Famous Automobiles: Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car Part 1

About famous automobiles specifically the history of Bonnie and Clyde's death car.


In mid-March of 1934, Jesse Warren, a roofing contractor in Topeka, Kan., bought a new Ford for $785.92-$200 down, $585.92 to be paid by April 15. The car was a V-8 Fordor Deluxe, of a tannish-gray color which the Ford Motor Company called "Desert Sand." It bore motor number 649198 and Kansas license plates with the numbers 3-17198.

Although both Warren and his wife Ruth drove the new car, Ruth felt that it was more hers than his. It was a beautiful automobile with special equipment: fancy seat covers, bumper guards, a metal cover on the extra tire, an Arvin hot-water heater, and on the radiator cap a leaping greyhound in chrome. The windows on the new V-8s not only rolled up and down, but also slid backward almost 2" for partial ventilation. The running boards were wide and handsome; the doors, both front and back, swung outward toward the rear to open. Ford dealers said a new V-8 would get nearly 20 mi. to the gallon at 45 mph, but it could go much faster than that.

By late April the Warrens had driven 1,243 mi. and had paid the balance owed on it. On April 29, 1934, Ruth returned home from a Sunday afternoon drive. She parked the car in the driveway and left the keys in the ignition. Jesse was down the street visiting his mother.

Shortly after one o'clock Ruth's neighbors saw a man and a woman repeatedly circling the block in a Plymouth coupe. Ruth herself looked out the kitchen window once to see a cruising car; the woman in it was wearing a red dress. Later the neighbors saw the car again; this time a man was riding on the right running board. He jumped off, climbed into the Warrens' car and started it, backed out of the driveway, and sped away, following the Plymouth. The new Ford was gone, and the Warrens were not to see it until 3 months later, when, blood-soaked and riddled with bullet holes, it was famous as the automobile in which Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker had died.

On Monday morning a report came to the Kansas State Police that a car fitting the description of Jesse Warren's, but bearing out-of-state license plates, had been spotted near Ottawa, Kan., only 40 mi. from Topeka. It had been parked off the road behind a hedgerow; whoever was driving it had spent most of Sunday afternoon there. By Monday noon the State police found the spot behind the hedgerow. There was no car, only the tracks of new tires, cigar butts, and a pair of rose-colored ladies' panties lying on the ground--details calculated to tantalize and enrage the police.

Although law officers over the entire Midwest and Southwest stayed on the lookout for Barrow and Parker, the gray Ford dropped out of sight after it was spotted near Ottawa. Clyde, a fast and expert driver, was known to like night for traveling long distances. For this kind of driving Barrow preferred Fords. They ran at high speeds for a long time without breaking down, they got good gas mileage, and they were everywhere, a considerable advantage for someone who wanted anonymity on the highway.

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