This 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan was bought new by Al Capone and modified at his direction into an armored bulletproof car – making it one of the first of its kind in the world.
The bulletproofing included the fitment of one inch thick glass windows, steel armor inside the doors and body, and a drop down rear window that would allow occupants to return fire on pursuers.
Fast Facts – Al Capone’s Bulletproof 1928 Cadillac
- The 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan was one of the top luxury automobiles of its day, it was also one of the quickest thanks to its 341 cubic inch (5.6 liter) V8.
- It’s likely that the high-torque Cadillac V8 was the key reason that Al Capone chose the model for conversion into his new armored car – the additional weight of the steel plating and thicker glass is said to have added 3,000 pounds to the vehicle’s curb weight.
- Capone would have little time to use the car, he was imprisoned in 1929 and would spend the next few years in and out of various penitentiaries until he was finally released on medical grounds in 1939.
- Due to its remarkable connecting to such a major 20th century American figure this car’s history has now been traced back and confirmed. It’s currently being offered for sale for the (negotiable) sum of $1,000,000 USD.
The 1928 Cadillac 341 Series
Interestingly the company we now know as Cadillac actually started life as the Henry Ford Company. Ford left the company in 1902 after a disagreement with some of the investors and established the Ford Motor Company.
Production was re-started at the Henry Ford Company under the new name “Cadillac,” named after French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who had founded Detroit in the year 1701.
General Motors bought Cadillac in 1909 and it’s been their luxury automotive marque ever since, over 100 years later in 2019 the company sold over 340,000 vehicles in a single year, a new record.
In 1926 Cadillac had released their all-new 314 cubic inch (5.1 liter) V8 engine, a successor to the highly respected V8 they had released back in 1915 which had played a major role in establishing the company as a manufacturer of fast, luxurious automobiles.
Two years later in 1928 Cadillac unveiled an upgraded version of this V8, now with a displacement of 341 cubic inches (5.6 liters) and a corresponding increase in torque, horsepower, and speed.
Building Al Capone’s Armored Cadillac
Although we don’t know for certain, it was likely the additional power go the 1928 Cadillac that attracted Capone as he planned to make it bulletproof – the additional armor would add thousands of pounds in weight.
Above Video: This full length documentary tells the story of Al Capone’s life, it runs approximately 45 minutes in length.
The process of armoring the Cadillac took place in two main projects, first the original plate glass was removed in the rear section and replaced with one inch thick glass and correspondingly modified window frames.
The side windows used heavy spring lifts to allow the windows to still be opened and closed. The rear window could be dropped open, allowing the occupants to return fire on any potential pursuers.
“We Don’t Do That Kind Of Work Here”
The second part of the project involved adding plate steel armor wrapped in asbestos within the doors and body of the car. We know a little more about this process as one of the people who was involved talked about it years later, his name was Mr Richard “Cappy” Capstran and he was 93 at the time of his interview.
Capstran had been just 10 years old at the time, helping out in his father Ernest Capstran’s auto body shop. As he explained, Capone’s men had brought him a car for some repairs and he had done such a good job that they later brought him a then-new 1928 Cadillac to have armor fitted.
Capstran senior had said “we don’t do that kind of work here.” To which Capone’s men replied “you do now.” And so it was that the job was done.
When the car arrived at the shop it was reversed in as Capone’s men didn’t want passers by seeing the work that was being done to the rear and sides of the car. When the steel plate arrived it apparently had lead embedded in it from some earlier “testing” to ensure that it was able to stop bullets effectively.
Each steel section was cut to size and installed wrapped in fireproof asbestos. One completed Capone himself came to the garage to collect it. He paid Capstran (senior) double the value of the invoice and then noticed the 10 year old boy in the garage, it was Capstran junior.
After learning that he had played a pivotal role in sanding down the lacquer between coats Capone slipped him $10 USD – a small fortune for a 10 year old in the late 1920s.
Capone didn’t get very long to use the car, he was arrested and imprisoned in 1929 and would spend much of the next decade in prison.
As Uncle Sam was rounding up Al Capone’s assets and selling them off they seem to have missed his bulletproof V8 Cadillac, possibly because he had two newer and far more exotic Cadillac V16s in his possession.
The Cadillac remained in a garage and was eventually sold to a family in show business who had the car touring around the country as a paid exhibit in the 1930 – the time at which Al Capone was at the height of his fame.
Later the car would be sold to an owner in England who would exhibit the car there for a number of years before it was returned to the United States. At some point in the 1950s the car was restored, sadly the original plate steel armor was removed during this process – probably to reduce the weight back down to a more manageable level.
The car most recently sold through RM Sotheby’s in 2012 with a hammer price of $341,000 USD, a fitting figure when you consider the displacement of the engine.
It’s now being offered for sale again with a $1,000,000 USD asking price through Celebrity Cars in Las Vegas, it’s been on offer for two years with no takers as of yet.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Ben has had his work featured on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with millions of readers around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.