The Incredible Story of the Bonnie and Clyde Deathcar

The Bonnie and Clyde Car as it looks today.
The Bonnie & Clyde Car as it looks today.
Photo by Osie Turner

The Bonnie and Clyde Deathcar has been a long-time attraction in Primm, Nevada. Curious travelers between Las Vegas and Los Angeles can stop and see the bullet-ridden classic car in which the criminal lovers met their end. The legend of Bonnie and Clyde usually ends with the ambush that put all those bullet holes in the car and most would assume that Clyde Barrow was the last person to drive the vehicle. However, the story of the car and how it arrived in Primm is quite an interesting tale in its own right.

It all begins in Topeka, Kansas in the spring of 1934 when Ruth Warren, the wife of a local roofing contractor, purchased a brand new Ford Fordor Deluxe Sedan. The car came with a large 85 horsepower V8 engine with a few optional upgrades, such as bumper guards, a steel cover for the spare tire on the back side, safety-glass windows (which explains why the windows held up fairly well to the gunfire it was destined to sustain), and an absolutely beautiful chrome greyhound hood ornament (1934 was the last year this feature was offered by Ford). The Warrens got it at the low price of $835, which, when accounting for inflation, would equate to about $14,900 today.

Unfortunately, Ruth would not enjoy the new car for long. It was stolen on April 29 from their driveway and taken on a long drive around the Midwest by Clyde Barrow and his girlfriend, Bonnie Parker. As we all know, a series of robberies, shootouts, and near arrests ensued. The duo drove the Ford about 2,500 miles before the joyride ended. On the morning of May 23, 1934, they were ambushed on a country road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana by the police. Over 150 shots were fired into the driver’s side of the Ford, essentially killing the pair instantly. The aftermath of the high caliber rounds can still be seen in the steel exterior of the deathcar.

After the dust settled, Ruth Warren went to reclaim her stolen car, but was in for a surprise. The local sheriff refused to give it to her unless she paid him $15,000. The Warrens got a lawyer and a legal battle erupted. Ruth won and finally got the car back. She drove it to Shreveport, Louisiana where it was transported by truck back to her home. It sat in their driveway until they leased it out to be displayed at the Topeka Fairgrounds. After a short time, the car was leased to Charles Stanley’s traveling carnival as a sideshow attraction and, allegedly, made a brief appearance in the 1945 movie “Killers All”. Ruth eventually sold the deathcar to Stanley for $3,500.

Front of the car with a Bonnie mannequin posing
Front of the car with a Bonnie mannequin posing.
Photo by Osie Turner

In 1960, Stanley retired and sold the car to Ted Toddy for $14,500. The car was placed in a warehouse and more or less forgotten about for the next decade. Finally, in 1971 the deathcar went back on public display at the Royal American Shows. It again made the rounds of various auto shows. In 1697, Toddy had the car authenticated as the true Bonnie and Clyde Deathcar because by that time there were a good number of fake’s claiming to be the real car—and many of them are still on display and are quite convincing. A federal judge ruled definitively that the Toddy car was the real car from the fatal ambush.

The Bonnie and Clyde Deathcar eventually made its way to Nevada in 1977 when Peter Simon II, the son of “Pop” Simon, bought the car at auction for $175,000 and put it on display at his casino, Pop’s Oasis in Jean, Nevada. When Pop’s Oasis closed down in 1987, Simon sold the deathcar to the owners of Whiskey Pete’s Casino in nearby Primm. However, it did not go on display immediately.

As a publicity stunt, the car was raced in the 1987 Interstate Batteries Great Race. Besides some mechanical repairs to get the car running again, the windshield had to be temporarily replaced to meet safety standards.

By 1988 the infamous Bonnie and Clyde Deathcar went on display in Whiskey Pete’s and has more or less remained there since. Of course, it did move across the freeway to the Primm Valley Resort for a few years in the early 2000s and has gone on tour a few times over the years as well. But in the end, it now sits in the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s once again.

The current display features numerous artifacts of Bonnie and Clyde, including the bloodstained shirt Clyde wore the day he died, although the bloodstains have faded a great deal. The display is free of charge and definitely worth a stop if you haven’t seen it before. Whiskey Pete’s Casino is located at 100 W Primm Blvd, Primm, NV and is on the ground floor just to the right if you enter through the main doors. Additional photos and information.

Comments

5 responses on “The Incredible Story of the Bonnie and Clyde Deathcar

  1. Just down the road (on the way to Las Vegas) at the Gold Strike Hotel in Jean is a movie cars collection that is also quite good. Unlike the Bonnie and Clyde deathcar you can get much better photo angles.

  2. Very interesting story. It seems to be a tradition among criminals to come to Las Vegas after they commit their evil deeds. In this case, only the car got here…

  3. One of those other places that it was moved to (as referenced above) was the Terrible’s Casino near Verdi, Nevada. We have photos of it on display in June, 2011. But eventually, of course, it returned to the only “home” it has known since 1968…. the exhibit in Primm. This page has more information and photos that provide additional documentation about the authenticity of this car.

  4. Yes, quite the story. Maybe Peter A. Simon II, would like his dad’s craps table. From”Pop’s” Oasis, which I have.

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