Al Capone. Just the name conjures up thoughts of mobster, suits, guns, and cigars. For those who don’t know or maybe need a history refresher, Al Capone was a big-time gangster during the 1920’s. He was known as Scarface due to three slash marks he received as a young man. In short time, Capone became the most feared man of the day. His charismatic and sometimes generous personality coupled with his brutal and often fatal temper made him the newspaper’s wet dream. He was constantly followed by reporters, rival mobsters, and the law. He was eventually arrested for tax evasion; it was the only thing they could arrest him for because they had not proof of anything else.
Fast forward to hours after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. President Roosevelt needed to make his “infamy speech” the next day. The secret service men were concerned due to the high risk of possible assassination attempt towards FDR. Everyone was on high alert and struggling to solve the problem of getting him to the congress the next day safely.
There was one slight problem. US government rules at the time restricted the purchase of any vehicle that cost more than $750 ($10,455 in today’s dollars). It was pretty obvious that they weren’t going to get an armored car that cheap, and certainly not in less than a day. One secret serviceman recalled having Al Capone’s car in the Treasury Department. Now, this wasn’t a regular car. Recalling the kind of man Capone was, he would need to take extreme measures to protect himself, and fortifying his car was just one step.
“Capone’s car was a sight to behold. It had been painted black and green so as to look identical to Chicago’s police cars at the time. It also had a specially installed siren and flashing lights hidden behind the grille, along with a police scanner radio. To top it off, the gangster’s 1928 Cadillac 341A Town Sedan had 3,000 pounds of armor and inch-thick bulletproof windows. Mechanics are said to have cleaned and checked each feature of the Caddy well into the night of December 7th, to make sure that it would run properly the next day for the Commander in Chief.” (Forgottenhistoryblog.com). FDR continued to use Capone’s car for some time until his old car was able to be armoured properly. Even today, Presidential limousines have flashing lights hidden behind the grill.