Indianapolis native and crime legend John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane is now on display at the Indiana State Museum. The infamous getaway car used in bank robberies, permanently housed at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C., was previously on view at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND).
“Dillinger’s car is a living piece of an American crime story,” ISM vice president of marketing Aja May said in a press release. “While Dillinger wasn’t a bootlegger, it ties in nicely with our upcoming fall exhibition ‘American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.’ The exhibition will take us back in time to another era involving real-life crime legends like Al Capone and Carry Nation. The car’s crime connection will indirectly help us prime our audience for the fall show.”
Dillinger was an infamous bank robber during the early years of the Great Depression. His criminal activities and the pursuit leading to his arrest not only captivated the country through sensationalist media, but also led to the formal creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Dillinger purchased the Essex in March 1934 from the Potthoff Brothers Motor Company in St. Paul, Minn., and used it until April 7, 1934, when he and his brother Hubert crashed the car in a farm field.
On March 31, 1934, at Lincoln Court Apartments in St. Paul, Dillinger and his girlfriend, Evelyn Frechette, escaped a shootout with the police. Dillinger took a bullet in his left leg and two slugs can still be seen from the front cowl panel of the Essex. Dillinger was finally caught and killed by law enforcement officers at a theater in Chicago in July 1934. In 2009, actor Johnny Depp immortalized Dillinger in the Universal movie “Public Enemies.”
The getaway car will remain on display at the museum until March 2015.
For more details on exhibits at the museum, call 232-1637 or visit the website at indianamuseum.org.