Famous Automobiles: Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car Part 4

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


Between 1934 and 1940, Stanley, billing himself as "the Crime Doctor," showed the car all over the country under the sponsorship of the National Anti-Crime Association. During this time, the public had begun to pay less attention to it, primarily because there were several other cars making the rounds of fairs, each advertised as the car in which Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker had died. Immediately after their death, enough photographs of the car had been circulated in newspapers and magazines to allow any enterprising fellow with a 1934 Ford of the same style as the Warrens' to shoot bullet patterns in nearly perfect duplication of the originals. Some 4 or 5 fakes were being shown as the real one; people often scoffed at Stanley's exhibit as fraudulent. For this reason he was able to buy the car from Ruth Warren at a bargain $3,500. After getting the automobile, Stanley settled down to display it in an amusement park in Cincinnati. Interest in it continued to wane. By the late '40s the Crime Doctor was sick of telling youngsters who Bonnie and Clyde were. Nobody remembered them; nobody cared.

In Atlanta in 1952 a carnival showman named Ted Toddy was making a movie called Killers All, a documentary about notorious gangsters of the '30s. Someone suggested he try to find a famous gangster's car to accompany the movie. Toddy had heard of the automobile in Cincinnati, and since a part of his film dealt with Bonnie and Clyde and that bloody day when they were killed, he got in touch with Stanley. By November, 1952, the car had changed ownership again, this time for $14,500. Toddy exhibited his film in theaters all over the nation; the car, hauled around in a moving van, went along with it. When his film no longer interested people, Toddy went into semiretirement, and the famous Ford was stored away in a warehouse in Atlanta. While the authentic death car gathered dust, at least 5 fakes were showing up at fairs, carnivals, and shopping centers, still bringing in enough money to keep their exhibitors going.

In 1967 when Warner Brothers released the Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway movie called Bonnie and Clyde, there arose a flood of new interest in the 2 desperadoes, even more than they had generated in their lifetime. Toddy again found himself the owner of a very famous car; people began asking to see it. Toddy took it out of the warehouse, cleaned it up, placed inside it 2 grotesque dummies (both wearing hats) to represent the dead killers, and went back on the road. At the same time, he began prosecuting the owner of every fraudulent Bonnie and Clyde car he encountered. The exhibitors of the fakes, however, were hard to catch. They showed their cars for 2 or 3 days and then were gone. When they were challenged by a skeptical ticket buyer, they professed vehemently that theirs alone was the real car.

Today when Toddy speaks of "the true Bonnie and Clyde Death Car," the rhetoric of an old showman comes back: "It has a magnetic appeal. I've seen people kneel before it or do the sign of the Cross. Women have walked away weeping. People come back to see it again and again, and they just stare."

By now the car has grossed over $1 million, as have its fraudulent sisters. With money like that, Clyde Barrow would never have had to rob banks.

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