8 iconic cars from famous historical moments

Date Posted 26th January 2022
Read Time 9 min read

The automotive industry has produced some of the world’s fastest, loudest, and most tech-ed out cars. But, to this day, the most standout automobiles are those with a story. And it seems, the more gasp-worthy, the better.

These particular cars have been at the centre of some of history’s most prominent moments. Whether it’s presidential carriers or bizarre lawbreakers, the cars on this list come with some real baggage.

Automobiles have witnessed momentous events and changes in society. Here’s a list of eight iconic cars from famous historical moments, synonymous with a person or happening that has left a mark on the world.

June 28, 1914

Archduke Ferdinand’s 1910 Graf & Stift Double Phaeton

On the day of his assassination, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand – heir to the Austria-Hungary throne – and his wife Sophie, were attacked twice whilst riding in the 1910 Graf & Stift Double Phaeton. First by Nedeljko Čabrinović, who threw a grenade at their moving car. Astonishingly, the bomb detonated behind them, injuring occupants in the following car.

Later, when their motorcade stalled whilst reversing on a side street, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip —  a member of Young Bosnia and and an assassin armed by the Black Hand — took his opportunity and shot the royal couple. Ferdinand died on scene and his wife was gravely wounded.

His assassination was the break in tension between European nations that sparked World War I. Not only did this incident precede one of the deadliest events in human history, but many believe that it revealed the “cursed car”.  

In the next 12 years, the Double Phaeton had 15 different owners, and was involved in car accidents that claimed the lives if 13 people (spooky, right?). One owner committed suicide, another went insane and died in an asylum, and the last owner, Tiber Hirshfeld, a Romanian garage owner, was driving himself and five friends to a wedding when the car spun out of control and crashed.

Whilst the car was on display in Vienna’s Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, a visitor noted a detail in its license plate, which reads AIII 118. Coincidentally (or not) WWI ended on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918 (A 1111 18). Had the car predicted the war’s end all along?

June 28, 1914
January 1, 1925

Al Capone’s 1928 Cadillac 341A Town Car

When it comes to tricked out cars, Al Capone’s armoured Cadillac is a vehicle that still turns heads. Not only was it the notorious gangster’s choice of getaway car, it was kitted out with some of the top features to help him make clean and timely escapes. The Cadillac was bulletproof thanks to 3000 pounds of armour plating, and almost an inch-thick glass.

It came equipped with a police siren to help clear the roads, and was also known for having one of the very first police scanners ever installed in a car. The rear light flipped to allow Capone and his cronies to fire at any unwanted pursuers.

The car has had quite the ride; its first post-Capone owner, in 1932, was part of a travelling carnival and exhibited the car as part of the show. It then went to another buyer who promptly sold it to Southend-on-Sea Amusement Park in England. At one point, it was on display at Blackpool Fun Fair and the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens. It was sold to the Niagara Falls Antique Auto Museum in the mid-1960s and later displayed at the Cars of the Greats museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Currently, it’s listed on Celebrity Cars for $1,000,000 – 25 times more than it’s original value of $40,000.

January 1, 1925
May 23, 1934

Bonnie and Clyde’s 1934 Ford Deluxe

If we’re talking about cars with a sinister past, Bonnie and Clyde’s 1934 Ford Deluxe would be high up on the list. It’s hard to stomach that the devilish duo were seen as heroes to many during The Great Depression, representing rebellion for those who felt powerless. They quickly became the most celebrated outlaws of the early 20th century in America, and only one thing can match their rise to fame – their stolen car, which they took from the owner, Ruth Warren’s driveway in Topeka, Kansas.

Behind the wheel, their crime spree took them on the roads across Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Missouri, during which they killed 13 civilians and police. Their reign of terror ended with a police shoot out and a total of 112 bullets piercing the car.

So, where is the car now? Oddly, the police tried to charge the owner of the vehicle $15,000 to have it returned. She sued the sheriff’s department and got the car back. Since then, it has been leased out to county fairs and museums all over the country. At one point, it was hard to identify the bullet-ridden car because so many replicas were made.

Finally, when the real car was discovered, it was taken to a casino at Whiskey Pete’s in Primm, Nevada. It now stands there surrounded by glass and is said to have Clyde’s blood-spattered torn shirt, which, bizarrely, his sister has signed, alongside other memorabilia belonging to the criminal couple.

May 23, 1934
November 22, 1963

JFK’s Lincoln 74A SS-100-X

Let us set the scene, it’s a bright, sunny day in downtown Dallas, Texas. The president, first lady, vice president and second lady are ready to embark with their motorcade through Dealey Plaza. You might ask why the “leader of the free world” and his understudy thought it was a good idea to parade so casually in an open-air stretch limousine – and you’d be right to wonder. What followed was an assassination in broad daylight as John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.

