Automobiles are a huge part of American culture, and these are just four examples of machines that still play a part in our society.
Bonnie and Clyde’s Last Ride
One of the most famous used cars on public display is “Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car,” a 1934 V8 riddled with over 100 bullet holes. American bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow enthralled the nation with their crime spree from 1932 until May 23rd, 1934, when they met their deaths in an ambush on Highway 154 in Bienville Parish, LA. Bonnie and Clyde had stolen the auto from Jesse and Ruth Warren of Topeka, Kansas. Barrow was so enamored of that specific brand of vehicle that he wrote a letter praising them to the company owner on April 10th, 1934. In the letter, he praises the “sustained speed” and “freedom from trouble” of the vehicles. After the ambush, the machine was returned to the Warren family, who sold it to promoters. It went on tours across the country, and the revenue it brought in inspired several imitators. Today, the artifact can be seen on display in a casino in Primm, Nevada, where it sits near the cashier’s cage, enclosed in glass.
The “Into the Wild” Bus
Outside Healy, Alaska on the Stampede Trail sits Fairbanks City Transit Bus #142. A 1946 model year, the bus has sat on the trail since 1961, when it was placed there by a construction crew working on a mining road. Used for years by local hunters as shelter, it became famous after the publication of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild.” The book tells the tale of Christopher McCandless, a wealthy young man from the suburbs of Washington D.C., who turned his back on society in search of himself. After months spent crisscrossing the lower 48, he set off into the hills north of Denali National Park and eventually starved to death in the bus sometime in August of 1992. His story has inspired countless pilgrims to the site, many of whom have had to be rescued themselves, and one of whom, a Swiss woman named Claire Ackerman, died in the attempt. A replica of the bus used in Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the book now sits outside a bar in Healy, Alaska.
An Art Installation
In 1974, Tulane University art student Hudson Marquez and architects Chip Lord and Doug Michels erected a unique art installation, burying 10 used cars from the era of tail fins nose-first into the earth of a Texas wheat field. The used cars were buried so that their distinctive fins reached upward, and the bodies slanted on the same angle as the face of the Great Pyramid in Giza. They used cars made between 1948 and 1963. Most were purchased from junkyards, reportedly for around $200 each. In 1997, the installation was moved to a cow pasture 2 miles west of the original site, just west of Amarillo. The site is open to the public, and visitors are encouraged to spray paint the metal surfaces. The site has been immortalized in Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 song that shares the same name.
A Country Music Museum
On New Years Day, 1953, legendary country music star Hank Williams died in the back seat of his 1952 convertible while being driven from Knoxville, TN to Canton, OH. He was 29. His family drove it for years after his death, and it was his son Hank Williams Jr.’s vehicle while he was in high school. Since it never changed hands, it might not be officially be considered a used vehicle, but it can be seen today at the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, AL.
Although there are many more forming our cultural history, these are just four of the famous areas where used cars can be seen around the United States today.