Searching for John Dillinger’s car

My sister Jenny got an intriguing tip two weeks ago as she drove away from our family cabin.

She called me immediately.

“There’s an old car with bullet holes in it hidden off a path near a farmer’s field,” she said. “I think it’s John Dillinger’s.”

Of course we set off immediately to find it. Meanwhile, she called with updates as she sat stopped in Sunday traffic on her way back to Chicago.

“John Dillinger had a girlfriend in Shawano,” she said.

“The girlfriend wrote a book about him.”

“He definitely spent time up there.”

“Aren’t you driving?” I said at one point.

“I’m so excited!” she replied. “I don’t even care if it’s really not his. It’s still fun to think about.”

Deeper we went into the woods, following a snowmobile path. We had asked permission to take our walk, but we weren’t exactly sure where the property lines ended.

Eventually, we spotted it next to what looked like, to my overactive imagination, a moonshine still.

“Holy Cow!” I said. “This really is cool.”

I called Jenny.

“We found it!”

“Oh my God! What does it look like! Send me pictures! Stay on the line! Describe it to me! I want details!!”

Of course I took a bunch of pictures and sent them off to people who know things.

My nephew Michael, who studied physics and automotive engineering in college, shot down the John Dillinger theory.

“It’s a 1946 – 48 Chrysler Windsor,” he said, with all the confidence of a guy who knows cars and spent his college summers driving them around the Indianapolis 500 track.

Unfortunately for Jenny’s theory and for Mr. Dillinger himself, John Dillinger died in a shootout with the FBI in 1934.

I moved on to the other notorious criminal with whom almost every bar in Wisconsin claims an association — Al Capone.

However, it is very unlikely that Mr. Capone purchased a vehicle during that time range and dumped it, full of bullet holes, in a Wisconsin woods. He died in Florida in 1947, having spent the past two decades battling the increasingly debilitating effects of syphilis.

Still, it is fascinating to come upon a vehicle that clearly has a dramatic story to tell and to find it hidden on a path deep in the woods.

If you have a theory, my sister Jenny and I would love to hear it.

Until then, we’ll continue to speculate and to appreciate a long walk through a Wisconsin woods and all the stories hidden there.

We proceeded with caution as it wasn’t our land. We did ask for permission to hike it, but we’re pretty sure we crossed property lines.
However, at least we weren’t riding horses.
We were about to turn around when we spotted this cleverly camouflaged piece of history.
I think that looks like it could have been a still next to it.
That car, though! Look at those bullet holes on the hood!
And along the body. This car’s last ride did not end well.
I sent my nephew Michael these shots and he did the research for us.
You have to wonder about the people inside.
I know it seems like an undignified end, but you have to admire a vehicle that holds its own against the elements, both natural and criminal, for 72 years.
Rest in peace and glory, man. We’ll be back.

5 thoughts on “Searching for John Dillinger’s car

  1. Ok you HAVE to find the details! You write so well maybe this is the start of a fiction book you can piece together?

    1. Ooooo. Thank you! I am definitely going to keep researching this and, as you know, writing a book is on my bucket list. Jenny is still intrigued as well. Thanks Barb!

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