SOURCE: Updated from 1980-03 Circus Fanfare Article
Editor’s Note: Charles Stanley, Windjammer member #470, from Cincinnati, Ohio, was in charge of publicity for the summer 1980 Windjammer meet. His original article about the car he used to own appeared in the ”Forest Hills Journal” of Oct. 8, 1979.
In the 1930’s, Charles Stanley used to tour the country exhibiting Bonnie and Clyde’s death car and giving lectures on crime. Looking back in 1980 at the age of 76, he recalled the bullet-riddled car he used to own “as if he had it yesterday,” when it was “the most expensive 1934 Ford V-8 in the world.”
On May 23rd, 1934, the notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were driving a stolen 1934 Ford Deluxe coupe. Barrow was wanted for several murders, robbery and kidnapping. Police set an ambush and gunned down the duo near Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana. The car was perforated with over 160 bullet holes.
Later that year Jesse and Ruth Warren bought the death car for $795.92. A few months later, Charles Stanley leased it for $150 a week. Sponsored by the National Anti-Crime Association, Stanley billed himself as “The Crime Doctor” and transported the car all over the United States on a flatbed truck, showing it admission-free as an “educational exhibit,” generally in auto dealer showrooms.
Stanley asked his audiences for 10-cent donations but gave them their money’s worth, projecting stereopticon slides on a screen to illustrate his colorful “crime does not pay” lectures.
In 1938, Stanley purchased the car he had been leasing, for $3,000.
Years later Stanley would reminisce about his experiences exhibiting the “world famous car”. He said he used to fear retribution, but by 1980 he figured he had outlived most of the underground characters of the bygone eras and could finally “tell it all”. One of his occupational hazards “was the ill will expressed against him by some members of the police ambush squad.
”To their chagrin, they had become the villains of the Bonnie and Clyde folk opera and the fugitives the heroes. The death car was a symbol of something they wanted forgotten.”
He recalled how, when he was touring with the car in Austin, Texas Ranger Captains Frank Hamer and Manny Gault cursed him, knocked him down and made him hand over his slides. Stanley had to seek police protection to get himself and his car out of town. The slides were never returned, but he had an extra set.
In 1939 Stanley exhibited the car at the state fair in Dallas, which was home to the Barrow and Parker families and also two members of the ambush squad — Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn. Fearing trouble, he hired Hinton and Alcorn as “security guards” and invited the Barrow family to come and see the car.
After listening to the lecture, Barrow’s father Henry told Stanley, “You are the only person who ever told the real truth about how my son was set up and shot down by the law. He never had a chance.”
Charles Stanley, like the Warrens, made a profit on the death car. In 1952, when public interest in the car was waning, he sold it for $5,000 to Ted Toddy, an Atlanta movie producer.
Stanley traveled with the car for several weeks but soon left because he objected to the way the car was being promoted.
“Toddy billed his car as ‘The Bonnie and Clyde Love Nest’ and ran a banner saying ‘Was Bonnie a Love Slave?’, Stanley said. “I didn’t go for that. Bonnie and Clyde were crooks on the run but not sex fiends.”
By the late 1950s, the car was in storage, but in 1967 the hit movie “Bonnie and Clyde” (starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) made the outlaw pair even more famous than they had been in life. Toddy exhibited the car again at fairs and carnivals and drew crowds. When competing fakes appeared, Toddy won a restraining order, Stanley recalled.
In 1973 at the height of the car’s renewed fame, Toddy auctioned the car for $175,000 to Peter A. Simon, a 22-year-old casino owner from Jean, Nevada. Six years later, Simon sold it to Jim Brucker, owner of Movie World Cars of the Stars in Buena Park, Calif.
As of 2020, the original, authentic Bonnie & Clyde Death Car that was once owned by Windjammer Charles Stanley is on display behind glass at Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada. At least six fakes can also be found around the country.