The Bonnie and Clyde Death Car: A Morbid Casino Attraction

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

On May the 23rd, 1934, on a lonely stretch of road in Louisiana, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were gunned down by six police officers. Since then, the two criminals have become icons of the Great Depression: Violently symbolising 1930’s public discontent, Bonnie and Clyde, as well as other infamous criminal figures such as John Dillinger, are now remembered and idolised through Hollywood films and endless biographies.

However, while almost all aspects of Bonnie and Clyde’s criminal career have been glamorised to an extent, the couple’s beaten up Ford car remains a rather gruesome skeleton in the crime closet – quite literally. While many of us can skim over the less savoury elements of the Bonnie and Clyde story, when confronted with the bullet-ridden (estimates suggest police fired 150 rounds at the car and the couple), blood splattered Ford which Clyde allegedly suggested was a “dandy car”, we are instantly forced to face the very real, unglamorous and violent aspects of this dangerous couple’s story.

Strangely though, Bonnie and Clyde’s “death car,”, as it has come to be known, has ended up in a state commonly considered to be the most carefree and “unreal” place in the United States: Nevada. After Bonnie and Clyde’s dramatic demise, the death car travelled across the country, first to its original owner, Ruth Warren, who had the car stolen from her by the couple and then in various sideshows, labelled the notorious “Bullet Ridden” death car. Since then, this particularly gruesome piece of American history has turned up in a variety of locations and in each one, (it currently appears as part of a Bonnie and Clyde attraction in Terrible’s Casino, Primm, Nevada) it has made the fanciful macabre legends about crime’s most famous (and infamous) couple seem very real indeed. We spoke to Frank R. Ballinger, webmaster of Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout (texashideout.tripod.com/bc.htm), the web’s most informative Bonnie and Clyde resource, about the death car and Nevada’s fascination with it.

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Site

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Site

Ballinger suggests that Clyde’s choice of car was intentional: Rather than stealing any car the couple could find, Clyde actively preferred Ford V8s “because of their speed, superb handling and thick steel construction”. Noting that after stealing the car, Clyde “added another 2,500 miles to the odometer between the time he had taken it and the morning he died in it.” When asked what attracts visitors to the death car, Ballinger proposes that the Ford “continues to this day, to be mute testimony to the death and carnage that it once held, from the noticeable impact left by the numerous bullets, down to the still, blood stained upholstery”.

Ballinger agrees that the car seems to interest “the morbidly curious”, which is perhaps why casinos such as Terrible’s, in Primm, are keen to feature it prominently on display. Casinos in Nevada have in the past openly courted their relationships with crime and the state has played on the mystique of its shadowy associations with the mob. It therefore makes sense that Terrible’s Casino should promote the infamy of Bonnie and Clyde, as it’s located in one of the most liberal and (some would say) shadowy states in America. Despite numerous fake death cars appearing in attractions in the United States, Ballinger observes that Terrible’s car is the real thing, as Ted Hinton, one of the “posse” who were involved in Bonnie and Clyde’s fatal ambush, “made a "secret" marking on the death car at the time of the ambush”. Hinton “later confided this to his son Boots Hinton as to where this mark could be found. The son found the mark on this particular car”.

While Ballinger admits the authenticity of the death car, he believes that Las Vegas shouldn’t open a major Bonnie and Clyde attraction. As the city will soon be opening its very own Mob Museum, which will detail the exploits of criminals in the city, as well as the efforts of law enforcers, a Bonnie and Clyde museum, or attraction, would seem the perfect fit for Sin City. However, Ballinger believes “that it is better to have” Bonnie and Clyde “artefacts “spread out in various locations around the country, rather than grouped all together in just one place”. For now then, those looking to piece together the history of one of America’s most notorious couples must be prepared to travel across states: Just as Bonnie and Clyde had to when they were on the run. Although, those who prefer to catch a glimpse of the final scenes of Bonnie and Clyde’s story, will always find solace in the grim “artefacts” Terrible’s Casino in Nevada has to offer.

CasinoOnline.co.uk wishes to thank Frank Ballinger for his participation in this article. More details about Bonnie and Clyde’s car, as well as a variety of other resources, can be found by visiting texashideout.tripod.com/bc.htm.