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Dillinger Escape Car 1933 Ford Model 40 V-8 Sedan

The most famous escape vehicle in American history will be sold in an unreserved, online auction, Sunday, August 27, 2023. The 1933 Ford V8 belonged to Sheriff Lillian Holley when it was stolen by Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger in a daring jail escape that made sensational headlines around the globe. 

“The Dillinger escape vehicle has been featured in parades and displayed in museums because it is one of the most iconic cars in history,” said Brian Witherell, co-founder of Witherell’s and guest appraisal expert on PBS’s popular series, “Antiques Roadshow.” “John Dillinger was a brazen bank robber, yet he was cheered on as a hero by average Americans who were struggling during the Great Depression. The riveting story of the Dillinger escape vehicle also tells the story of that tumultuous period in our history and this is an opportunity to own a piece of it.”

Declared “Public Enemy Number 1” by the FBI, John Dillinger made news around the world for his string of bank robberies and daring jail breaks. Just as famous as the movie stars of the era, Dillinger was known as a sharply dressed gentleman bandit who inspired numerous books and Hollywood movies, including a portrayal by Johnny Depp in the 2009 film Public Enemies

In 1934, Dillinger was behind bars in Crown Point, Indiana awaiting trial for the alleged murder of a Chicago police officer. Authorities touted the jail as “escape proof” and posted additional guards due to Dillinger’s notoriety and tendency to escape. According to reports at the time, he used a fake gun that he whittled in his cell to corral the guards and take off in Sheriff Holley’s Ford V-8. The car theft was a federal crime and fatal mistake, causing the FBI to join the manhunt. 

Among the car's many public appearances are the following:

  1. Car featured on the History channel show "Autobiography" episode “Getaway Cars”. (2020)

2. Featured on Discovery's "Expedition Unknown" hosted by Josh Gates episode "Dillinger’s Lost Loot" (2021)

3. Public ceremony and unveiling of the return to Crown point, Indiana hosted by the Disney Channel, Lake County Sheriffs department, Old Sheriffs House Foundation, Discovery Channel, and all surrounding law-enforcement agencies, and detective bureau's. (Available on Youtube) https://youtu.be/5qXJexYNIqE

4.By invitation only one year display engagement at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum (Most prestigious auto museum in the world).

5.Special event, an exhibit for the Warsaw, Indiana Police Department also hosted by the Warsaw Old Jail Foundation

6.Documentary on the jail escape of John Dillinger, for the City of Crown Point Indiana, Old Sheriffs House Foundation, Discovery channel with the retired FBI agent, Stewart Fillmore.

Media and the public are welcome to view the Dillinger escape vehicle at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento.

 

About John Dillinger

Born in Indianapolis in 1903, John Dillinger was an infamous Depression-era bank robber known for his daring jail breaks throughout the Midwest. Shot and killed by special agents in Chicago at age 34, he was the leader of the Dillinger Gang,accused of stealing more than $300,000 – the equivalent of roughly $6 million today. Dillinger was pursued by media and regarded as a hero by the public due to bank closings and foreclosures during the Great Depression. After his escape from jail in Crown Point, where he awaited trial for the murder of a Chicago police officer, the FBI labeled him “public enemy number one” and offered a $10,000 reward for his capture, dead or alive. Wanted posters featured Dillinger’s photo along with an image of Sheriff Holley’s Ford V-8, and the Vehicle Identification Number. 

About The Dillinger Escape Vehicle

The Dillinger escape vehicle belonged to Lake County, Indiana Sheriff Lillian Holley. On March 3, 1934, it was stolen by John Dillinger and Herbert Youngblood when they broke out of jail in Crown Point, a facility that authorities touted as “escape proof.” According to reports at the time, Dillinger used a wooden gun that he whittled in his jail cell to round up deputies and escape. 

Stealing Sheriff Holley’s car was Dillinger’s fatal mistake. By driving across the state line to Chicago, he violated the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act and the FBI became actively involved in the manhunt. The Ford V-8 was found abandoned in Chicago.Dillinger was on the run and continued his crime spree for a few more months until he was shot by the FBI. 

