There is a nearly endless list of crimes that have involved a vehicle, whether that means it was the weapon, crime scene, key piece of evidence or large break in the investigation. All of these cars are historical and have colorful pasts, mostly due to their owners who either committed crimes or did something else to make their name infamous. In some cases, these cars played a key part in the trials and investigations that pursued their owners, including DNA evidence, police chases and other clues. In other cases, the inherent design of the car, or its association with popular media led to its infamous reputation.
Additionally, these crimes have spanned across a century, representing time periods of violence, like the Great Depression as well as the late 20th Century, with famous trials like the People vs. OJ Simpson. These stories are historic moments, many of which are heavily tied to the cars used by the perpetrators, making them rather significant in America's History. I have collected this list to showcase the cultural impact that cars have had on infamy and crime.
The details provided here should be considered as quick notes. I tried to be brief and invite you to research more about the crimes and other situations that have left these cars to be infamous. Their are plenty of sources readily available that go much more in depth than I have here.
Without further ado, enjoy the list.
20 Marvin Heemeyer’s Bulldozer
On June 4th 2004, Marin John Heemeyer went on a destructive spree in a modified bulldozer, damaging a series of buildings. Heemeyeer targeted the town hall, the former mayor's house and other buildings in Granby, Colorado, where Heemyer lived.
The motive behind Heemeyer's attack was a series of zoning disputes between him and the city, as Heemeyer was a muffler repairman and the new concrete construction the city had planned interfered with his shop.
Over a year an a half, Heemeyer used his welding knowledge to fortify a Komatsu D355A bulldozer and planned his attack, which essentially was the result of a man being pushed too far by bureaucracy.
19 Ted Bundy’s 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
Ted Bundy committed a series of heinous crimes during the 1970s, many of which occurred in his 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. The particular vehicle is crucial in Bundy's story, as it was involved in many of his sightings, crimes and other pieces of evidence. The Beetle, the current whereabouts of which I couldn't seem to find, was on display at some point in the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, but I guess that the museum has since been closed. Anyway, despite the already booming reputation of the Volkswagen Beetle, the added infamy from Ted Bundy and his reign of terror couldn't be ignored, so I included it on this list.
18 John Dillinger’s 1930 Ford Model A
John Dillinger was a Depression-era gangster, who operated with a group of men named the Terror Gang, robbing 24 banks, four police stations and participating in a series of other illegal activities.
Dillinger led quite an interesting life, including two escapes from prison and crimes involving a hot car of the 1930s, the Ford Model A.
Dillinger used the car during his years living the crime life and since then, the Ford Model A and other cars like it have been portrayed in film and other media as the car of a Depression-era gangster, quite an infamous reputation if you ask me.
17 Jaguar Mark 2
The Jaguar Mark 2 was produced between 1959 and 1967, making an incredible addition to the racing history of the world. The car, for the time, was incredibly powerful: a 3.8 liter 220 brake horsepower engine made it a good addition to the arsenal of criminals, as it was faster than police vehicles.
With enough room for five adults, the Mark 2 made for a popular getaway vehicle, which British police quickly caught on to and deployed Mark 2s as part of their own fleet. Nonetheless, the criminal reputation of the car hasn't left as the Mark 2 is an infamous sign of a getaway car.
16 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder
Dubbed "Little Bastard," the most famous Porsche 550 is the sports car that actor James Dean crashed while on his way to a racing event in Salinas, California. Dean, who aside from his acting career had taken up sports car racing, had recently finished filming Giant.
Excited to return to racing, Dean bought the Porsche 550 and entered the Salinas racing event, only to have a fatal accident during the road trip there.
Since then, Dean has left an incredible legacy being described as a rock star of the generation and a symbol for the disenfranchised youth in his era.
15 Bonnie and Clyde’s Ford Sedan
The historic crime duo Bonnie and Clyde, are well known for their Ford Sedan, which is now riddled with bullet holes, on display as a tourist attraction. The car is a moment trapped in time, in which, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow lost their lives when police ambushed them after a crime spree and police chase that spanned 4 years. Their crime spree involved a series of bank robberies that took many innocent lives. They were not alone either, as Bonnie and Clyde had a core group of accomplices that assisted them in their crime spree. Like I mentioned, their getaway car is now on exhibit, which is the picture I included, leaving a legacy of infamy behind old Ford Sedans forever.
