'The Checker Guy' brings classic cab to screens big and small

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The last Checker cab took one final fare on the streets of New York City almost 20 years ago, in July of 1999. But today, about two dozen remain on the road -- where they are often used in movies and TV shows.

Tucked away behind a house on Staten Island is one of the last of a dying breed, a cab that was once among thousands on the streets of our city. Robert De Niro drove one in "Taxi Driver."

Saving them from extinction is the job of "The Checker Guy," Victor Coiro.

"People my age and older remember them fondly," he said.

It's like a time machine that takes me back to my childhood, when as a little boy, I used to sit in the back of Checker cabs on unique, jump seats.

But these days, only performers get to enjoy the extra space.

Meryl Streep sat in the passenger seat with Coiro in front for the "The Post."

"She was very nice," he said. "She asked me about the cab, how long I'd had it, a little bit of the history of it, and then we got to rolling."

Away from the cameras, he keeps the doors locked.

"It's not so bad in the outer boroughs, but when you're in Manhattan, people want to get in this thing," he said.

And driving the cab alongside modern vehicles is not for the faint of heart.

"I gotta really pay attention to the fact my car is not going to stop like their car is going to stop if they slam on their brakes," he said.

He owns dozens of other classic cars, which he rents for movies like "Jersey Boys" and photo shoots with the likes of Lady Gaga and 50 Cent. But as a boy growing up in Brooklyn, Coiro hailed cabs like this one, so he's happiest behind the wheel of his Checker.

"There's no better joy for me," he said.

His various vehicles have appeared in more than 300 movies and TV shows, and he can often be seen driving them. As a result, Coiro was compelled to join the Screen Actors Guild -- just like Meryl Streep all the other big stars he has met through the years.

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