The escape vehicle is a 1933 four-door Ford V-8 finished in black with a green velour interior. It is still drivable, powered by a 221-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine originally rated at 65 horsepower. VIN #256447 is stamped in three places on the vehicle, which is the same number printed on his wanted posters. It has the original wheels with hubcaps, a rear-mounted spare wheel, a red police lamp, police siren and historic Indiana Sheriff license plates.

The car is owned by a collector who is fascinated by the Dillinger crime story. He searched for the police car for years, discovering the Vehicle Identification Number in the Maine Department of Motor Vehicles database. Under his ownership, the vehicle underwent a meticulous restoration, using almost all original parts, to restore it to its original glory. Among the cars original attributes are its Siren, Red light, Spotlight, Shotgun holder mounted on dash, all originally installed by the W.S Darley company in Chicago specifically for the Crown Point Sheriff's department in 1933, fully equipped for law enforcement.

Included with the car are the following items related to the escape:

  1. A piece of barbed wire removed from the car's front end during its restoration. At one point John Dillinger and his group skidded off the road into a water field ditch, hitting a barbed wire fence. 23 miles West of Crown Point and 25 miles South of Chicago.
  2. A set of car tire chains. Once the car was pulled from the ditch, John Dillinger ordered garage mechanic "Saager" to install the tire snow chains on the car before they could proceed.
  3. Red light originally mounted on the front of the car. After putting on the snow chains the group then proceeded West toward the town of St. Johns, and the proceeded SW along gravel roads, stopped once so the cars conspicuous red light could be twisted off the front.
  4. Windshield Wiper blade was found on the car when discovered in Maine.
  5. The Crowne Point Sheriff's key fob was on the original set of keys for the car. 
  6. Shotgun formerly part of the Crowne Point Sheriff's Office Arsenal;.

Also the car is accompanied by the following items from its time as an important museum display:

Museum Display

- Life size action figures of John Dillinger and John Hamilton. Life size action figures were made by Jim Bell one of the studio artist that worked on the movie "Saving Private Ryan" 

- Salt box with sound equipment.

- Poles from the '33 and '34 World Fair with surround sound.

- Display - Money Bags, Tommy Guns, handguns etc.

Also in this auction and for sale separately are the following related items: all of which were obtained from Janis Holley, daughter of Sherrif Lillian Holley before she passed away in 1992:

- Handcuffs with keys

- Jail Keys

- Deputy Sheriff's Badge

- Sheriff's Flashlight

Interesting facts:

1.Car featured on the History channel show "Autobiography" episode “Getaway Cars”. (2020)

2. Featured on Discovery's "Expedition Unknown" hosted by Josh Gates episode "Dillinger’s Lost Loot" (2021)

3. Public ceremony and unveiling of the return to Crown point, Indiana hosted by the Disney Channel, Lake County Sheriffs department, Old Sheriffs House Foundation, Discovery Channel, and all surrounding law-enforcement agencies, and detective bureau's. (Available on Youtube) https://youtu.be/5qXJexYNIqE

4.By invite only one year engagement at the auburn cord Duesenberg museum (Most prestigious auto museum in the world)

5.Special event, an exhibit for the Warsaw, Indiana Police Department also hosted by the Warsaw Old Jail Foundation

6.Documentary on the jail escape of John Dillinger, for the City of Crown Point Indiana, Old Sheriffs House Foundation, Discovery channel with the retired FBI agent, Stewart Fillmore

Provenance:Mark Love Dillinger Collection

Condition:

Owner performed a professional long overdue Preservation Restoration on the Ford, using all its original parts and hardware. With the exception of some the the flooring, and wear items that could not be saved. The upholstery is Brown Mohair. Among the cars original attributes are its Siren, Red light, Spotlight, Shotgun holder mounted on dash. All originally installed by the W.S Darley company in Chicago specifically for the Crown Point Sheriff's department in 1933. Fully equipped for law enforcement. 

Estimate: $100,000 - $250,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium
$149,788
06/26/2023

 

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Witherell strives to provide as much information and photographs as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Condition statements are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Witherell. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms and Conditions. Methods of payment are cash, check, money orders, or wire transfer for foreign payments. Please note we do not accept credit cards. This auction has a buyer's premium of 15%.