HomeCar CultureLifestyle‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum

‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum


An unusual museum has an unusual display of vehicles available for viewing the next time you’re in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which has become a road-trip destination of many people since it’s become a Branson-style touring attraction and the home to Dollywood and other entertainment venues.

Pigeon Forge, located between Knoxville and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, is home to the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, housed in the former and fortress-style Tennessee State Prison.

The museum’s exhibits include six “crime cars.”

“So many people love cars of all types, and when they are featured in an historical event it makes them even more interesting to our visitors,” said Rachael Penman, the museum’s director of artifacts and exhibits. “Guests immediately start sharing their own connections to the cars’ stories and it’s special to be able to make these artifacts available to the public.”

Four of the vehicles are located within the museum, but two of them are outdoors and can be viewed without even paying admission fees.

Pigeon Forge, ‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane

The six vehicles are:

•  The 1933 Essex Terraplane owned — not stolen — by John Dillinger, who bought the car new in 1934 and used it to escape, with his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette, from FBI agents. A bullet from a shootout with those agents remains in the car’s interior.

However, the museum notes, “he soon had to abandon the car after crashing in a field, and signed it over to his brother.”

  • The 1934 Ford V8 used in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway. The car is hole-ridden, shot up for the movie production company by local police where the movie was being filmed.

“The ambush scene set new standards for onscreen violence,” the museum notes.

•  The 1968 Volkswagen Beetle owned by serial killer Ted Bundy.

“The vehicle was integral to both his murders and his ultimate conviction when it yielded important DNA evidence,” the museum notes. “The car is displayed without the front passenger seat in the same way Bundy used the car.”

•  The 1993 Ford Bronco owned by Al Cowlings and the focus of the famed slow-speed car chase with O.J. Simpson in the white SUV.

•  A Sevier County Sheriff’s car — a Dodge Charger — purchased in 2007 and used by three members of the sheriff’s office during its 9-year career. The car was retired from service in 2016.

•  A government surveillance van used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Georgia police department.

Pigeon Forge, ‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
Inside the surveillance van

A display inside the museum gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the cramped quarters law enforcement spends time in during a stakeout, with barely enough room to stand and little privacy to use the toilet. The van was in active criminal investigations, including drug crimes and burglary surveillance.”

“Our Getaway Cars Gallery is a highly popular area of the museum, and for good reason, as most people own cars so they connect with their stories as objects,” Penman said. 

“Our crime cars each represent a cautionary tale, symbolizing a warning about the consequences of crime, while our law-enforcement vehicles are positive reminders of all law enforcement does every day, both in public and behind-the-scenes, to keep us safe.”

Current temporary exhibits at the museum include “The Second Amendment” and “It Happened Here: Tennessee Crimes & Justice.” 

“Old Smokey,” Tennessee’s electric chair, also is on permanent display at the museum, which claims to be “the most arresting crime museum in the United States.” 

For more information, visit the museum website.

AACA Museum organizing Retromobile road trip

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is organizing a road trip to Retromobile in Paris for February 6-11, 2019, with an optional extension to the Champagne region. But if you want to go, you need to register by November 8.

For details, visit the AACA travel website.

Bus museum readies Civil Rights exhibit

“Buses and their Impact on the Civil Rights Movement” is the theme for a special exhibit running from November 3 until January 30, 2019 at the Museum of Bus Transportation in Hershey, Pennsylvania. To open the exhibit, W. Peter Conroy of the Freedom Riders Park in Anniston, Alabama, will offer a special presentation.

Pigeon Forge, ‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
ACD Museum welcomes gift of this 1934 Chrysler Airflow | Museum photo

ACD Museum gets a ‘wish-list’ car

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in northeastern Indiana has a wish list of more than 30 vehicles it wants for its permanent collection and one of them, a 1935 Chrysler Airflow, recently was donated by William Deibel of Seattle.

“In 1934, Chrysler introduced the streamlined Airflow, a radical design that was years ahead of its time,” the museum noted. “Chrysler engineers wanted to achieve a more aerodynamically efficient automobile. So, along with the help of Orville Wright, they came up with a series of designs. The final product was the Airflow. These cars were of unibody construction and boasted a near 50/50 weight distribution. 

