The cars of mobsters, criminals, tyrants, movie stars, rock legends, royalty and world leaders. Present for the death of kings and used as wings of escape for the desperate and hunted. Harbingers of doom and disasters. Preludes to accidents, murders, scandals, deception and unthinkable tragedy — these are the Top 10 Most Infamous Cars in history.
10.) “BLUE LENA” S3 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL FLYING SPUR
Keith Richards Getaway Car
Keith Richards’s S3 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, named “Blue Lena” after jazz singer Lena Horne, wasn’t only a status symbol of his early fame as a Rolling Stone, it was also the catalyst of a dangerous journey into the abyss that affected several lives. “It was a car meant to be driven fast at night,” says Keith in his book Life. “Blue Lena had carried us on many an acid-fueled journey. It had a secret compartment in the chassis where the band stashed drugs.”
In 1967, Keith Richards was facing hard prison time for drug possession in England. While awaiting trial, he decided to go on holiday in Morocco with some friends including fellow Rolling Stone Brian Jones and Jones’s girlfriend, international supermodel and actress Anita Pallenberg. Keith had his Bentley shipped to Morocco so they could drive back to England on an extended road trip. However, the vacation took a turn for the worst almost immediately. While they traveled through North Africa, Keith discovered the awful secret that Brian had been savagely beating Anita. Brian complained of feeling ill during the journey and checked himself into a hospital in Toulouse. The small entourage left him behind. Feeling angry and dejected, Brian later rejoined the group in Marrakech. That night Brian hit Anita so hard that he broke his hand. After he had passed out in a drug-fueled rage, Keith and Anita took the Blue Lena and escaped in the dead of night. In Spain they consummated their new relationship in the backseat. The strange Moroccan odyssey finally ended when the Bentley pulled into Keith’s London home where the two would hide-out for weeks afterward. It was a small victory, but the beginning of a turbulent time in all their lives. Keith and Anita’s relationship grew and they eventually had 3 children together. However, their family was gradually torn apart by Keith and Anita’s 15-year battle with hard drug addiction. Brian Jones, the founding member of the Rolling Stones, was not so lucky. Enraged by Keith’s “betrayal” and facing prison time for drug charges, Brian’s life spun further into chaos and darkness. The next year Brian was fired from the band. And shortly afterward, the once brilliant musician was found dead in his own swimming pool — murdered by one of his groundskeepers.
9.) 1993 FORD BRONCO
The OJ Simpson Low-Speed Chase
“The Juice” was loose! On June 17, 1994, after being accused of a gruesome double murder involving his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, former NFL star and actor OJ Simpson did what just about anyone would do. He issued a statement of innocence through his lawyers and then proceeded to flee from police in a 1993 White Ford Bronco…..at 35 mph. In hot pursuit of OJ and his driver were 20 police cars and 20 helicopters. Simpson had a gun to his own head and threatened to kill himself. The time was 6:45 PM and all major television stations, including CNN, interrupted primetime programming to broadcast the bizarre spectacle taking place in posh Orange County. An estimated 95 million viewers tuned in to watch the outcome.
The chase lasted about an hour (50 miles) and the Bronco rolled safely into the driveway of Simpson’s home. OJ was allowed to speak to his mother and ironically, drink a glass of orange juice. It was a peculiar beginning to what would soon become an overblown media circus. Dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” the trial instead morphed into an exercise in outrageous excess and grandstanding. An endless gallery of grotesque characters paraded in front of the camera during the televised courtroom drama, as the victims themselves were soon forgotten in the mad media blitz of celebrity worship. The exhausting 24-7 news coverage of the spectacle would also be an early precursor to “Reality TV.” Despite a mountain of evidence that proved otherwise, Simpson was proclaimed “innocent.” OJ was eventually found “liable” in the wrongful death lawsuit, and is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping. Among the many infamous events that marked the original murder trial, the desperate Bronco chase still stands out as the definitive symbol for this “theater of the absurd.”
