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Dillinger Car Featured At Indianapolis Airport

Last updated on Wednesday, March 20, 2013

(INDIANAPOLIS) - John Dillinger may not be Indiana’s favorite son. But almost 80 years after his death, he is still one of the most famous Hoosiers.

A car in which Dillinger almost died will welcome visitors passing through Indianapolis International Airport for the next two years.

The 1933 Essex Terraplane may have been the fastest car of its era available to the public. "It had a top speed of 83 miles an hour", says Speros Batistatos with the South Shore Convention and Visitors Center in Hammond, home to the John Dillinger Museum.

This particular Terraplane was one of at least four that Dillinger had in his life according to retired state jail inspector and Dillinger buff Walter Smith, but it may be the only one that Dillinger bought - he and many other bandits from the era usually stole their cars.

The car is on loan to the airport for the next two years from the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C. Chief Operating Officer Janine Vaccarello says the museum bought the car as well as other Dillinger memorabilia from Sandy Jones, a private collector in Colorado, when the museum first opened in 2008.

Vaccarello says it is one of her favorite pieces to take on traveling exhibits since there is still a great deal of interest in Dillinger and the 1930's gangster era.

Dillinger was shot and wounded while inside the car in Minnesota, though some say he was struck by his own shot that ricocheted. Though you can't see them, Vaccarello says two slugs from police guns, either .32 or .38 caliber, are still inside the car.

Dillinger was born in 1903 in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis, and Batistatos says his father moved the family to Mooresville in 1920 in an effort to keep John out of trouble.

After he was gunned down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago in 1934, Dillinger was buried at Indianapolis's Crown Point Cemetery.

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