This is, of course, the reason why we’ll never see another motorcade of this sort again. Even when it comes to presidential inaugurations, there is heavy security and tense moments along the way. Especially when the new president steps out to walk part of the route up to the White House.

Surprisingly, this particular Lincoln 74A SS-100-X wasn’t armoured at that time, which seems like a rookie mistake from modern perspectives. Following JFK’s assassination, Ford and the Secret Service teamed up to completely kit out the car with armour and other protective measures, and it remained in service until 1977. Today, it sits at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

November 22, 1963
July 26, 1971

Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle

Not quite a car, but definitely a vehicle that changed the world. Apollo 15 became the first Apollo mission to carry the lunar roving vehicle (LRV) to the moon. After travelling almost 250,000 miles, the LRV took its first drive on the moon and has since helped to explore the surface, and help astronauts cover more distance, collect more rock samples, and carry out important research.

Nicknamed the “moon buggy”, the LRV was parked up a short distance away from the lunar module, where it still sits today as the first of three rovers left on the moon by Apollo missions.

The Lunar Roving Vehicle had a mass of 210 kg and was designed to hold a payload of an additional 490kg on the lunar surface. For more about the LRV, check out NASA’s cool fact and information list.

July 26, 1971
September 13, 1996

Suge Knight’s 1996 BMW 750

You can’t talk about 90’s hip hop and rap music without giving a well-deserved mention to Tupac Shakur. His stardom came with a true “gangster lifestyle” with song lyrics that talked about hardships, violence, and gang war in his community. Tupac became an icon and beacon of truth for the West Coast, whilst his ex-friend and legendary rapper Notorious B.I.G dominated the East Coast.

Tupac met his end whilst riding in his friend, and co-founder of Death Row Records, Suge Knight’s 1996 BMW 750. They were on the way to a club in Las Vegas when a white Cadillac pulled up alongside the BMW and opened fire, spraying the car with bullets. Tupac was hit four times and killed, whilst Suge Knight was injured by shrapnel before he managed to step on the gas and power up the V12 engine to escape. In an odd turn of events, in 2018, the rap mogul was jailed for 28 years for killing a man with his current car. His BMW 750 has been on sale for $1,750,000 on Celebrity Cars for sometime now.

September 13, 1996
February 1, 2008

Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk created a car to launch it into space so it could fly around the solar system. Have you ever read a sentence more “Elon Musk-y” than that? I think not. Musk’s Tesla Roadster was launched in 2008, and a decade later, it was attached to a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket and launched into space. It’s currently being driven by a mannequin known as Starman.

Though Musk has tweeted that the car is orbiting Mars, a scientist has rebutted his claim and to show that the car is in fact orbiting the sun. The 2008 Roadster was a groundbreaking moment for the electric car segment. It offered sports car enthusiasts a vehicle that rivalled customer-focused combustion sportscars. Fast-forward to 2022, and the new Roadster is set to take things to a whole new level with Musk revealing that it will go from zero to 100 in just 1.1 seconds.

Check out 11 crazy facts about the 2008 Tesla Roadster here.

February 1, 2008
February 12, 2018

King T’Challa’s Lexus LC 500

In 2018, Marvel gave us the first black superhero lead as the late Chadwick Boseman took on the role of Black Panther. A huge first for cinema and representation came with a whole lot of gadgets and tech for the actors. Lexus provided the now-famous LC 500 for one of the film’s most iconic scenes – the car chase through South Korea. Though the LC 500 isn’t a bespoke model – it was released to the market at a cost of $92,000 – Lexus took their superhero muse, and went on to create two new vehicles inspired by its team-up with Marvel Studios; a 2018 LC Inspiration Series production car and a concept coupe dubbed the Black Panther Inspired LC.

The super-charged, technologically-advanced LC Inspiration Series – of which there are only 100 made – is the result of a universe that defies reality with limitless possibilities. That’s what Black Panther and the fictional African nation of Wakanda represent in the film. The concept coupe comes complete with a powertrain that gets an extra boost from vibranium, the mythical metal found only in Wakanda.

The Inspired LC is reinforced with a layer of vibranium weave, making the vehicle almost entirely bulletproof. Top-secret refinement processes also allow for a self-sustained fuelling component that enhances driving dynamics. Other cool standout features of the car include: unique carbon fibre scuff plate, bespoke white interior, 21″ forged alloy wheels, a Signature Barneys sommelier set, and a limited-edition collection of barware inspired by the vehicle’s futuristic design.

February 12, 2018