Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How Al Capone 
Saved President 

Capone's 1928 Cadillac 
was very much like Batman's 
Tumbler...and it may 
have saved FDR 

First things first, for those of you who slept through your history classes. 

You handsome man, you

Al Capone was a very successful mobster that made his fortune during the prohibition era in the 20s. He wasn't exactly unicorns and rainbows...Capone was more 'stab you in the skull then rape your cat'. He was not a nice man.

But he wasn't stupid, and went to extraordinary measures to protect himself and his empire.

Unfortunately, where Capone excelled in criminal activities...he couldn't avoid the IRS.

Capone was indicted on income tax evasion in 1931 and set to prison in 1932. He died behind bars from complications of syphillis in 1947. In his wake of tyranny, bribery and extortion that had plagued Chicago, he left behind one of his most prized possessions. 

A Cadillac...and not just any Cadillac.

Capone's 1928 Cadillac V-8 Town Sedan is one of the earliest known bullet-proof cars. The glass is an inch thick, with nearly 3,000 pounds of armor plate....and the car is even complete with gun ports.

The Town Sedan is powered by a 341 cubic inch L-Head V-8 engine. For those of you who aren't familiar with this particular motor, it proved to be so reliable in service that French SUMB military trucks were still using the L-Head engine until just a few years ago.

Coupled with a fully-sprung rear axle and semi-elliptic beam front axle - along with mechanical drum brakes - the ride and handling in Capone's Caddy was 'interesting', I'm sure. 

No matter.

It's what happened to the car after it was confiscated and locked up into indefinite storage by the feds that we're concerned about.

Moving on to 1939...

Below is a photo of one of America's greatest presidents - Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Of course, everything was in black and white back then.

Pictured below is Roosevelt's presidential limo, a 1939 Lincoln built by the Ford Motor Company, and leased to the White House for $500 dollars a year. 

Not only was this car the first purpose built presidential limo, it also came with a cute nickname: Sunshine Special.

1939 Lincoln Limo

Although air-conditioning was available, Roosevelt despised the technology and much preferred a convertible - so his fellow Americans could plainly see him. The Sunshine Special did indeed have a removable top - and was a ripe target for potential snipers.

And there is another little itty bitty thing the Sunshine Special lacked, too.


After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the Secret Service became very worried that some nutjob might attempt to assassinate the president. 

The Sunshine Special was immediately sent back to the Ford factory for modifications to make it bullet-proof, which would include shielding for when the top was down. 

But what to do in the meantime?

You see, regulations prevented the secret service from spending more than $750 (10,000 dollars today) for an automobile, no matter what the situation. And they needed a bullet-proof car - like right now.

Yes, you can practically see the proverbial light-bulb go off over the head of the presidential security.

"Say...whatever happened to Al's car?"

That's right. Al Capone's Cadillac Town Sedan, buried in government storage for a decade and presumably under a thick layer of dust, was brought out to serve as the primary presidential limo for FDR.

Surprisingly, that's the end of the story. 

The Cadillac ran perfectly, serving the president until his beloved Sunshine Special was returned - fully armored - a year later.

And Al Capone's bullet-proof Caddy may have save Roosevelt's life. We'll never know.

What is shown in movies and what happens in real life are two entirely different things. It is very difficult to kill someone that's inside a car with a gun. There is simply too much metal to deflect a bullet's intended path. 

That being said, it is nearly impossible to assassinate someone in a bullet-proof car. 

So, if an attempt on the president's life were in the planning stages when war was declared with Japan on December 8th, 1941, those hopes were dashed when Roosevelt arrived at Congress to give his famous 'infamy' speech in an armored car.

A car originally owned by a mobster protected our greatest president. 

Who said crime doesn't pay?

1 comment:

shugarelli said...

Nice story. However Capone didn't die in prison. He died at his mansion in Florida.