“However, Chrysler’s bold move was made during the height of the Great Depression, and sales dwindled. The 1935 Chrysler Imperial Airflow C-2 was one of the more popular models with a production run of 2,598 vehicles.”

The car will be displayed in the museum’s Gallery of Excellence and Innovation

Pigeon Forge, ‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
Trunk or Treaters check out a vehicle at ACD Museum | Museum photo

It’s trunk or treat time

Trunk-or-Treat events are scheduled at several automotive museums. On October 28, goodies are available at America On Wheels in Allentown, Pennsylvania (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.), the ACD Museum in Auburn, Indiana (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.), and at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento from 10 a.m .until 3 p.m. 

Special events this weekend

On October 25, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, opens its Cannstatter Hutte (Winter Hut). The facility will be open from Tuesdays through Sundays, from 11:30 a.m., with alpine-inspired and regional food, through December 21, and then again from January 2-24, 2019. 

The Simeone Foundation Auto Museum in Philadelphia plans “An Evening with Hurley Haywood” featuring the sports car racer on October 26.

“The Battle for Packard’s Estate,” Part 2, Packard Music Hall is the subject of “an entertaining and educational program” in the form of a dramatization will be presented October 26 at 6 p.m. at the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. W.D. Packard died in 1923, and in 1940, his daughter-in-law contested the estate, launching a controversy that lasted well into the 1950s.

From October 27 to November 4, the British Motor Museum invites children to serve as junior detectives to find the “Missing Plans” and to learn how to do secret car designs in invisible ink. The adventures begin daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.

The Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island hosts a German Car Day show October 27 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The “Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival” will be held October 27 at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Pigeon Forge, ‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
The scene at one of the Mullin “Meet Ups” | Museum photo

The Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, hosts a Car Meet Up on October 27 beginning at 9 a.m.

Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda, Florida, hosts its monthly flea market and car corral Sunday from 7 a.m .until 1 p.m.

The British Motor Museum hosts the “Large Model Aircraft Show” on October 28 with more than 100 large static radio-controlled aircraft on display.

Mark your calendar

On October 31, the Simeone Foundation Auto Museum in Philadelphia presents its 11th Spirit of Competition award to Roger Penske on an evening that will feature Amelia Island concours founder Bill Warner as master of ceremonies.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, stages “Autos & Ales” on November 2

Pigeon Forge, ‘Crime cars’ featured at Alcatraz East museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
Parade of Trabants

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., stages its annual Parade of Trabants car show November 3 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on F Street NW in front of the museum, where as many as two dozen of the East German Cold War cars are expected to participate.

The LeMay Collections at Marymount in Tacoma, Washington, hosts a Sock Hop on November 3 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento stages “Whiskey, Cars, Cigars,” its “high-octane party” and fund-raiser on November 3 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, features Matt Stone and Ed “Isky” Iskenderian from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on November 3, signing of their book, Hot Rod Empire, the story of Bob Petersen and Hot Rod magazine.

The 11th annual “Vets’n Vettes” event runs November 8-10 at the National Corvette Museum and its NCM Motorsports Park. The program includes laps around the track, road tours and participation in the Bowling Green (Kentucky) Veterans Day Parade. Registration closes October 23.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hosts a Corvette Racing Weekend on November 9-10 with driving events, a dinner featuring racers Doug Fehan and Tommy Milner and Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter, and other activities.

[email protected]” is the title of a new exhibit opening November 10 at LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. The exhibit opens with an “art-in-motion” event from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

On November 16, the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hosts an “exhibits Preview Party” from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. offering the first look at its new fall/winter exhibits: “Land Yachts: post WWII Luxury Convertibles” and “Dodge Brothers Display: Mid-Atlanta Dodge Brothers Club.” The museum also will be decked out with its “Cars & Christmas” displays.

The annual library sale at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on November 23 and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on November 24.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, stages its Polar Express pajama party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on November 30.

America On Wheels’ 11th annual Moonlight Memories gala in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is scheduled for December 1 from 6 until 10 p.m.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has opened registration of its Museum In Motion trip to the 24 hours of Le Mans race in 2019. The dates are June 6-17, 2019, and the trip includes four nights in London and three nights in Paris.

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected].

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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