1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit – The Driver
In the world of crime, getaway cars are more important than the heat you are packing, for a whilst a BB gun would fool the general public and the entire staff of a bank, a useless engine will have you worrying about showers and soap before you’ve shouted, “Drive!”
Kray Twins Ronald and Reginald
If I think “getaway car” my mind always goes to the days of 60s London, the Kray Twins, “Mad” Frankie Frazer and the other real life gangsters who paired Savile Row suits with brass knuckle dusters. British cars of the era weren’t particularly fast, including those of the Police, so when gangsters starting using the power and might from the 3.8-L Jaguar Mk 2, the Old Bill didn’t stand a chance… until they started using them as motorway cars.
The Mk 2 gained a reputation as a fast car among criminals and the police because of its 220-bhp straight-six engine. In its day, 0-60-mph in 8.5-seconds was pretty impressive for a big car, another reason criminals used them – along with the getaway driver and four gunmen, you still had room for the all-important SWAG and perhaps a few body parts. Although it wasn’t entirely inconspicuous because of its grandeur, it was a sleeper in its own right because you wouldn’t exactly expect it to burn rubber.
’67 Shelby GT500 “Eleanor”
In the movies we’ve seen all types of getaway car, from the Pontic Firebird in The Driver (1977) to the Minis from the Italian Job. A lot of movies show the bank job getaway cars as monstrous black muscle cars or vehicles like the Ford GT500 Mustang, Eleanor from Gone In 60 Seconds… which is cool in fantasy but…
Whilst these fantasy cars look great on film, I suspect in real life they’d get you caught pretty quick – not only would you stick out like a sore thumb, modern police cars wouldn’t struggle too much to keep up.
This leads me onto wolf in sheep’s clothing cars, Q cars, and the 2011 movie, Drive. In this brilliant crime movie (derived from the James Sallis novel of the same name), a stuntman (Ryan Gosling) uses a bland and boring silver Chevrolet Impala (the most popular car purchased in California at the time) as a getaway car. The Impala looks like any other car on the street, only under it harnesses extra power (300-bhp).
In the clip below, a mechanic tells the driver, “Plain Jane and boring; just like you asked for,” exactly what makes a sleeper so cool. Inconspicuous and fast without anything giving the game away – these assets are what the ultimate sleeper and getaway car are all about.
Check out the opening movie scene below, probably my favourite intro into any film – in fact, this clip almost plays out like a mini-movie in its own right.
If you like the concept of the sleeper car, check out our sister Sleeper Cars site on G+.