8.) 1928 CADILLAC V-8 TOWN SEDAN
Al Capone’s Car
Alphonse “Scarface Al” Capone was one of the most powerful Mafia bosses in the history of organized crime. He owned Chicago during the Prohibition era from 1920 to 1931, and built his empire on bootlegging, prostitution and murder. The 1928 Cadillac V-8 Town Sedan was the car most associated with Al Capone. It was flashy, fast and armored — the perfect car for an opulent, arrogant mobster with little concern for anyone but himself.
In 1929, he ordered the brutal execution of seven rival gang members from the Irish Mob. They were tied to chairs and lined up against the wall inside a garage on the North Side of Chicago. Then they were riddled with bullets at close range. One of the men had been shot 14 times. It was called the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” by the press, and it horrified the public. Capone’s brazen massacre and leaving it in clear view for everyone to see, sent the message that he could do whatever he wanted and no one could say otherwise. He was invincible. However, “The Untouchables,” a specialized FBI unit led by Eliot Ness, decided to make a stand and stop Capone once and for all. After a vicious 3-year war between The Untouchables and Capone’s crime family, Capone was finally convicted in 1931 for tax evasion. He was eventually sent to Alcatraz Prison where he suffered from hallucinations, believing his cell was haunted by the ghosts of his victims. Capone was released in 1939 on parole, but succumbed to madness due to severe brain damage caused by syphilis. The once mighty mobster’s brain capacity had been reduced to that of a 12-year-old child. Weak and insignificant, Capone died of a stroke in his mansion in 1947.
Robert DeNiro as Al Capone in the 1987 film “The Untouchables”
7.) 1996 BMW 750IL SEDAN
Tupac Shakur’s Murder in Las Vegas
Tupac Shakur was one of the first socially-conscious rappers from the West Coast. He used his music to promote social change and comment on the issues of racism, poverty, violence and the treatment of women in society. Tupac used meaningful lyrics that combined melody and heart to spread an overall positive message. However, despite the message of his music, Shakur continued to live a life plagued by violence and run-ins with the law. On September 7, 1996, after the Mike Tyson/Bruce Seldon boxing match, Tupac and his entourage assaulted an alleged Crips gang member in the lobby of the MGM Grande in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After beating the man, Tupac’s entourage took off for Club 662. Shakur rode in the passenger seat of Suge Knight’s 1996 BMW 750il Sedan. At a red light on the Flamingo Road near the Maxim Hotel, Tupac stood up through the sun roof to talk with two women on the left of the BMW. Five minutes later, at 11:15 PM, a white Cadillac pulled up to the right. The occupants rolled down the window and opened fire on Shakur and the sedan. He was hit 4 times by gunfire and Knight was struck through the lung. At the hospital Shakur slipped into a coma. On Friday the 13th of September 1996, Tupac Shakur died of internal bleeding. The mystery identity of his attackers were never solved. Shakur’s life and music were filled with many contradictions, but for many his music continues to act as a positive influence.
6.) 1945 MERCEDES GROSSER 770
Hitler’s 7 Armored Limousines
Hitler was evil incarnate. He brought death and destruction to everything he touched. His rap-sheet is long and dark, filled with the absolute worst that mankind has to offer — mass murder, torture and genocide. He was a monster whose actions resulted in horrors beyond imagination, including the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. The Nazis started as a radical fringe group during Germany’s crippling economic depression following the first world war. The cultural landscape in Germany had devolved into poverty, paranoia, fear and desperation — it was the perfect storm for disaster. Adolf Hitler quickly rose through the ranks of the Nazi party by eliminating his enemies. Then the Nazis took over the political structure of Germany itself by playing to the fears of the masses. He was the Pied-Piper from Hell. Hitler turned Germany into a war factory bent on world domination.
Despite his influence and support, Hitler was the target of many internal assassination attempts by Germans who wanted the “Fuhrer” dead. They were afraid Hitler’s military campaigns and his plans of a Jewish genocide would destroy Germany forever. From 1933 to 1944, over 40 attempts were made on Hitler’s life by Germans, the most famous being Operation Valkyrie. For increased security, Hitler was driven in a rotation of seven armored limousines, the 1945 Mercedes Grosser 770. Mercedes designed the car specifically for Hitler and his staff. Each was completely armored and bullet-proof, weighed 4 tons and could reach 93.2 mph. It sported a 225 horsepower engine, and featured a rotational armored plate in the back that could be raised to protect passengers. There were also secret compartments to store extra pistols. One of the cars is now on display in the Canadian War Museum. Hitler met his end in 1945 after shooting himself in an underground bunker while the city of Berlin burned. The city’s remaining population of unprotected women and children were left to face the ruthless atrocities committed by the invading Soviet Red Army. They would be Hitler’s final victims.
