Death Car.
Death Car behind glass, 2012.

Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car

Field review by the editors.

Primm, Nevada

In early 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow stole a V8 Ford and drove it around the Midwest, robbing and killing people. That joyride ended when lawmen punctured the car (and Bonnie and Clyde) with over 100 armor-piercing bullets.

Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde, nutty pranksters.

Since then, the location of the "Bonnie and Clyde Death Car" has often been as difficult to find as it was when its drivers were alive.

The blood-splattered, bullet-ridden car was an instant attraction, touring carnivals, amusement parks, flea markets, and state fairs for 30 years. In the 1970s it was at a Nevada race track where people could sit in it for a dollar.

A decade later it was in a Las Vegas car museum; a decade after that it was in a casino near the California/Nevada state line. It was then moved to a different casino on the other side of the freeway, then it went on tour to other casinos in Iowa, Missouri, and northern Nevada (where we stumbled across it in 2008).

Complicating matters was the existence of at least a half-dozen fake Death Cars (we've seen them in Florida and Illinois) and the Death Car from the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde movie (which was in Louisiana but now is in Washington, DC).

Clyde's death shirt.
Clyde's death shirt.

Recently, the death car was parked at its home casino in Primm, Nevada, on the plush carpet next to the main cashier cage. But then it embarked on another casino tour, and was last seen west of Reno.

A sizable part of the Bonnie and Clyde Death Car exhibit is devoted to letters vouching for its authenticity. This may puzzle visitors who don't realize how rare it is to see the real Bonnie and Clyde Death Car.

Its doors have been tied shut (no more sitting) and the car is displayed behind panels of glass, making snapshots difficult. But the car's Swiss cheese exterior is still impressive and cringeworthy, even if you can't stick your fingers in the holes. Showroom dummies strike Bonnie and Clyde poses next to the car, cradling weapons.

Accompanying the car is Clyde's shredded shirt of death, perforated with a number of ragged holes in both the front and back. "Marie Barrow [Clyde's sister] has personally signed the inside hem of the shirt to attest to the garment's authenticity," declares one sign. "Bloodstains are evident throughout the shirt," it continues, although time has faded them considerably. A close look reveals that Clyde wore a size 14-32. He was a scrawny little lawbreaker.

Bonnie and Clyde Car from back.

There's a second bullet-scarred car in Primm on display as well, which belonged to gangster Dutch Schultz. He filled its doors with lead, so the bullets merely dented its exterior. Since it isn't a death car -- Schultz was assassinated at a bathroom urinal -- it doesn't have the mesmerizing power of Bonnie and Clyde's. But if the casino could ever track down and display that Urinal of Death....

It would be difficult even to estimate how much money the Bonnie and Clyde Death Car has made over its long career. $5 million? $10 million? Those numbers would flabbergast hardscrabble crooks like Bonnie and Clyde, but it would probably please them as well. And, having long ago earned its keep, the car is now on display 24 hours a day for free.

Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car

Address:
100 W Primm Blvd, Primm, NV
Directions:
Whiskey Pete's Casino, Primm, just across border from California. I-15 exit 1, western side.Occasionally moved to casino across the highway, or elsewhere in NV.
Phone:
702-386-7867
RA Rates:
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September 2, 2014

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