Monday, January 16, 2017

A Cadillac Just Like Al Capone's

Despite the poor-quality camera work in this photo, the car shown was, for its day, top of the line, the Cadillac 341, which explains why the owner likely wanted his photo taken in his shiny new status symbol (the fact that it's crooked and cuts off the front suggests that he set the camera up on something nearby and shot using the self-timer).

Cadillac built it's superior reputation early on by emphasizing precision machining and manufacturing, which resulted in cars that were more reliable than their competitors, and more expensive. It was a pricey car for the era: list price before extras for the 1928 model was $3,395, in a year when the average American's salary was $1,490, and the median cost of a new house was $4,250. There was little external difference between the 1928 and 1929, but from what I can tell, the one shown in our photo is a '28. (More on the 341 Series can be found here.)

The Chicago police department used the 341 as squad cars, so when famed gangster Al Capone picked a car to be modified and armored, the 341 was a natural choice - he even had it painted in the same two-tone green that the cops used. (It can be seen here.) Having been shot at several times by members of the rival North Side Gang, Capone spared no expense in equipping his 341 with steel armor and inch-thick bullet-proof glass. It was sold at Sotheby's in 2012 for $341,000 (it should be noted that persistent rumors that this same 341A was used by FDR in 1941 are false; Capone's car was in England at that time). In 1933, the British Pathe newsreel service filmed a walk-around tour of Capone's highly-modified 341 Town Sedan, and it has been digitized on YouTube:

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