5.) 1934 FORD MODEL 730 DELUXE SEDAN
The Ambush of Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were notorious criminals during the Great Depression who ripped through the Midwest during two years filled with brazen robberies and murders. They may not have been as glamorous as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty’s portrayal in the classic 1967 film, but Bonnie and Clyde were an attractive couple with massive sex appeal. The newspapers ate up the story of violence and sexuality, and fed it to eager readers looking for a diversion from the poverty that was sweeping the nation. However, despite some recent inaccurate portrayals, Bonnie was not a gun-wielding gangster moll who shot people. It was Clyde and the rest of the gang who supplied the fire power — they are credited with at least 10 murders, including several law officials.
After a series of violent crimes in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, the Barrow Gang was on the run in Louisiana. On May 23, 1934 at 9:15 AM, an ambush was set by four law officers looking to stop the infamous duo’s destructive crime spree. Bonnie and Clyde drove their 1934 Ford Model 730 Deluxe Sedan down a rural road where the posse was expecting them. As the car approached and slowed due to a strategically parked truck, the lawmen emptied all their rounds into the car. They started first blasting with shotguns until the Ford started to smoke, then they emptied their pistols into the car. Clyde had died almost instantly, but Bonnie started screaming. The Ford rolled into a ditch and the officers kept firing. Apparently they weren’t taking any chances. Bonnie and Clyde were shot over 25 times each. Clyde’s spine had snapped nearly in half, and both had been shot in the head multiple times. They were so filled with bullet holes that it was almost impossible for the coroner to embalm them. After the massacre, the officers were temporarily deafened from the sounds of their own firearms. The paper was notified and in a morbid scene, spectators rushed to the demolished car to collect souvenirs — bullet shells, broken glass, bloody locks of hair, shreds of Bonnie’s dress, and the trigger finger and ear of Clyde Barrow.
“Bonnie & Clyde”, 1967, Directed by Arthur Penn
An almost exact reenactment of the death of Bonnie and Clyde. Only they never got out of the car and there was more gunfire…
4.) ROVER P6 3500
Death of Princess Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly was one of the most elegant and beautiful actresses to ever grace the silver-screen. She starred in many classic films in her brief career including “High Noon”, “Magomba”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Rear Window”, “To Catch a Thief” and “The Country Girl”, which she won the Academy Award for best actress in 1955. However, after only six years, Kelly walked away from the Hollywood lifestyle at the age of 26 and married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. Due to her new status as a Royal, Princess Grace was unable to choose film roles that were considered “controversial” in any way. Her acting career was all but over. She turned her talents to other pursuits and founded the non-profit organization AMADE, which according to the United Nations, “promotes and protects the moral and physical integrity and spiritual well-being of children throughout the world, without distinction of race, nationality or religion and in a spirit of complete political independence.”
In 1982, Princess Grace suffered a stroke while driving, causing her Rover P6 3500 to careen down a mountainside. Her daughter, the Princess Stéphanie, was also in the car and survived despite sustaining serious injuries. However, Princess Grace Kelly passed away the following day. Her funeral was attended by international dignities and her friends from her previous life as a Hollywood star. Actor James Stewart said in his eulogy, “Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own. No question, I’ll miss her, we’ll all miss her, God bless you, Princess Grace.”
3.) 1955 PORSCHE 550 SPYDER
James Dean’s Fatal Crash
James Dean was on the fast-track to becoming not only the greatest actor of his generation but also a legend. His first three films were already classics and he had the whole world at his feet. There was no limit to where his talent and charisma could take him. James Dean became a legend, but the story was tragically all too short. On September 30, 1955, Dean was killed when his custom 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder collided head-on with a reckless driver. He was only 24 years old. For Zero-to-60-Times’ full tribute to James Dean and more information on the Spyder.
