Many drivers enjoy having power underneath the hood of their vehicle, but few of them have depended on it as much as wanted criminal Clyde Barrow.
Yes, the “Clyde” of “Bonnie and Clyde” infamy praised Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford in 1934 for the capability of Ford’s V-8 engine, which was new to the market.
In a letter dated April 13, 1934 – which is believed to be authored by Barrow but never verified – Barrow professes his admiration for Ford cars and his preference to steal them because they were faster than other vehicles, allowing his crew to elude law enforcement during his their crime sprees.
The letter, with Barrow’s signature including his purported middle name “Champion,” was received by the Tulsa, Oklahoma branch of the U.S. Postal Service on April 10.
It was marked received by Henry Ford’s office three days later. It is now in the possession of the Henry Ford museum.
Debuting in 1932, the Ford V-8 delivered 65 horsepower, which caused the vehicle to have an unusually high power-to-weight ratio – making it a quick getaway vehicle. It also had a lower center of gravity than other cars of that time, allowing it to better hold to the road, even on rough surfaces and around curves.
Despite the capability of the new Ford engine, Barrow and accomplice Bonnie Parker were ambushed and killed by law enforcement in Louisiana barely a month after the letter was sent.
Ford had produced nearly 950,000 of the famous V-8 engines by the time of Parker’s and Barrow’s deaths on May 23, 1934.
Given Barrow’s purported affinity for Fords, it’s likely not a surprise that the theft of a Ford in 1932 is actually what led the FBI to begin tracking Bonnie and Clyde. The contents found in the stolen car (which itself was related to another stolen and subsequently abandoned Ford) were linked to a relative of Barrow’s.
The duo, along with others in their crew, did not limit their criminal pursuits to auto theft, however. Bonnie and Clyde were believed to have committed 13 murders and several robberies and burglaries, including several bank robberies across the country, according to the FBI.
Ford Introduces V-8 engine in 1932
Ford began offering a V-8 engine in 1932 which quickly became a hit.