introduced in 1949 they accounted for about one third of Dodge sales.

1950 Dodge Meadowbrook Specs

The specs for the 1950 model year included a Chrysler L-head Six 230 cubic inch engine putting out 103 HP. Fuel capacity was 16.9 gallons. The curb weight was about 3,600 lbs and the transmission an automatic three speed. The wheelbase was 123.5 inches. The 1950 Meadowbrook had an official  top speed of 82 MPH and an average gas consumption average of about 12-14 MPG. Factory tire size was 7.10 x 15.

The Dodge Meadowbrook series of automobiles were well suited for the taxi cab industry in 1950 primarily because of their good size. These full size sedans had good space both inside and in the rear trunk. During 1953 and 1954 the Dodge Meadowbrooks were also available in two door models.

Studebaker Truck

The 1949 Series Studebaker Truck was this historic automakers first totally new designed light pickup after World War II. The new Studebaker light trucks, called the 2R Trucks, were entirely different looking than the M Series introduced prior to the war. The M Series really were Studebaker's first pickup trucks. Prior to the M Series, Studebaker's answer to a light hauler was essentially a passenger car with a cargo bed.

studebaker truck

1949 Studebaker Truck

The All New 1949 Studebaker 2R's

The Studebaker 2R Trucks were designed to be attractive looking yet tough. The Studebaker shown in this article is beautifully restored and is one terrific looking classic pickup truck. The look is a rounded, streamlined look which can be compared to GM's Advance Design trucks. Also note, as part of the sleek look, there are no exterior running boards or steps on this truck.

Studebaker 2R Truck Specs

The 1949 Studebaker 2R Series Truck had a wheelbase of 112 inches and a bed length of 6 1/2 feet. It's road weight was 2,840 lbs which was considered light. This represented about 400 lbs less than it's competitors of the time. It's payload was about 1,750 lbs. Front suspension included lever shocks and two eight leaf springs. The rear suspension was lever shocks with nine leaf springs.

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Sleek design of the Studebaker 2R series

The 2R Series Studebaker Trucks did carry over the same engine used in the M Series. This was an inline six-cylinder 169.6 cubic inch flathead "Econ-O-Miser" engine. The engine produced 80 HP. The engine received it's name because it was thought to provide better gas mileage than it's competitors. While MPG ratings and testing were not what they are in today's world, the Econ-O-Miser engine apparently outperformed it's rivals in MPG in supervised testing. This was the engine employed in all of Studebaker's light trucks. The transmission was a standard three-speed shift column with an option available for overdrive.

Lift The Hood Accessibility

Studebaker publicized heavily it's new "lift-the-hood" accessibility feature. The selling point was that Studebaker truck owners could easily maintain and repair their trucks. This was because the engine, ignition, instruments, and accessories could all be reached by standing on flat ground. You didn't have to stand on a box or try to slide under the truck to do repairs and maintenance. The hood opened wide so all these could be reached without strain. This was a great selling factor since the "lift the hood"  feature saved owners both time and money.

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Sleek design rear and cargo bed of this restored Studebaker Truck

Comfort and Safety Features

Standard equipment on Studebaker Trucks were dual windshield wipers, two arm rests, two sun visors, a cab light that would turn on and off with either hand and door switches.

Another great safety feature of the Studebaker 2R's was it's K-member. A "K" member is a cross member in a vehicle with a longitudinally-mounted engine and includes the engine mounts. It was essentially a brace.  It was added for extra strength on the frames. It was rigid, large, and gave firm support to the engine mounts. It reinforced and firmed up Studebaker Trucks's entire front structure.

See our photo articles on the Old Ford Trucks of the 1930's and the 1954 Chevy Advance Design Trucks.

custom classic trucks

Another view of the Studebaker 2R Truck with absence of running sideboards

The Studebaker 2R Light Truck Collector Truck

There are several reasons why the Studebaker 2R Truck is a good collectors vehicle as well as an excellent restoration project. First of all, the truck sold well but nevertheless they are rare to find today on the street. About 170,000 2R trucks were produced for the 1949-1953 model years. The 2R Series all the way from 1949 to 1953 didn't change much at all year to year until the introduction of the 3R Series in 1954. The 53 Studebaker was the last in that series of post World War Two sleek designs.

Most parts throughout the five years of the series are interchangeable.There are several suppliers around the country that stock Studebaker Truck parts. A check online will show you many of these. Just about any part you require for a restoration is available.

As of this writing it appears that the 2R series Studebaker's sell between about $7,500 to $30,000. This range is normal because the condition of the vehicle and extent of the restoration can vary widely.

Two good sites for Studebaker clubs are studebakerdriversclub.com and theantiquestudebakerclub.com

(Photos are from author's private collection)