Al Capone was many things: A criminal, a bootlegger, a tax dodger, and a notable philanthropist. But most of all he was a celebrity. His exploits sold newspapers by the truckload and his appearances in newsreels entertained millions in the era before television. That his armored 1928 Cadillac sold for $621,500 just six years ago is a testament to the mafioso's legend.
Now that car is up for sale again – it will be auctioned on July 28 at the RM St. John's sale in Plymouth, MI, prior to the Concours d'Elegance of America. The Cadillac is quite the piece, what with its inch-thick window glass and rear window that folds down to accommodate backseat gunmen. Although the big car once carried some 3,000 pounds of asbestos-wrapped steel plate in its body panels, most of that armor was removed when the car was first restored some 50 years ago.
The Cadillac spent most of its life being displayed as a museum attraction in Great Britain, Canada and at the Smoky Mountain Car Museum in Tennessee, which owned the car up until 2006. Notable collector and attorney John O'Quinn bought the Capone car at that time. O'Quinn died in a traffic accident in 2009; his estate is now selling the car.
RM's presale estimate of $300,000-$500,000 reflects a poor showing at the 2010 RM Monterey sale, where the Cadillac was a no sale with a high bid of just $355,000. But according to RM's catalog description for the St. John's sale, new information has come to light since the Cadillac was last offered, clearing up questions about the history of the car immediately after it left Capone's hands. Apparently the car was purchased by some carnies from an agent in Chicago, who then exhibited the car in 1932.
Whether this new wrinkle will impress potential buyers enough for the car to find new ownership remains to be seen. Perhaps it will again be consigned to museum duty, as continued curiosity over Capone's celebrity seems as solid as the Cadillac's armor plating.