Primm is the first and last chance for gambling for those coming and going between California and Nevada along Interstate 15. The small town is not much more than a glorified truck stop with several hotels and casinos, but it is also the unlikely home to Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet riddled death car. Yes, the actual car where the infamous Depression Era outlaws were in when they were gunned down on May 23, 1934 in Louisiana.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met in Texas in 1930 and began their ill-fated life of crime. From then until 1934 the couple criss-crossed the midwest robbing various institutions and murdering those who got in their way. While Bonnie and Clyde were running from the law, Ruth and Jesse Warren of Topeka, Kansas decided it was time for a new car. In the spring of 1934 they purchased themselves a brand new Ford V8 Deluxe in Cordoba Grey from the Mosby-Mack Motor Company. However their brand new car wouldn’t stay with them long. On April 29, 1934, while Ruth aided in caring for her sister’s sick child, Bonnie and Clyde helped themselves to the Warrens’ new Ford from their driveway.
Clyde apparently loved Fords so much he supposedly wrote a letter to Henry Food telling him of is admiration for the V8 engine. The brand new Ford from the Warren couple was perfect for them. With its V8 it was faster than most of the police cars at the time, and had spacious room for the small armory the couple carried with them. But their time with the car was brief, just over a month after stealing the car, they met their demise along Louisiana State Highway 154 in Gibsland.
As Bonnie and Clyde rounded a curve, a bologna sandwich in Bonnie’s hand, the couple spied the father of a friend who appeared to be having car trouble. They slowed to see if they could help, little did they know it was a trap. There are conflicting accounts of the shoot out, Frank Hamer, former Texas Ranger, and one of the men who orchestrated the trap, laid claim he stepped from the bushes, pointed his gun at the couple, and said “Stick ’em up!” before there was any gunfire. However, it is generally accepted the posse remained in their hiding spot, and Louisiana officer Prentiss Morel Oakley opened fire first, hitting Clyde directly in the head and killing him instantly. Bonnie let out a scream, and the remaining members of the posse unloaded their weapons into the couple and the car. Despite having two guns in front with them, and more in the back, neither Bonnie or Clyde shot back, seemingly lending credit to the fact they were caught completely unaware.
Their bodies still in the car, it was towed to a nearby furniture store with a morgue in the back. Souvenir hunters descended, with people taking locks of hair, scraps of clothing, and one man even tried to cut off Clyde’s ears. After being positively identified, the couple were embalmed, ironically with assistance from an undertaker Bonnie and Clyde had kidnapped previously. Despite over 100 rounds being fired, Bonnie had 26 entrance wounds and Clyde 16, but it is said that their bodies were so badly damaged there was difficulty embalming them.
The car was immediately put on display at the police impound with a fence around it to protect it from more souvenir hunters, and later the bodies were even displayed to show the world Bonnie and Clyde had truly met their end. Bonnie’s funeral drew upwards of 20,000 people and Clyde’s 15,000. Despite Bonnie’s poem declaring that they would be buried side by side, they were buried separately in Dallas.
Meanwhile the Warrens wanted their car back. But the sheriff said they would have to pay $15,000 to get it back. Outraged, the Warrens took the matter to court and won. Soon they sold the car to John Castle of United Shows for it to be displayed, but when Castle defaulted, the Warrens repossessed it. Later it was rented out to Charles Stanley, a carnival owner, who eventually purchased it for $3,500, and it continued to draw crowds.
As with anything famous, fakes are sure to exist, and there were even fake Bonnie and Clyde death cars making the rounds. One man when so far as to put chickens in the car before shooting the car, with the chickens providing the blood splatter.
Eventually the true car was sold to Primadonna Resorts for $250,000. Until recently the car had been at Whiskey Pete’s but has since been relocated to Buffalo Bill’s Casino. Zip-ties hold the bullet riddled car together, where it sits elevated with mannequins dressed up to look like the infamous couple, and surrounded by Bonnie and Clyde themed slot machines. Also nearby are other artifacts, including photos, newspapers of the day, and the shirt Clyde died in.