The cars of the world's most notorious criminals
Here are just some of the vehicles owned by the world's most notorious criminals.
Criminals and their getaway cars go hand in hand, but did you know that the concept of a getaway vehicle can actually be traced all the way back to the notorious outlaw Jesse James?
James’ innovation in American criminality came from guerrilla tactics he had honed during the Civil War, with rapid strikes and swift getaways crucial to his martial prowess and later success as a bank robber.
Things have come a long way since the days when crooks would rob trains from horseback but if there’s one thing that criminals love to spend their ill-gotten gains on, it’s flash cars. Whether or not they use them for getaways or just to show off, here are the cars of some of the world’s most infamous baddies.
Back in the Roaring 20s, the tommy gun might have been the gangster’s best friend, but a fast set of wheels was a close second. Criminals of the early 1900s were building their empires in the middle of a technological revolution, and knew that having the right vehicle could mean the difference between freedom and incarceration.
For Al Capone, his ride of choice was a 1928 341A Cadillac, and Capone is thought to be one of the first gangsters to fit his cars with body armour and bulletproof glass to protect him. This particular car also had its own urban myth: according to legend, FDR took ownership of the car after Capone was arrested for use as the presidential vehicle.
Capone also owned several other cars including a 1940 V-16 Cadillac which is now on display at the Collings Foundation in Massachusetts and is available to view by appointment only.
Jordan Belfort is one of America’s best-known fraudsters, thanks in no small part to Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of him in Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.
After founding brokerage house Stratton Oakmont in 1989, Belfort quickly amassed an estimated fortune of £60 million and developed a lifestyle that revolved around lavish parties, intensive use of recreational drugs and fast cars.
Although in the film he was depicted driving a Lamborghini Countach, Belfort insists that the car he drove during that particular Quaalude-induced episode was a Mercedes. His impressive array of vehicles also included a private yacht and a helicopter, plus a Jaguar E-Type and his prized Ferrari Testarossa which was recently listed for sale.
Head of the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking organisation, drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, otherwise known as El Chapo, is one of the most famous criminals in the world.
Born in Mexico, El Chapo started a life of crime as a teenager before founding the Sinaloa cartel in 1989, building it into an immensely profitable global operation. Known for his violent actions and daring prison escapes, El Chapo has an estimated fortune of more than £70 million and in 2009 ranked as 701 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.
With all that power and wealth naturally comes a long and impressive list of prestigious vehicles. Just some of the cars El Chapo has owned includes a fully-loaded Jeep Sahara and a Dodge Viper, along with a Mercedes G-Class, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and several motorcycles.
The Kray Twins
Once described as the most dangerous men in Britain, Ronnie and Reggie Kray ruled East London back in the Swinging Sixties.
Much like Al Capone before them, the twins never shied away from the public eye and flaunted their wealth, power and hard man status at every opportunity, and even appeared on a series of posters alongside The Beatles and Mick Jagger.
There’s not much information about how much the twins were worth, but according to their long-time mechanic Bernie Fineman, between them they owned a variety of expensive and prestigious vehicles.
Just some of the Kray twins' cars included an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, a Standard Vanguard and a couple of Ford Zodiacs. According to Fineman, he was often called in the early hours to collect motors with dubious dents on them, and he reportedly often found knuckle dusters, baseball bats and iron bars hidden inside the cars’ panels.
Bonnie and Clyde
Of all the criminals associated with vehicles, there are few as famous as Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow who, in early 1934, stole a car and took it on a 2,500-mile spree of robbery and killing.
That car was a Ford V8 powered by the then relatively new flathead V8 engine, which became popular with all manner of outlaws throughout the US thanks to its power and how easily it could be modified.
Of course, Bonnie and Clyde’s joyride was famously ended by over 100 armour-piercing bullets, but their legend and that of the Ford they drove only became all the more famous.
In fact, in April 1934 Barrow even wrote to Henry Ford himself, praising the car and saying: “For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got every other car skinned, and even if my business hasn’t been strictly legal it don’t hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8.”
John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer
Said to be Britain’s richest criminal, John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer had an estimated fortune of £300 million, allegedly through involvement with the infamous 1983 Brink’s-MAT robbery where £78 million of gold bullion, diamonds and cash was stolen from a warehouse.
Despite being found not guilty by a jury in 1987, Palmer is believed to have had a connection with a string of underground activities including racketeering and extortion. Convicted of fraud in 2001, he was so wealthy that he even featured on the Sunday Times Rich List, sharing 105th place with the Queen.
Along with a £1 million yacht and a fleet of helicopters, Goldfinger owned a large collection of classic cars from the 1940s and 1950s worth around £500,000 in total, along with various rare and exotic Ferraris and Porsches.
His success didn’t last, however, after he declared bankruptcy in 2005 with debts of £3.9m and was found murdered in June last year in his home in Essex.
The Zodiac Killer
The most remarkable thing about the car purportedly used by the Zodiac Killer is that it was completely unremarkable in every way.
Compared with some of the vehicles used by rich and powerful crime bosses, the white Chevrolet Impala which was supposedly owned by the notorious serial killer was a popular model in its day, with more than a million sold.
As a result, the menace of the Zodiac Killer came to be associated with the Impala and police reports from those claiming to have seen the killer’s car flooded in and only fed the hysteria surrounding the killings. No doubt, this likely delighted the killer, who taunted police by sending cryptograms prior to his brutal murders.
Although San Francisco police officially deemed the killer inactive in 2004, the case remains unsolved, and the Chevrolet Impala has been closely tied to the murders ever since.