Crime Doctor and Death Car.
Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car and the man who saved it: Charles Stanley, The Crime Doctor.

Crime Doctor and Death Car Memorabilia

Field review by the editors.

Abilene, Kansas

Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in a 1934 Ford V-8 DeLuxe Sedan, stolen by them from Jessie and Ruth Warren in Kansas. The Warrens got their car back as a bloodstained wreck, riddled with 160 bullet holes, with an $85 bill for towing and storage. They didn't know what to do with it. But Charles Wiley Stanley did.

Crime Doctor and Death Car.
Stanley wows a 1930s auto showroom crowd on one of his Death Car tours.

Stanley was a circus guy and a fellow Kansan, "a showman his entire life," said Cindy Munroe, curator of the Jeffcoat Studio Museum. He convinced the Warrens to rent (and later sell) him the car. He then unveiled it as an attraction in his hometown of Abilene. The date was September 18, 1934, less than four months after Bonnie and Clyde had been killed in it.

Stanley became "The Crime Doctor." He took the car on tour, turning it into a cottage industry. He exhibited it at State Fairs, carnivals, and auto dealerships, which gave him free space in the hope they could sell some of their cars to the crowd. Stanley even persuaded Bonnie and Clyde's moms to join the tour, and expanded his sideshow to include relics of other famous gangsters. But the Death Car was always the main attraction.

Crime Doctor and Death Car.
Yay, the Death Car's in town!

In newspaper ads Stanley promoted himself as an "internationally known criminologist," and urged "ministers, local officials, and police everywhere" to see the Death Car. "Bring the children." He claimed that his car sideshow was "working in conjunction with the President in a nationwide drive against crime."

Crime Doctor and Death Car.
Unfortunately, Hitler was elsewhere in 1934.

Stanley toured with the car until 1941, boasting that he'd visited all 48 states. He then settled into a full-time job at a Cincinnati amusement park, bringing the car with him as an attraction. Its allure gradually faded, and Stanley sold it, reportedly for as little as $1,500, to another circus guy in 1960 -- a decision Stanley would later regret. In 1967 the Bonnie and Clyde movie came out, turning the outlaw lovebirds into media celebrities. In 1973 the Death Car's new owner sold it for $175,000, at the time the most ever paid for an antique automobile.

In his final years Stanley returned to Abilene, where he was befriended by local photographer Bill Jeffcoat. When Stanley died, age 93, he willed his Death Car collection to Jeffcoat. When Jeffcoat died his former camera shop was turned into the Jeffcoat Studio Museum, where Stanley's Death Car memorabilia is displayed. "A lot of people have seen the car," said Cindy, "but people are real surprised that we have this collection here."

Although Stanley died in 1996, The Crime Doctor remains part of the Death Car, still visible in the sideshow-style "Bonnie and Clyde Car" lettering hand-painted onto it in its crime-fighting heyday.

Also see: The 7 Death Cars of Bonnie and Clyde

Crime Doctor and Death Car Memorabilia

Jeffcoat Studio Museum

Address:
321 N. Broadway St., Abilene, KS
Directions:
Jeffcoat Studio Museum. Downtown. On the east side of N. Broadway St. just south of its intersection with NW 4th St.
Hours:
Th 9:30-5:30, F-Sa 8:30-4:30 (Call to verify)
Phone:
785-263-9882
Admission:
Free
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Greyhound Hall of FameGreyhound Hall of Fame, Abilene, KS - < 1 mi.
The SmithaloThe Smithalo, Longford, KS - 17 mi.
Auto Parts SculptureAuto Parts Sculpture, Salina, KS - 21 mi.
In the region:
Johnny Kaw, Bigger Than Bunyan, Manhattan, KS - 39 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Kansas

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Kansas.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

September 19, 2017

My Sights

My Sights

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Kansas Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

As We Are: The Ultimate Selfie Machine, Columbus, Ohio (Sep 18-24, 2017)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, Abilene, Kansas

Nightly rates found:

Find Hotels Near:

Book Online Now