Al Capone’s old Cadillac he rode in during the 1930’s. This vehicle was no ordinary 341 though, it came equipped with a big 341 cubic-inch V8 motor @ 90HP, a three-speed manual transmission, beam front axle and full-floating rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Not to mention the custom, ready-for-action gunfight window that flipped down in the back, or the bullet-proofing to keep the world’s most notorious don safe in any situation, being handed the family operation at the young age of 26.
This car has been thoroughly documented since 1933. Purchased by Mr.Harry LaBreque in Rockville, Conneticuit by the Dennings family. According to Mrs. Denning, her parents purchased the car from an agent in Chicago, with whom they believed it had been placed by Capone.
After being shipped to New York, then England, it was displayed at the Southend-On-Sea amusement park and later at the Blackpool Fun Fair in Manchester. Dance hall owner Tony Stuart purchased the car for $510 at an auction in February of 1958 and sold it later to Harley Nielson, a businessman and car enthusiast from Todmorden, Ontario. Neilson restored the vehicle,, and in the process, most of the heavy armor plating was removed, but other features, including the bulletproof glass and drop-down rear window, were retained. In a Letter to the Editor of Esquire, Neilson explained that in 1939, the U.S. government asked the British government to intervene and take the car off display because of the “poor public relations it could cause by pointing up American Gangsterism.”
The car was sold to the Niagara Falls Antique Auto Museum in the mid-1960s and then sold in late-1971 and displayed at the Cars of the Greats museum, co-owned by Peter Stranges, of Niagara Falls, Ontario. B.H. Atchley’s Smoky Mountain Car Museum in Tennessee acquired the car in early-1979; Atchley freshened the restoration, and since the original glass was heavily crazed and deeply yellowed, a specialist supplied replacement glass of identical size and thickness. The car then joined the O’Quinn Collection in 2006.
In 2008, Mr. Richard “Cappy” Capstran, currently 93 years old, mentioned in passing to a friend that as a young boy he helped his dad install some of the armor plating on Al Capone’s Cadillac. A short bit of research indicated that the car still existed and had been purchased by O’Quinn. In a recent recorded interview, Mr. Capstran recalled in great detail the circumstances surrounding this unusual job. Ernest Capstran’s auto body shop had performed a high quality repair on another vehicle owned by the Capone syndicate, which prompted delivery of the brand new 1928 Cadillac to the shop shortly thereafter.
Says Capstran, when the scope of the work was explained, “My dad said, ‘we don’t do that kind of work here.’ And they (Capone’s men) said ‘you do now.'” Mr. Capstran recalled the entire process in vivid detail, noting that when the car was dropped off, Capone’s men directed that the car be backed into the shop so that no passersby might see the nature of the work being carried out. He also explained the entire process of cutting the rear of the body open to insert the asbestos-wrapped steel plate, which was delivered to the body shop with pieces of lead embedded from a proving test.
Capone showed up in person to settle the bill and paid Ernest Capstran double the asking price. When he walked around the car, Capone saw ten-year-old Richard and asked who he was. The elder Capstran explained his son had helped with the job and done an excellent job sanding in between layers of lacquer. For this, Richard received from Capone a $10 bill, a small fortune for a young boy. This special job was never discussed outside the family until years later. Recalling his visit to Mr. O’Quinn’s collection and the reunion with the Cadillac after seven decades, Capstran stated, “This is without a doubt the same car that was worked on in my dad’s shop.”