2.) 1994 MERCEDES-BENZ S280
Princess Diana Paparazzi Car Wreck
Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales was called the “People’s Princess.” She injected personality, beauty and heart into a Royal bloodline that had grown stale. She was the breath of fresh air the Windsor family needed to reinvigorate their line and excite the public. Coming from a lesser Royal house, Diana didn’t put on any airs — it was easy for people to relate to her and her unassuming nature. In 1981, she married Prince Charles in a fairy tale wedding that was seen by 750 million viewers world-wide. However, the romance was anything but a “fairy tale.” Charles was stuffy, distant and 13 years Diana’s senior — he also remained in love with his former flame, Camilla Parker Bowles. Despite great marital turmoil, Diana gave birth to the Princes William and Harry and raised them in a happy and healthy environment. She also instilled in them her passion for humanitarian causes that spanned the globe. She was not content to be a Royal figurehead — she wanted to make a difference.
Despite being loved unconditionally by the public, Diana was never fully accepted by Queen Elizabeth II, or the rest of the royal family. The unmerciful British Media, who are among the most savage and unrelentingly in the world, picked up on the story and never left her alone. They printed sensational stories filled with lurid affairs and hateful gossip. After a long separation, Diana and Charles finally ended their marriage in 1996. Nevertheless, Diana continued her work in charity and championing many causes, including landmines and AIDS research. The ravenous press, however, would not leave her alone. On August 31, 1997, while fleeing from a pack of hyper-aggressive paparazzi looking to publish another sensational “story,” Diana was involved in a high-speed car chase through the Parisian night. In the confusion, her 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280, which also carried driver Henri Paul and her friend Dodi Fayed, violently crashed killing all three occupants. The “People’s Princess” was dead at the young age of 36. There were inquiries and investigations made, which blamed the accident as a planned murder by the Royal Family, or even the paparazzi for purposively causing the crash to generate headlines. The inquisitions were called off out of respect for Diana’s young children, but it’s likely that there is some truth to both theories. Princess Diana may have died, but her legacy lives with the Princes William and Harry, and Will’s wife Kate Middleton. They continue her work in humanitarian causes and give the family of Windsor a much needed positive identity. Now grown, both young men have their mother’s charm, brains, bright personality and grounded demeanor that endears them to supporters around the world.
1.) 1961 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL SS-100-X
The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
Sworn in as President of the United States in 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the new hope a nation. Youthful, good-looking, charismatic, tough and smart — “Jack” was propelling the United States forward with progressive ideals and policies. JFK was a president who transcended political parties and demographics. He was immensely popular and perhaps the last U.S. President who fully upheld the prestige of the office. Together with his glamorous wife Jacqueline Bouvier and their young children Caroline and John Junior, the Kennedy’s were the idealized image of a young America looking toward a “New Frontier” of unlimited possibilities. It was “Camelot” on Capital Hill. JFK was more than an image though — he got things done. He and his brother Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, who was Secretary of State, moved ahead with what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other social programs. He weathered the Cuban Missile Crises, and battled communist aggressors from South America and the Soviet Union. JFK also looked toward the stars, making it possible for the fist manned-space flights that would eventually put a man on the moon.
On a cold and bleak November 22, 1963, the United States lost its innocence and its shining beacon for the future. As his 1961 Lincoln Continental SS-100-X made its way through the streets of Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy was shot twice by a sniper rifle. Jackie desperately tried to keep her husband stabilized and a Secret Service Agent leapt onto the back of the Lincoln as it sped away to the hospital. Former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald, who was also a communist sympathizer and one time Soviet spy, had murdered the country’s young president.
The nation was in a state of shock and the black veil of mourning cast a pall over everything. The death of JFK would set the tone for a confusing and restless era, filled with an inward and outward search for lost identity. The country felt leaderless and lacked direction at a time when it needed it the most. The assassination of President Kennedy was one of the single greatest tragedies in modern U.S. History, along with Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. Everyone who was alive at the time remembers exactly where they were on that fateful November day in 1963. It was a horrific tragedy whose impact has not been diminished by the passage of time even 50 years later. The death of JFK re-shaped the entire landscape of the country, and was a monumental set-back from which the office of the presidency has never fully recovered.