more news from 1928

October 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm (By Ron)

Sorry kids, this is NOT another of my Fred and Ginger posts. They haven’t met yet. That will be next year during the rehearsals for Top Speed in what is now the Neil Simon theater… but I start off digressing.

Here ya go…

This is Al Capone’s 1928 Cadillac, which just sold for over $500K at auction. Is this an ordinary Cadillac? No, this one weighs 9000 lbs! 3000 lbs of armor and inch think bulletproof glass on this bad boy! Who wound up with it after Al got tax evaded into the pokey? FDR, of course, for protection after Pearl Harbor!

On Monday morning, December 8, 1942, the day after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other U.S. military installations in Hawaii, nearly every radio in America was tuned in waiting to hear the news that President Roosevelt would address the Congress and ask they declare that we were at war with Japan.

According to former Secret Service Agent Mike Reilly, the Secret Service had determined the previous night, that a bulletproof car was needed immediately to protect President Roosevelt from possible assassins sympathetic to Japan or Germany.

But federal law prohibited purchasing any automobile that cost more than $750. An armored, bulletproof car would certainly cost more than that. Yet there was no time to wait for legislation authorizing such a vehicle, nor the time required to build one, and one was needed instantly. FDR would need it Monday morning.  [my bold]

However, Reilly, who was head of the 70-man White House detail, discovered that after Chicago gangster Al Capone, was convicted of income tax evasion in 1931 (he was sent to Alcatraz in August, 1934) the U.S. Treasury Department had seized the crime boss’s bulletproof 1928 341A Cadillac Town Sedan. It had a whopping curb weight of 9,000 pounds.

A team of government employees and mechanics worked well into the night of December 7 cleaning and preparing the car, checking everything to make sure it would run and perform as intended to be ready for use by FDR the

following day.

On December 8, 1941, when Roosevelt left the White House and went to the Capitol to ask Congress to declare a state of war existed with Japan, he made the trip in Capone’s refurbished Cadillac.

I faint at the idea of the Feds limiting themselves to a $750 car!

Ford cranked out a more modern Presidential tank, er, limo a few months later.

reference: Capone’s tank


  1. chickelit said,

    As a kid, I saw Hitler’s armor-plated Benz when it toured the US. I forget the year, but I do recall that it had something like 16 cylinders, some of which could be shut off a higher RPMs when not needed.

    Hope I didn’t just Godwin your thread Ron. :)

  2. Randy said,

    Cool car, Ron! Had no idea that it might still be around. As it is, I’m surprised it didn’t end up in the Smithsonian or some other museum. Now I’m wondering what the subsequent history of it is.

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