14 Sister Catherine Cesnik’s 1970 Ford Maverick
On the night Sister Catherine Cesnik disappeared, her neighbor recalled seeing her sitting in her car, a 1970 Ford Maverick, in the parking lot of the apartment complex she lived in. That car was later found illegally parked across the street, vacant, and became a key clue in her disappearance.
Sister Catherine's case led to an even larger scandal involving the Archbishop Keough High School, where Sister Catherine taught with a team of other nuns and priests.
The entire story, including more recent information, is told in a Netflix documentary named The Keepers. It's an incredible story that needed to be told and I recommend doing some research into the topic.
13 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280
Diana Frances, the Princess of Wales and member of the Royal Family, lost her life in a tragic car crash in 1997. The Mercedes-Benz S280 that Princess Diana was traveling collided with a Fiat Uno in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, France. The unfortunate accident left the world in shock and a series of tributes and public displays quickly followed. Diana's funeral was televised and featured different members of the Royal Family speaking on Diana's life, particularly her brother Spencer, who said, "She proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic."
12 The Fiat Uno Diana Conspiracy
While it was deemed conclusive with media reports, not everyone agreed with the retelling of Princess Diana's tragic accident. Mohamed Al-Fayed alleged in 2005 that the white Fiat Uno is question was being used by MI6, the secret intelligence agency and because French police were unable to find the white Fiat Uno that was involved in the crash, questions were raised.
Furthermore, Al-Fayed claimed that the Uno belonged to Jean-Paul James Anderson, who, according to Al-Fayed, was a security services agent that photographed Diana's crime scene. However, it was deemed an unlikely conclusion, as other evidence suggested that Anderson's Fiat wouldn't have been roadworthy at the time of the accident.
11 The Mercedes-Benz 600
The Mercedes-Benz 600 is a high class car that over the years, has had some notable owners. While the list is numerous and contains names from every area, one of the most notable is the kingpin Pablo Escobar, who owned a Mercedes 600 in the 1980s.
However, in 1988, while Escobar was in Medellin, Colombia, the 600 was destroyed during an attack on his life.
I shouldn't end the legacy of the Mercedes 600 there however, as other notable owners of the car include Elvis Presley, Hugh Hefner, Jay Leno and Jack Nicholson. Does this change the car's infamous image? Maybe, maybe not.
10 Loomis Semi Truck
During a routine pickup route, two armored money truck drivers by the names of Cesar Yanez and Aldo Esquivel Vega stole one million dollars. The concluded story is that Yanez and Vega stashed 2 bags, containing the money, in a trashcan and then continued with their route, as to avoid any suspicion.
Unsurprisingly, the missing money did not go unnoticed and the two drivers became prime suspects.
They were arrested rather succinctly and Yanez later confessed to the crime. He was ordered to repay the money in full amount, however, the location of the stashed cash was still unknown. Some time later, investigators found the money after searching Yanez property and finding a large storage bin full of neatly wrapped $20 and $100 bills.
9 1990 Chevrolet Caprice
In 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo took the lives of seventeen people and critically injured ten. Their crime spree involved a modified 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that had truck access from the back passenger seats. This allowed for mobile armed attacks, which resulted in a spree of violence that spanned across Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Washington. The chase caught national attention and Fox aired an episode of America's Most Wanted featuring the criminals, in the hopes that it would aid in their capture. In September 2003, Muhammad was sentenced with capital punishment, and the still underage Malvo was sentenced to six life sentences, to be served consecutively without parole.
8 Ed Gein's Ford Sedan
Edward Theodore Gein took a series of innocent lives in the mid 20th century. His car was a 1940s Ford Sedan that looked similar to the one featured above. The crimes that Gein committed are extensive and graphic, so I won't discuss them in detail, although if you are interested in the morbid and macabre, then I suggest doing some research into the topic. While it is hard to have sympathy for Gein, his criminally insane conviction makes it easier to understand his senseless acts of violence. In 1968, Gein was found guilty and committed to a psychiatric institution and spent the remainder of his years in different, but similar institutions. Gein passed away in 1984, leaving a historic crime and legacy of infamy in his wake.
7 Robert Lee Yates 1979 Ford Van
Toward the end of the 20th century, Robert Lee Yates committed a string of crimes which were both violent and senseless. His method of operation included a 1979 Ford van, which he lured his victims into.
