Top 10: Infamous cars
They say all publicity is good publicity, though that’s rubbish really: look what happened when Jo from S Club 7 went into the Big Brother house.
And in the case of these ten cars (well, nine of them), we’re sure that each manufacturer would rather not be here: every one of the following ten incidents has made the car infamous by virtue of some tragedy.
The Ford Edsel that was an unmitigated disaster
These days the Edsel looks like every other 1950s-era massive American saloon, and very cool for it. At the time it was unveiled, however, Ford quickly realised it had a disaster on its hands.
After sinking the equivalent of $4bn today in researching, developing and marketing the Edsel, Ford launched the big, pricey car into a market that was generally turning its back on big, pricey cars. The irony was, the company had designed it based largely on market research to determine what sort of car the buying public wanted. Sadly, it launched in 1957 at the beginning of a recession, with a baffling price tag, poor economy and a grille shaped like a toilet seat. Fail.
(Edsel image courtesy of Flickr user sv1ambo)
The 1934 Ford V8 Bonnie and Clyde did their last journey in it
Already infamous, the legend of 1930s-era bank robbing murderers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was cemented with the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
The couple’s stolen 1934 Ford V8 is infamous because they were in it at their gruesome end, when a group of six police officers from Louisiana and Texas ambushed them, opening fire and riddling the car with 130 bullets. The car became a travelling attraction in the subsequent decades, before finding a home in Whiskey Pete’s Casino, Nevada.
The Plymouth Fury from Stephen King's 'Christine'
In the grand tradition of ridiculous American horror movies from the 1980s, Christine was both based on a Stephen King novel and featured a preposterous narrative: a violent car named Christine is possessed by an evil spirit and seeks murderous revenge on various people.
The 1958 Plymouth Fury that starred as Christine was a troublesome choice for the producers of the 1983 film, not because it wanted to kill the runners or anything like that, but because it was quite rare and expensive to acquire at the time. Therefore, filmmakers dressed up similar-looking Plymouth Savoy and Belvedere models for various scenes. A quick search reveals that today, a Plymouth Fury in decent nick can be yours for as little as £15,000. Just make sure you take care of it...
The white Fiat Uno conspiracy theorists say was involved in the death of Princess Diana
Princess Diana died in a Paris tunnel when the Mercedes-Benz S-Class she was travelling in crashed while being pursued by paparazzi. Most accept it was a tragic accident.
Most people except Mohammed Fayed, that is. The father of Diana’s then boyfriend and crash victim, Dodi Fayed, claimed that a white Fiat Uno had been used to deliberately cause the crash, after analysis of the S-Class showed that it had come into contact with the Fiat. The car and its driver couldn’t be located at the time, although between Mr. Fayed and a certain national newspaper, the Uno-based murder conspiracy theory wouldn’t go away.
The Mercedes-Benz 770 that Adolf Hitler was often seen in
The limo of choice for high-ranking members of the Nazi party, Hitler could often be seen standing up and waving in a 770 on the streets of Germany in the late 1930s. It’s believed Hitler owned seven of them, along with other Mercedes models, though the car he was most often seen parading around in was a specially modified model decked out in bulletproof bodywork
Various heads of state and world leaders owned 770 models, likely on account of it being a ‘price on application’ car and thought to be the most expensive in the world during its entire production run, from 1930 to 1943.
The Powell Motors Homer which ruined a (fake) car company
In a brilliant parody of the Edsel, The Simpsons episode ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Though?’, in season two, sees Homer reacquainted with a long-lost half-brother, Herb – who happens to own a major car company.
Seeking to create a car that will appeal to the average American, Herb asks Homer to lead his design team. The resulting car is everything that Homer thinks he wants – and an $82,000 disaster, complete with giant cupholders, a La Cucaracha horn, and an engine that makes passers-by think "the world is coming to an end." Herb’s world does come to an end, with the company going bankrupt as a result, and sold to the Japanese.
The Lincoln Continental ‘SS-100-X’ that JFK was assassinated in
You’d think that the 1961 Midnight Blue Lincoln Continental limousine that US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in would have been immediately decommissioned.
But no, the car, codenamed SS-100-X, was cleaned up and kept in service for a further 13 years after the November 22 1963 horror show at the Grassy Knoll. Just a few months later it was rebuilt, painted black, equipped with bulletproof paneling and put back on Presidential duty. It was used by JFK’s successors Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, before finally being retired in 1976.
The Porsche 550 Spyder that James Dean died in
So lofty is James Dean’s place in the pantheon of Hollywood icons, it’s hard to believe that he only appeared in three movies before his untimely death at 24 years of age on September 30th, 1955.
A keen racer, Dean was driving his new Porsche 550 Spyder to a race meeting in California, when the driver of a Ford Tudor cut across him as he was travelling at a reported 85mph. Dean was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital, while his passenger, Porsche mechanic Rolf Wutheric, survived, as did the 23-year-old Ford driver. The wrecked car later went on public display, and following a series of subsequent accidents involving the 550 and its parts, ‘the curse of James Dean’s car’ entered popular mythology.
The Ford Bronco OJ Simpson used in that slow-speed chase car
Just after ex-American Football-player-turned-actor OJ Simpson definitely didn’t murder his wife, he visited his friend Al Cowlings, pointed a gun to his own head and told Cowlings to take him home. Cowlings owned a white Ford Bronco.
There commenced the most famous low-speed car chase ever. Involving 20 police cars and all captured live on television it was watched by an estimated 95 million people. Takeaway orders at Dominos pizza spiked to Superbowl-matching levels during the 100-or-so-minute chase. Still, OJ got away with it. Then went to prison a few years later anyway, for some other horrendous violent crime.
The Mercedes-Benz 600 whose owners have included some very bad people
In the best tradition of range-topping, massive and very expensive Mercedes-Benz models, the reputation of the 600 way surpasses its relatively small, albeit very long, production run: around 2700 were made between 1963 and 1981.
A large number of very famous and perfectly legitimate owners have been seen in a 600 through the years, including John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis and Jack Nicholson. However, the distinctive-looking limo's infamy comes because it's also a well-documented favourite among crooks and rogue heads of state: Kim Jong-il, Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin and columbian drug overlord Pablo Escobar have all owned a 600. The sour icing on its cake of infamy is its place as a villain's chariot in a number of James Bond films, not least evil genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld.