Al Capone was one of the most notorious and infamous gangsters in the history of America. He’s been played by both Tom Hardy and Robert De Niro. He is famous for defying the prohibition-era laws that were eventually repealed. His violence and his anger are still known to people today, but perhaps what is unknown is his fondness for Cadillacs.
Al Capone and his Cadillac is a love affair that few would ever care to read up on. It’s well known that gangsters being men of power have always desired fast cars. However, Capone fashioned his Cadillac to be more than a getaway vehicle. He fashioned it to be a death-proof machine.
Al Capone and his Cadillac Avoided Assassination Attempts
In 1925, when Capon became the head of the Chicago outfit crime Syndicate, he was a constant target. Rival gangs organized assassination attempts from which he narrowly escaped many times. The most dangerous of these attempts was a 10-car drive-by shooting on at Cicero, Illinois.
It was at Al Capone’s favorite hangout. That’s when he knew he needed more protection than guns. He needed a vehicle that could protect him from the jaws of death. Enter the armored Cadillacs.
Al Capone’s 2 Armored Cadillacs
Al first upgraded his security to 2 different armored Cadillacs.
Al Capone and His Cadillac Model 341
The first was a 1928 Cadillac Model 341 Town sedan. This was a four-door, five-passenger car that was popular with Chicagoans. He had purchased it from someone called Emil Denemark, a relative of his by marriage. Emil owned a dealership and got Capone the Cadillac.
Al recruited a local mechanic named Ernest Capistran who made modifications that transformed the car into a rolling bunker.
1-inch bulletproof glass windows on the front, both sides, and the rear. The side windows could be cranked up so that a 2-inch air gap appears at the base of the window. This would provide enough room for one gunman to sweep a Thompson submachine gun. The rear window opened up as well. This allowed Al’s gunmen to take care of any vehicles which were following him.
2. The car was fitted with Steel plate armor on all the side doors.
3. A police siren was mounted under the hood. This flashed police lights which were mounted behind the grille. A regulation police radio was also hidden in the glove compartment.
4. The mechanic also made modifications to the V8 engine inside. This boosted the speed to 110 miles an hour.
5. The car also got a paint job which made it look incredibly different from the Chicago police cars of the time. Several of the police cars of the CPD were Cadillacs at the time. Hence, it was crucial that Al’s car could not be recognized as one of the police’s cars.
Al Capone and His Cadillac Series 452 Imperial Sedan
While Al was very happy with his 341, he felt that he needed another armored fortress for his protection. In 1930, he bought a Series 452 Imperial Sedan featuring a powerful 452 cubic inch V-16 engine. The car was fitted with bulletproof windows and small circular cutouts. The latter allowed gunfire from within.
The side doors of the vehicle included ¼ inch steel armor plating. Other accessories included a smokescreen and a slot cut into the floor. This allowed tire puncturing tracks or oil to be dropped to dispose of any car following Al Capone.
Of course, this Cadillac also included a police radio as well as the sirens and lights. The modifications cost $30,000. However, this Cadillac really didn’t do much for Al Capone since he was sent to prison before putting miles on it. So, Al Capone and his Cadillac have torn apart before he could really enjoy his modifications.
What Happened to Al Capone and His Cadillacs?
Most people don’t know the rest of the story about Al Capone and his Cadillac after his conviction. He served his 11-year sentence and then retired to his estate. He was diagnosed with syphilis of the brain and became increasingly paranoid. As for his Cadillacs, both of them had different fates.
Their history has been tracked by everything from newspapers references, IRS records, and accounts from private owners.
The 341 was left with a Chicago auto dealer where it was bought by Harry E. LaBreque who was a promoter. He shipped the car to Europe to serve as an attraction at an Amusement Park. During the next decades, the car repeatedly changed hands before it returned to the US in 1975. There it was used to promote the 1975 movie Capone starring Ben Gazarra.
In 2013, the 341 Sedan sold for $341,000. This made it one of the priciest and most historically significant classic Cadillacs to ever be sold.
As for Al Capone and his Cadillac Imperial Sedan. It also survives. It is in a private collection and was impounded from Al’s Miami Beach vacation home by the FBI. It remained in US custody for many years. After that, private sales ensure that the Sedan was auctioned off for $309,000 in 2009.
Al Capone’s Cadillac Was Sold for $1 Million
That’s not the end of the story, however. In February of 2021, Al Capone and his Cadillac are still relevant. The first one of his armored fortresses was auctioned off just a few months ago for $1 million. In total, the car exists in impeccable conditions with 3000 pounds of armor plating. It also has a 4-speed manual transmission and a total of 1,111 miles logged in.
Richard Capstran, the son of the original mechanic who modified the car, testified to the car’s incredible modifications. He said his father, though unfamiliar with such modifications at the time, was forced by Capone to do what he needed.
Al Capone is one more gangster in a long line who tried to bend the world to his will. Today, his name remains, yet only infamously. His Cadillacs testify to the fact that it will stay that way.