I should mention that the Ford Yates used wasn't the only car he used for his crimes. The other main vehicle was a 1977 Corvette that Yates had actually been pulled over in during the manhunt.
The field report revealed the reason Yates was overlooked in the traffic stop: "Corvette" had been misread as "Camero" and Yates was sent on his way. However, in 2000, after taking the lives of thirteen people, Yates was arrested on charges against Jennifer Joseph, one of Yates' victims. Later that year Yates was found guilty in the Spokane County Superior Court and sentenced to 408 years in prison.
6 Teresa Halbach’s Toyota RAV4
Making a Murderer is a cinematic masterpiece which explores the questionable case and trial for the murder of Teresa Halbach, which imprisoned Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. One key piece of evidence was Halbach's Toyota RAV4, which provided DNA samples that the prosecution used, in addition to other evidence, to convict the two men.
What makes the trial questionable are the methods and conflicting claims made by the defense and prosecution, but I really would rather not spoil the details of the case, as they are worth discovering on your own. Making a Murderer is a Netflix Original, but of course because it's a real case, research is easy and will include updates to the story that have happened since the docu-series was made.
5 Zodiac's Chevy Impala
This man's true identity remains unknown, but he took the lives of 7 people in between 1968 and 1969. The crimes were committed in cities scattered around Norther California, including San Francisco. Due to the lack of a trial, there isn't a lot of information other than theory on Zodiac, however, a popular lead has linked a Chevrolet Impala with the perpetrator. The model year was around the 1960s and the Impala design matches the description that was collected during the investigation. Whether Zodiac drove an Impala or not is something we will probably never find out, but reading theories and conspiracies surrounding the crime spree is incredibly fascinating.
4 John Wayne Gacy’s Oldsmobile Delta 88
Much like Ed Gein, John Wayne Gracy commited a series of horrific, heinous crimes, although Gracy operated toward about 20 years after Gein. His car was a black Oldsmobile Delta 88, which Gacy used as a place to lure his victims, allowing for mobility.
This iconic car actually led police to Gacy, as it was spotted and tailed, leading to Gacy's arrest for battery charges.
After his arrest, Gacy came forward with information about his crimes and in December 1978, Gacy confessed the full extent of his crimes and in 1980 his trial followed. After deliberations, the jury reached a verdict of guilty and Gacy was sentenced to capital punishment.
3 OJ Simpsons Ford Bronco
The infamous OJ Simpson trial had America on edge, as racial tensions in the case divided many places in the country. One famous scene from the OJ Simpson happenings was the "slow speed" chase that OJ went on in his Ford Bronco. Simpson, who was armed, drove the car to escape police, because he believed he was being suspected of a crime he was not guilty of. I want to clarify that I'm not saying he was innocent or guilty, in fact, that topic is still heavily debated today, despite the final verdict being innocent. Nevertheless, Simpson got national attention in his stunt, shutting down highways in Los Angeles as he drove with a cavalry of police interceptors following him.
2 J.F.K.’s 1961 Lincoln Continental SS-100-X
The 1960s were an incredibly trying time for U.S. society: conflict flared in Vietnam, dividing America and creating tension in the nation. John F. Kennedy, who was elected in 1960, was making strides to smooth political and social issues, so when he lost his life due to a man named Lee Harvey Oswald, a Marist and ex-marine the nation was shocked.
This historic event left Lyndon Johnson to be acting president and the country in dismay. His parade limo was a 1961 Lincoln Continental SS-100-X and hopefully you know a little bit about our history, because I don't want to go into the unfortunate details.
1 The Plymouth Fury from Stephen King's "Christine"
Christine is a 1983 psychological horror film based on Steven Kings' novel and directed by John Carpenter. The movie's plot involves a possessed Plymouth Fury that preys on its owners.
The movie and novel are both pretty incredible, and the story is considered a classic piece of U.S. media.
In its opening weekend, Christine brought in 3.4 million dollars and continued on a slow decline, resulting in a total gross number of 21 million dollars. Due to its impression on our culture, Christine has brought infamy to the Plymouth Fury and inadvertently made people look at their cars with a little superstition.
Sources: Zodiac Ciphers, LA Times, Car US News, Zero to 60 Times, Complex, SFGate, Thrillist, Go Car Warranty, Mother Nature Network, The Drive, Ranker, Car Keys