4 gangster cars to slum it

Published on Monday, April 15, 2019.
Updated on Friday, June 28, 2019.

Ford Cortina Lotus: the mail train attack

The mail train London-Glasgow incident marked the 60’s and stuck in everyone’s mind in France, thanks to cinema: Gerard Oury made a movie adaptation, le Cerveau (the Brain), with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bourville as a headliner. On the 8th of August, 1963 at 3:03 am, a group of 16 gangsters led by Bruce Reynolds (among others, the opinions vary in terms of the quality of “Cerveau”) took over a mail train which left Glasgow for London, filled with 2.6 million pounds in small bills heading for destruction (almost 50 million pounds today, to get an idea).

And the Ford Cortina Lotus you ask? Those days, this was a rather attractive car, intended to the registration for BTCC (1 000 models minimum) and possessed a Ford engine, modified by the Lotus for the Elan, the 1.6 liters “Kent” pushing along 106 horsepower. She stood out compared to her peaceful sisters through aluminum doors, a transmission and a suspension which was revised by Lotus, a white and green paint particularly recognizable as well as specific tires.

Bruce Reynolds, the alleged mastermind loved cars and had bought a Lotus Cortina just a while before, thanks to various petty thefts. Registered BMK 723A, she helped him carry out several recons of what will be known as the heist of the century, leaving tire marks (specific, we told you) which helped the police for identification. Reynolds managed to escape overseas but was arrested in 1968, while going back to London.

Irony of the story, the police of West Sussex was equipped with Lotus Cortina a little later.

The BMK723A remained at the pound until 1980, before being sold to a famous client, Colin Chapman (founder of Lotus). She remained in the reserves of Lotus until the brand sold a part of its collection in 2000, during an auction. Since then, she is often perceived at auctions, the last one dating back to 2012 and a transaction amounting to 100 000 pounds.

Citroën 15-6 G: Crazy Pierrot

The immediate postwar period was a tough time for France, and each one tried to survive as best as they could (rationing lasted until 1949). For Pierre Lautrel, a violent gangster, formerly part of “bat’d’Af”, of the cabin (French Gestapo) resisting the circumstances and restored his image, there was only one solution: resume his stick-up-man activities. With 6 accomplices, he created a group called « Traction Avant Gang”.

The Citroën 15-6 G in the movie «Gang » by Jacques Deray.

The idea wasn’t new: possessing powerful cars which were solid and had excellent road holding, in order to escape as quickly as possible, while continuing their wrongdoings. For Pierre Lautrel, known as Crazy Pierre, the latter chose the Citroen 15-with 6 in-line cylinders of 2 867 cc and 77 horsepower. Fast (135 km/h), she easily vanishes in the traffic, which included many 7, 11 and 15 with the same look. Finally, a car which was renowned for wrongdoers, with the Gestapo and the Resistance.

After a series of robberies which began in February 1946, The “Traction Avant gang” and crazy Pierre (became public enemy number one) were besieged by the police in a farm, close to Champigny in September. Lautrel escaped but shot himself by mistake while getting in the 15-6. He died a few days later.

BMW 528i : Jacques Mesrine

On the 14th of May 2007, a legend is crushed forever: at a junkyard in a town called Athis Mons, the BMW 528i E12 registered 83 CSG 75 turned into a heap of metal after remaining under seal since Jaques Mesrine’s death on the 2nd November 1979.

A BMW 528i with the right registration number, in the film, Mesrine in 2008, with Vincent Cassel in the title role.

During the 70’s, the one who called himself The Great or even Robin Hood (retrospectively speaking, noted down the irony of his registration plate) turned into the public enemy number 1 after a series of robberies. In 1979, the latter decided to buy an “Bimmer” for around 100 000 francs those days, a direction model at the BMW car dealership in Clichy.

Equipped with a 6-inline 2,8 liters of 184 horsepower, along with a manual transmission, air conditioning and Motorsport wheels, the car became famous hardly two months after its registration. While Mesrine came out of his hideout behind its wheel, the latter comes across a police ambush at the corner of Porte de Clignancourt and Boulevard Ney. Trying to escape, 21 bullets riddle the car which permanently stopped at 7 747 km on the counter. Mesrine is fatally shot. 

Since then, BMW is known to be a valued brand among gangsters, especially around 10 years before, the Baader gangster group had striked in RFA in a BMW 2002.

Cadillac 341 V8 Town Sedan : Al Capone

Al Capone, also known as Scarface, is surely one of the most famous gangster of all times. Is it due to the several films which inspire his history, his pursuit and his arrestation by Eliot Ness or simply his imposing Cadillac Série 341 “Town sedan” bulletproof limousine? Tough to say.

The godfather of the crime in Chicago, while at his peak the Prohibition 1919 onward, indeed bought a Cadillac 341 V8 in 1928. Not only for her poise but also for another reason: the police used it too. Painted in the same green and black colors as the units of Chicago, she had a flashing light and a radio receiver.

Moreover, for better protection, the Cad’ Town Sedan was bulletproof which made it weigh 3 tons. A weight that the V8 with 5,6 liters and 90 horsepower has a hard time carrying along. Little subtlety, Al Capone changed the back window to make it tip-up: practical to spray with bullets a pursuer. After Al Capone’s sentence in 1931, she was recovered by a somewhat crooked automobile agent who sold it to individuals. She re-emerged in 2012 during an auction and was sold at 341 000 dollars. Specificity: the registration number had never been changed, it was still registered under the name of Al Capone’s wife.

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