I’ve been searching for one final addition to my fleet lately, and my purchase of the Bishop’s BMW E39 wagon has me on the search for a cheap holy grail: the 750iL and its silky-smooth V12. I found one and, well, it’s not what anyone would expect. Someone apparently saw an old Checker taxi and thought it would pair well to a hacked up BMW 750iL.
As you all know, every week I round up my favorite used vehicles for sale in America and abroad. At first, I searched Craigslist and Facebook, but I’ve been finding some great vehicles by spreading out to Hemmings and used car dealerships. As it turns out, eBay Motors is pretty awesome, too, and it’s where I’ve found those rare diesel motorcycles that I’ve been drooling over. It’s also the home to this Frankenstein’s monster of a BMW Checker cab.
It appears that the folks of the Drive found it first, and the vehicle is currently up for auction on eBay in Springfield, Missouri. There are four days left in the auction and bidding is currently up to $6,100 with 19 bids.
As far as how this came to be? It’s the work of Quebec shop Doom Custom. Looking at the shop’s album of the build, Doom Custom started off with a 2001 BMW 750iL. That makes it from the very last year of the third-generation E38 7 Series.
The first 750i launched in 1987 in the second-generation of the 7 Series. That car had an imposing look and features like standard ABS, optional Park Distance Control and dual-pane glass. Later examples got a refrigerator, car phone, and Xenon headlights. This was the pinnacle of BMW engineering at the time, and it sported a 5.0-liter M70B50 V12 making 296 HP and 332 lb-ft torque under the hood. BMW notes that its V12 was the first of its kind used in German cars since 1945.
BMW followed it up with the E38 in 1994, and once again, the sequel would follow the same line of technological improvement. The automaker claims it was the first German brand to have a navigation system and, in 1996, standard side airbags for the front occupants. A year later, rear seat occupants got their own airbags.
The design got an evolutionary update and the engines got a bit nutty. BMW sold the E38 with optional diesel engines that got as powerful as the 3.9-liter M67 V8 that made 241 HP and 413 lb-ft torque. BMW claimed to have the most powerful diesel passenger car with that unit.
The V12 got an upgrade, too. Now it was a 5.4-liter M73 powerplant making 322 HP and 361 lb-ft torque. It’s unclear what motivation Doom Custom had to chop up a final year E38, but it lost most of its structure above the floorpan to make room for a taxi.
Ah yes, that’s the other part of this equation.
The other vehicle here started life as a 1981 Checker Taxicab, also known as the Marathon in its non-fleet form. As with so many weird old cars, our Jason Torchinsky has written about these before:
The Checker Marathon is best known as the iconic New York City taxicab. It’s also one of the cars that saw the least changes in its lifetime, with a 1960 model looking just about identical to the last ones made in 1982.
The Kalamazoo Public Library notes that the last legal Checker cab in New York City operated on July 27, 1999. The ubiquitous NYC cabbie was dead and Checker was no longer manufacturing cars, continuing on as a supplier. The company survived long enough to get killed off in the Great Recession. It filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and the business was sold off to Canadian suppliers, rendering Checker dead in 2010.
As the Truth About Cars writes, development on what would become the Taxicab and Marathon started in 1955. The vehicle was designed to meet new taxi regulations in Manhattan and, like any good taxi, its main feature was tons of interior space for passengers. The Marathon had a nifty flat floor and there were jump seats available that when deployed, provided enough space for up to five passengers.
The publication goes on to note that Checker was profitable making just 6,000 to 8,000 vehicles a year, but the company found itself losing ground after taxi regulations loosened, allowing the Big Three to scoop up market share. In 1981, Checker posted its first loss in around 60 years of existence. Adamson Industries revived the Checker name in 2014 and even promised a pickup and a limo to be released in 2018, but it appears that the new Checkers have yet to enter into production.
In 1981, a Chevrolet 305 gave the Marathon an output of 155 HP. So, what if you wanted your Marathon to have a more luxurious interior and V12 power? Well, you could do an engine swap and custom work, or you could chop the body off of the Marathon and lower it onto your chopped up BMW 750iL.
The Completed Monster
That’s exactly what Doom Custom did and the end result is nasty, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. This is absurd in the best way, from that V12 housed in the cabbie’s engine bay to the BMW interior sort of just sitting there, mixed in with the Marathon’s original door panels.
