Getting Away from It All, Quickly: A History of the Getaway Car
There are so many aspects that go into a successful casino heist, from a daring plan to nerves of steel on the part of the thieves. But perhaps the most glamorous part of a good heist is the getaway car – the vehicle our thieves use to quickly escape the scene of the crime.
From the 1934 Ford used by Bonnie and Clyde during the Great Depression to the 1968 MINI famously used in The Italian Job, getaway cars have long captured the imagination of movie fans, car lovers, and true crime aficionados alike. That got us to thinking: what are the most famous getaway cars in history? And what would you want to look for in the perfect getaway car?
Famous Real-Life Getaway Cars
We’ve already mentioned one of the most famous getaway cars in history: the one used by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow during their string of bank robberies. The 1934 Ford Model 730 Deluxe Sedan they drove is perhaps best-known not for the getaways itself, but the condition it was found in after authorities ambushed the couple in Louisiana – riddling the vehicle with 160 bullet holes in an attack that killed both robbers.
But there have been other cars that have made for great getaways. Check out what the boys from Top Gear were able to do when they got their hands on some potential getaway vehicles:
Over the years and around the world, many different getaway cars have become popular based on what was available at the time – and what was popularized in the media. For instance, when British newspapers reported that thieves were using the Jaguar Mk II as a getaway vehicle, that just made it more popular, making it virtually the only getaway car any self-respecting criminal in the UK used throughout the 1960s.
The history of the getaway car begins in France, where the Bonnot Gang became famous for using a 1910 Delaunay-Belleville to quickly (at least for the time) escape the scenes of their crimes. In the 1930s, John Dillinger made the 1930 Ford Model A his choice to escape from police at the Little Bohemia Lodge. The car became iconic enough that it was later used in movies about Dillinger’s life, including 2009’s Public Enemies.
Another gangster of the era was also known for his famous car. Al Capone will always be linked to his 1930 Cadillac Imperial Sedan, though he certainly wasn’t driving around in a floor model. His car featured armor and bulletproof glass, not to mention custom-built ports for machine guns. He even used a few tricks that you might have thought only existed in movies, such as panels on the underside that could drop oil or tacks onto the road to slow down or disable any chase cars.
Getting Away on the Big Screen
The getaway cars of the real world are awesome, but there are some limits to what they are capable of. Pesky things like physics, damage and human error tend to cut down on just how much any car can do.
In the movies, of course, there are no such limitations. That means our getaway cars can come in all shapes and sizes, while pulling stunts that even the most talented criminal driver wouldn’t dare attempt. That makes these getaway cars the ones that really capture our imaginations.
One of the most iconic of these cars has already been mentioned: the 1968 MINI used in the original Italian Job. The small cars are perfect for navigating the traffic jams of Turin, while also having enough storage space to carry off a huge haul of stolen gold.
1968 was a big year for getaway cars, as that was also the year when Bullitt – starring Steve McQueen – was released. This award-winning film featured one of the greatest car chases in the history of film. For nearly 11 minutes, McQueen flies through the streets of San Francisco in a 1968 390 V8 Ford Mustang GT fastback while being chased by a Dodge Charger.
More modern films also have incredibly fast cars doing stunts that are beyond belief. A great example is the 2008 French film Transporter 3, in which Jason Statham drives an Audi A8 throughout Europe. These chases feature some other powerful vehicles trying to catch up to Statham, including a black Mercedes-Benz E-Class that goes flying off a cliff.
Not every famous getaway car has to be built for speed, though. Perhaps the most famous casino heist in recent movie memory comes from the remake of Ocean’s Eleven, starring George Clooney and a host of other A-list celebrities. In this film, Clooney’s gang realizes that in the modern world of casino security, speed isn’t going to get them out after penetrating a casino vault. That makes them opt for stealth and carrying capacity instead: an improvised SWAT van helps them hide in plain site as the cops that are supposedly responding to the robbery.
Choosing the Right Getaway Vehicle for You
So, you’re trying to plan a casino heist of your own, and you’re not sure which vehicle is right for your daring escape. With police and other law enforcement vehicles being better than ever these days, you’d better make a good decision, or your life on the run could be a short one.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of features you might want to look for in your next getaway vehicle, specifically tailored for our modern world. Here’s our list:
1. Don’t Be Flashy: In today’s world of satellite surveillance, what good is even the fastest car if you can be spotted in an instant? Go for a factory model and rely on the fact that you’ll be able to blend into traffic, making it harder for the authorities to find you.
2. Gas Mileage is King: Nothing will hurt you more in a car chase than knowing you have to stop and fill up the tank. Whether you actually do pull into the nearest Shell station or you decide to run out of gas, you can be pretty sure that this will be the end of your run. Besides, with the price of fuel today, a gas-guzzler will eat into your hard-earned heist gains far too much.
3. Need for Speed: Because no matter how much we emphasize the two points above, there’s still going to be a time when you need to get out of Dodge as fast as possible – and both acceleration and top speed matter here.
4. Trunk Space: Or more accurately, carrying capacity. You need to be able to get away with your loot, and your vehicle better have the power to keep moving fast, even if it’s weighed down with millions in cash or gold bars.
5. Handling in a Pinch: At some point, you’ll probably need to make a sharp turn or two, and having a car that can take those hairpins at top speed will stop you from landing in a ditch – or the pokey.
What to Choose for Your Own Great Escape
So when you put all of these factors together, which cars make the best getaway vehicles? The specific answer is going to come down to your customized needs, but there are a few clear picks out there that should work for most aspiring casino thieves:
Toyota Camry: Okay, you won’t be the coolest criminal in a Camry, but in this case, that’s kind of the point. Take any recent Camry model and you’ll be one among millions on the road. Good luck to the cops trying to pick your car out on the street – and even if they do, you’ll have a shot at getting lost in traffic and ditching it among the ten other Camrys on the same block.
Hyundai Sonata 2.0T: You might think this is another boring recommendation like the Camry – after all, you’ll pass just as many Sonatas on the road. But when you’re in the 2.0T performance line – which, thankfully, looks exactly like the standard version everyone and their mother is driving around – you’ll have power, speed and handling to go along with a nondescript family vehicle that no officer will suspect of being involved in a crime.
Conquest Knight XV: Sometimes, you’ll have to give up on being stealthy and give yourself as much power and security as possible. That’s when the Conquest Knight comes in handy. Based on a Ford Super Duty frame, this monster has bullet-proof windows and body panels, giving you the best chance possible of surviving your heist. And with plenty of cargo room, even the biggest vault can be emptied into this sucker.
Dodge Charger SRT-8: If you’re afraid that the cops will always have a leg up on you in the car arms race, why not try to beat them at their own game? Dodge Chargers are the standard for police vehicles, so with a clever paint job, you might just be able to blend in with the very authorities you’re trying to elude. And the SRT-8 can outrun your standard Charger any day…though it also has a sportier look, which could tip off some attentive witnesses.
And Away We Go…
If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that any vehicle can be used as a getaway car in a pinch. But if you have your pick of the litter, we think the above options are definitely the way to go. As for us, we’ll be putting off our next heist until we can get our hands on Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future – because we’re pretty sure that time is the one place where the cops won’t be able to follow.
Editor’s Note: This article is – pretty obviously, we think – meant as entertainment only; in no way do we suggest or condone anyone breaking the law or stealing stuff that isn’t theirs. Bear in mind that if you do – and you get caught – the only vehicle you’ll likely be driving is the laundry cart in the basement of San Quentin.
There, now maybe our attorneys will get off our backs.