Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

John Dillinger 1930 Ford “Model A” for Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction

The 1930s Ford Model A (Lot #1309) used by the notorious gangster John Dillinger and later in the blockbuster 2009 movie about his life, will be sold at No Reserve during the 39th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale on Jan. 18-24, 2010 at WestWorld. The Ford, which carried “Public Enemy” number one to safety in 1934 while Dillinger sprayed pursuing cops with his Tommy gun, will cross the block as the world watches on SPEED.

“While Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson were media celebrities, none were more famous than John Dillinger,” said Barrett-Jackson Chairman/CEO Craig Jackson. “His daring robberies and hold ups fed the nation’s hunger for sensationalist news. His ability to elude capture and escape by using fast, reliable cars with seeming impunity made him a folk hero.”

Dillinger and his gang raged throughout Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin during the Great Depression. One of Dillinger’s most memorable escapes took place at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wis. on April 22, 1934. Dillinger, Homer Van Meter and John “Red” Hamilton, his two top lieutenants, escaped in the 1930 Ford Model A coupe offered at Barrett-Jackson.

“This car is a piece of American gangster history and as much a part of Dillinger’s legend as his Tommy guns and Colt automatics,” stated Steve Davis, president of Barrett-Jackson. “Not only did this particular car get the famous gangster out of a fix with the cops in hot pursuit, it was used in the recent Johnny Depp movie about Dillinger. So it’s played an important role in history and cinema emulating history.”

After a series of robberies, Dillinger and his gang hid out at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters. The proprietors, Emil and Nan Wanatka, recognized them and managed to tip off the authorities to the gang’s location.

Upon arrival, the Feds perforated the Lodge with bullets until Dillinger, Van Meter and Hamilton bailed out of doors and windows, rushing through the woods until they found the Model T nearby. The gangsters politely but firmly commandeered the Ford and its owner, Robert Johnson, to drive it.

Johnson was let out near Park Falls, Wis. The trio of crooks eluded law enforcement and drove to Hastings, Minn., over 200 miles away from the Lodge. There, they were once again identified and fled in a high speed pursuit. Hamilton was fatally shot in the hail of gunfire. Dillinger, it is said, smashed the Ford’s rear window with his Thompson and sprayed his pursuers with bullets as he escaped.

Heading for the anonymity of Chicago, they dumped the bullet-riddled Model A in favor of a stolen 1934 Ford V8. Just three months later, Dillinger was killed as he exited the Biograph Theater in Chicago.

Bullet pocked and blood stained, the Ford was impounded by the police. Files from the Division of Investigation (now FBI) identified it as “1930 Ford coupe, 4 cylinder, Model A, Wisconsin license #92652, Motor #2980001.”

“The Model A was eventually returned to Johnson who determined that it wasn’t worth repairing and parked it for nearly three decades,” noted Davis. “The car ended up in the barn of Alfred Love’s mother in-law, where Johnson rented a bungalow. Love bought it from Johnson and eventually passed it to his son, Mark, the current owner.”

The Ford was carefully restored in 2007 to appear in “Public Enemies,” preserving the original bullet holes and dimples under body filler and carefully documenting the original appearance including the upholstery soaked with blood. This car is comprehensively documented with its transfer paperwork, articles, books, before-restoration photographs and a selection of documents copied from the federal files.

“This Ford was at the center of one of the most famous shootouts in gangster history,” added Jackson. “It is, more than any automobile and even firearm, identified with Dillinger. It’s been owned by only two families since it played a crucial role in the Little Bohemia Lodge escape. The Dillinger Ford Model A coupe would be an incredible addition to a collection, museum or attraction that commemorates the history of Ford, the Model A or American history.”

About The Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

Established in 1971 and headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., Barrett-Jackson specializes in providing products and services to classic and collector car owners, astute collectors and automotive enthusiasts around the world. The company produces “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions(TM)” in Scottsdale, Palm Beach, Fla., Las Vegas and Orange County, Calif. Barrett-Jackson also endorses a one-of-a-kind collector car insurance offering for collector vehicles and other valued belongings. For more information about Barrett-Jackson, visit or call (480) 421-6694.