SO, CARS are just four wheels, a body and an engine? Not this lot. Some, like the ones below, have a dark past, be they a hoodlums’ getaway car (Bonnie and Clyde’s Ford V8), an assassin’s taxi (Lee Harvey Oswald’s Checker Marathon cab) or a dictator’s limo (Stalin’s collection of ZIS-110 limousines).
Some are innocent of any crime, but tainted by association. We’re thinking the original VW Beetle (based on an idea by a certain Adolf Hitler) and Colonel Gadaffi’s Libyan Rocket.
And some (Pontiac Aztek, Goldfinger’s Rolls-Royce Phantom III) have found fame in the movies and on TV, mixing with the bad guys.
Hoodlums’ wheels: 1932 Ford V8
In Whiskey Pete’s resort and casino 40 miles south of Las Vegas sits the bullet-riddled remains of the Ford V8 that carried lovesick tearaways Bonnie & Clyde on their various crime sprees. On May 23 1934 they were ambushed and killed by police officers who fired around 50 shots at them, turning their car into a colander.
Assassin’s taxi: 1962 Checker Marathon Dallas taxi
This is the cab that Lee Harvey Oswald hailed minutes after assassinating President Kennedy in Dallas, in 1963. His ride home cost $0.95. Oswald gave cab driver William Wayne Whaley $1, and told him to keep the change.
Meth cook’s chariot: Pontiac Aztek
Not every Pontiac Aztek has been a meth cook’s car but you can see why the writers of Breaking Bad, the hit TV series about a bitter and frustrated former chemistry teacher’s descent into the drug world, thought this astonishingly ugly vehicle suited their man.
Dictator’s limo: ZIS-110
When Stalin wasn’t sending his people to the gulags he could be found lovingly checking his cars’ windscreen wipers (top) or pausing to run a duster over his fleet of Packard-inspired limos, maintained by the KGB.
Fuhrer’s vision: VW Type 1 (Beetle)
The brains behind the Third Reich was also the brains behind the original VW Beetle of the 1930s. He laid down a vision for a cheap and simple car that could be mass-produced, and use his new network of autobahns. Dr Ferdinand Porsche (pictured with Hitler) turned his vision into reality.
Dictator’s fancy: Libyan Rocket car
Doubtless the Libyan Rocket car was the fruit of a team of wretched auto engineers labouring day and night but when Colonel Gadaffi stepped up and said he’d designed it, no one felt inclined to disagree. The five-seater was powered by a 260bhp V6 and had collapsible bumpers that Gadaffi claimed would make it safer in a crash. The car’s present whereabouts are unknown.
Celebrity’s Roller: Various Rolls-Royces
Disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile owned an assortment of Rolls-Royces in his time including the car pictured here, a Silver Cloud III drophead coupé. People who bought them believing they would rise in value have had a nasty shock with one trade guide reporting that his 2002-registered Corniche had the potential to be “totally worthless”.
Sidekick’s special: Mercedes 540K Cabriolet B
Herman Goering, at one time Hitler’s designated successor, had his Mercedes custom-built in 1940, and travelled extensively around Europe in it. At the end of the war it was shipped to the US and used by an army staff sergeant. In 2013 it was discovered rotting quietly in a garage in North Carolina, and is being restored.
Gangster’s wagon: 1928 Cadillac V8 Town Sedan
Bonnie & Clyde might have survived had they been ambushed in this. Mobster Al Capone’s Cadillac was fitted with over 3000lbs of bullet-proof armour. Its windows had holes through which the gangster and his henchmen could fire machine guns. To confuse pursuers it was painted like a police car and had flashing lights and a siren.
Magnate’s motor: 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III
Like all the best movie villains, Auric Goldfinger had an eye for the finer things, including this, his Phantom III. In the book he drove a Silver Ghost but this was the best the film makers could come up with. The numberplate was AU1, a nod to the symbol for gold in the periodic table.