You probably recognize the Checker Marathon as the ubiquitous taxicab in any American movie from the 1960s through the 1980s. This one is very different, though. In 1977, Lynds Camper Service converted it into a small, yet capable camper. The site Silodrome featured the quirky vehicle with photos courtesy of Bill Beurkens.
As a Checker-based camper, this little motorhome goes by the name Champer. It's the only one known to be still in existence. This vehicle started as 1965 Checker Marathon station wagon, not the usual sedan. The Marathon used a body-on-frame chassis, so the builder sliced off the bodywork behind the B-pillar and installed this camper portion.
Gallery: Checker Camper
From the factory, the '65 Marathon was available with three Chevy-sourced engines, including a 3.8-liter inline-six, 4.64-liter V8, and a 5.4-liter V8. During the conversion into a camper, this one received a 6.56-liter V8 out of a 1977 GMC van. The improvements also included a heavy-duty rear axle and an upgraded braking system.
These improvements would help the Champer deal with the extra drag and weight from adding the camper. From the outside, it still appears impressively compact.
The Champer lacks fresh or gray water tanks, but there is a kitchenette with a gas stove, oven, and refrigerator. The finishings appropriately look straight out of the 1970s with a palette that leans heavily on shades of brown and beige. There's a double above the driving area. The seating area in the back also converts into space for sleeping. There's also lots of storage space.
In addition to taking these pictures, Bill Beurkens also owns the Champer. He acquired it in Louisiana from the parents of the deceased original owner. Beurkens did some restoration work and got the motorhome roadworthy again. Judging by these photos, the machine looks fantastic and even has a little patina that hints at the machine's amazing history.