Ten Cars of Infamy: Bonnie & Clyde's Ford V-8

April 7, 2008
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The history of cars is full of heartwarming stories and happy endings—but just as full of dark corners, blind alleys and high-speed tragedy. Some cars have become part of our culture, because of their role in murder and mayhem. They're infamous.

TheCarConnection.com’s ten most infamous cars start right here with the Model A that sped into history, piloted by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

From the time they met in January 1930, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were on a date with a bloody destiny. Barrow, just 21 in that year, went to jail for burglary, but didn't stay long: Parker smuggled him in a gun and he escaped, only to be recaptured and sent to jail for 14 years. After having two toes cut off in jail by another inmate to avoid work detail, Barrow got a pardon after a plea by his mother.

And that began the crime spree that spawned the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. They formed a gang, with Clyde's brother Buck Barrow and his wife Blanche; gunman Raymond Hamilton; and W.D. Jones, and made their way across five states from Missouri to Texas, robbing banks and gas stations and stores and building a name as outlaws.

The press ate up their story -- and so did the public, at least until their crimes turned deadly. Over the course of four years, their gang crimes tallied 13 deaths, including a handful of police officers. They killed a police officer early in 1934 in Grapevine, Texas; another, five days later in Oklahoma.

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To get from murder to murder, and robbery to robbery, the Barrow gang stole cars -- among them the Ford V-8 that would become notorious as the Bonnie and Clyde death car. Barrow was famous for his love of Fords, and in the day, the V-8 Ford was the fastest car on the road. Barrow may or may not have written a letter to Ford Motor Company, saying that it "has got every other car skinned," in fact.

In the spring of 1934 the Barrow gang stole a Ford V-8 Deluxe with a greyhound hood ornament, with a little less than 1000 miles. Ruth and Jesse Warren were the owners, and had bought it only recently from a Ford dealer in Topeka, Kansas. It was nearly new, but over the next few weeks the Barrow gang would put nearly 7000 miles on it in their crime spree.

During that final run, gang members were picked off by the law, or caught and jailed. But Bonnie and Clyde remained free until May of 1934, when authorities decided to take them out. The Texas police made their way to Bienville Parish, Louisiana, where assisting Louisiana police helped them set up an ambush. More than 100 shots were fired into their car, killing Barrow and Parker, whose stolen Ford V-8 made for a makeshift hearse as it was towed from the scene.

Both Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are buried in Dallas, Texas. But their death car lives on display at the Primm Valley Resort in Primm, Nevada. The four-door Ford sedan is said to have brought in millions for the owners in the museum. The Primm charges for admission, but just consider for a moment how much this "free" car cost Parker and Barrow.

You can see a great short film on the pair from the History Channel in this YouTube clip:

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