Now, one question that you’re bound to have with customs like this is ,what does the VIN say? According to the seller, the Checker VIN was retained, and it started life as a Taxicab.
As for how this vehicle drives, the seller says that the vehicle’s systems are intact, including the OBD-II port. Total mileage is unknown for either of the donor vehicles and the seller notes that the six-speed automatic has gotten all slippy.
Sadly, I was not able to get any additional information from Doom Custom and the shop may no longer exist. What I can tell you is that this is probably one of the dumbest, yet best purchases that you could make. It’s only an old taxi welded to an old BMW, what could go wrong?
If you’re as enamored with this creation as I am, head to eBay and place your bid. If you get it and fix ol’ slippy, I’d love to drive it!
Update: Well, one thing could go wrong. A blog reported this vehicle stolen in 2020, but it was never updated. So, definitely make sure the seller can prove that they’re not selling you a stolen vehicle. A VIN check can also help.
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That is fucking horrifying, wasting a v12 7 series like that. It had to be a decent car as well,given that they just plopped that checker on top an called it a day.
All the style of a Checker with the reliability of an 750 ! this is winning on an epic scale
I’m very upset about this as I’ve wanted a 2001 7 series since high school.
I recently found the unibody swaps group on Facebook and they had this posted recently, think it’s really cool. The main question on most of them is the VIN swap deal, states like SC where there’s no inspections, not too big an issue, states with inspections, probably going to have an issue. That FB group is a rabbit hole of bad ideas, but some come out really good.
I found that group too. Many cool builds, but even more monstrosities and projects that will never be finished and scrapped.
Like the Buick/Lincoln abomination we found while touring the junkyard with David.
But do the turn signals work? Asking for a friend. This is a pos.
A BMW would bankrupt a taxi company on its first shift!
They should’ve used the chassis from a 90s B-Body instead
I dunno, it’s kind of a mess. I’m probably biased; my first car was a 1981 Checker Marathon. Still miss it.
MANUAL SWAP RIGHT NOW
I love the concept. The execution, planning, final results as well as documentation? Don’t buy someone else’s unfinished project.
Am I glad it exists? Absolutely! Would I want to own it? Oh hell no.
Unfortunately, the hat they removed was structural. Nothing about this build gives me any confidence that they compensated for that loss of structure.
Beat me to it, and they absolutely did not. They literally could not.
The BMW is a unibody. So there goes that structure.
The Checker Marathon is full frame and the floor and mounts are extremely critical to the body. So there goes that structure too.
And unforgivably, they chopped up perfectly restorable examples of both to make it.
I feel like transplanting the running gear of the BMW into the Checker would have been a far better idea. Sure you are dealing with the safety of a car designed in the 50s but I feel like that is still somehow better and more structurally sound than something hacked together in the back woods of Quebec.
This, I can assure you, is a myth in this case.
Checker Cabs were designed and over-engineered to the point of absurdity. They would warn fleets to never use GM parts, even though they were the same, because they were of lesser spec. And it wasn’t a lie.
So when your car is built to do 100,000 miles a year on the running gear? The big problem becomes accidents. Because with that kind of mileage, in the kind of traffic they saw, these cars were going to get banged up. Often.
And sure, a lot of it’s stuff like pushed in fenders and cracking the chrome on the bumpers. But there’s a lot of serious accidents as well, and a car in the shop is a car not making money. So they over-engineered the crash durability too. Up to modern standards? Not even close, for obvious reasons.
But this video shows a ~1980 Checker Marathon with a lot of existing wear and tear – which is the same as a 1967 Checker Marathon – being crash tested. Obviously the steering column’s a big problem. But past that? All that front end damage would ultimately be repairable. Side impact, the passengers are uninjured, no interior intrusion at all, and the gas tank’s unfazed. Rear impact, the Marathon’s incredibly strong frame just says “nah.” Collapsible steering column and you’re talking about a VERY safe car compared to the contemporaries.
I don’t hate this.
I also see Checkers as good EV conversions.
Will I buy this beast, no. Would I love to drive it, sure.
Since the last article was “Total Recall” this one should have been “Face/Off”
I love a good hat car (the body of one car on top of the chassis of another, as in a hat upon a head) and this is a phenomenal hat car
until the spark plugs gotta be changed. ugh. lookit that engine bay. but maybe the body can be just lifted off to give access to everything…
That probably happens simply by going fast enough.