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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 10, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The cast of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde (November 2011 release) in front of the popular Ford V8 getaway car

77 years ago today, Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) purportedly wrote his infamous letter to Henry Ford, praising the virtues of the V8 Ford as a getaway car. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker’s bank robbery spree went on from 1932 to their deaths in 1934. Barrow was most noted for his ability to evade the police even after being surrounded. While this was due in part to Barrow’s driving ability, much of it was credited to his choice of cars that he stole. Evidently, he tried to pick cars that could out-maneuver and out-run the police cars that attempted to follow them. The infamous letter written to Henry Ford was dated April 10, 1934, and read: “While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don't hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 -- Yours truly Clyde Champion Barrow” The authenticity of the letter has always been in dispute, but even won’t come out and say it’s a fake. On the contrary, Snopes suggests that the letter was penned by Bonnie Parker, as some skeptical experts have indicated that the handwriting was closer to Ms. Parker’s style. However, Snopes points out that Clyde Barrow biographer Jeff Guinn concludes that its contents and circumstances of its mailing puts it within the realm of possibility. For his part, Henry Ford assumed that the letter was real, and had his secretary send a “thank you” reply to Mr. Barrow, in care of general delivery in Tulsa (he never received it, as the Barrows were long gone from Tulsa by then). The letter continues to be on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in front of a V8 Ford in "Bonnie and Clyde" (Warner Bros 1967)

One month later, the Ford Motor Company announced that Henry Ford had received a letter, dated May 16, 1934, purporting to be from John Dillinger: “Hello Old Pal, Arrived here at 10:00 AM today. Would like to drop in and see you. You have a wonderful car. Been driving it for three weeks. It's a treat to drive one. Your slogan should be, drive a Ford and watch the other cars fall behind you. I can make any other car take a Ford's dust! Bye-bye, John Dillinger” Experts were quick to conclude the Dillinger letter to be a forgery. Still, it didn’t prevent Ford from using it (as well as the Clyde Barrow letter) as free publicity for its cars. In May of 2010, however, a second John Dillinger letter, dated May 6, 1934, was uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act by Jalopnik. This letter read: “Dear Mr. Ford – I want to thank you for building the Ford V-8 as fast and as sturdy a car as you did, otherwise I would not have gotten away from the coppers in that Wisconsin Minnesota case. Yours till I have the pleasure of seeing you, John Dillinger.” Jalopnik says it worked with historians, reviewed other records, and determined the May 6, 1934 letter to be “likely real.” As for the May 16, 1934 letter, it was “likely a hoax perpetrated by a Ford dealer or public relations official in 1934.” - Roy Nakano


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