Favorite Cars of Chicago Mobsters
When we imagine the heyday of Chicago gangsters, one of the most iconic images are the cars they drove. What types of vehicles were they, exactly? And what made certain models popular with organized crime? Read on for a dive into the vehicular world of the Chicago mob.
What did gangsters look for in a car?
Specific features were of particular use for gangsters in Chicago. Of course, a showy design and high horsepower were desired by some who wanted to flash their success. But for others, a subdued ride that blended in with the rest was best for staying incognito.
Of particular importance were features like strong brakes and running boards. A vehicle was necessary for getting away from the scene of a heist. Running boards could come in handy for providing cover during shootouts. And voluminous trunk room was essential for, well, “human cargo.”
What models did gangsters drive?
Two particular favorites were the Ford Model V8 and Model A.
The Model V8 was introduced in 1932 and marketed as an affordable big-engine car. It boasted an iconic design and ample power. Notable users included John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Baby Face Nelson. Because of this, it soon became widely associated with the gangster scene in the 1930s.
The Model A was also driven by iconic gangsters like John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow. Barrow actually wrote a letter to Henry Ford personally thanking him for the vehicle’s dependability and speed.
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Chicago Gangster Car Customization
Customization was an important element in optimizing vehicles for criminal activity. For example, during prohibition, Ford Model Ts would be outfitted with fake undercarriages to hold liquor.
Al Capone, in particular, went all-out in terms of customization. He had his Cadillac painted green and white to match cop cars. It was also fitted with gizmos like a police band radio, inch-thick glass, and special holes in the side windows for Tommy guns.