The modern interpretation of a getaway car is thought to date back to France in 1911, when the notorious Bonnot Gang, also known as ‘The Auto Bandits’, fled the scene of an armed robbery in a stolen Delaunay-Belleville. It was the first of a series of robberies over the coming months.
Armed with little more than stockings over our faces, we’ve selected 20 of the best getaway cars stolen money can buy. Step on it.
Launched in 1959, it wasn’t long before the Jaguar Mk2 became the car of choice for criminals in a hurry. Fast, nimble, space for four or five burly blokes, plus a boot for the loot, made the Mk2 ‘Jag’ the ideal getaway vehicle. The 3.8-litre version could hit a top speed of 125mph.
In danger of being left behind, the UK’s police forces soon turned to the Mk2 to act as the cops’ cat to the robbers’ mouse. The definitive getaway car? Probably.
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
The Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was the Jaguar Mk2 for a new generation. Easy to steal, space for four or five men, a boot for stolen gear and enough pace to outrun even the fastest police car. The Rover SD1 and Vauxhall Senator 24-valve had the Cossie’s pace but not the handling.
Even as recently as the early noughties, the three-door Cosworth and the four-door Sapphire were being used as getaway cars following successfulheists. Today, these cars are probably worth more than the proceeds of a robbery.
Another favourite of the nation’s traffic cops, the Range Rover is an excellent choice if your getaway route ventures off-road or you require a little more muscle. A yellow P38a 4.6 HSE in the spirit of Layer Cake would fit the bill.
Alternatively, the Nürburgring-conquering Range Rover Sport SVR would be ideal. You’ll be gone in, er… 8m14s.
What do you require for a successful gold heist? A trio of Mini Coopers (in red, white and blue), a criminal mastermind, a traffic jam to end all traffic jams and BennyHill. Just avoid mountain passes if you want to make it home.
The Italian Job was rebooted in 2003, with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Jason Statham using a trio of modern Minis to execute a daring heist on the streets of Los Angeles. Statham said he received training from former F1 world champ Damon Hill, but the cast admitted that Theron was the best driver.
Ford Lotus Cortina
“Most people thought it was just a bog-standard Cortina,” Bruce Reynolds told the BBC in 2001. The mastermind of the 1963 Great Train Robbery was being reunited with ‘BMK 723A’, the Ford Lotus Cortina used during the largest crime the country has ever seen.
“I’d always be mindful of the old train robber Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; he always espoused the thing that you always have the best horse flesh that you can. [The Ford Lotus Cortina] had the best horsepower that I could get at the time.” Reynolds bought the car specifically for the robbery.
Vauxhall Lotus Carlton
Given its links to the underworld, we’re surprised Lotus hasn’t been charged as an accessory to a crime. Not that you can blame Lotus for turning humdrum motors into humdingers. The Vauxhall Lotus Carlton could hit 176mph, so the police would need to break out the Top Trumps to identify a supercar fast enough to keep up.
The Lotus Carlton hit the headlines in 1994 when a gang of ram-raiders used a stolen example (registration 40 PA) for a series of attacks in the West Midlands. PC David Oliver said: “We simply haven’t been able to get the near the thing and it looks unlikely that we ever will. Our urban panda cars can only dot 90mph.”
In 1972, the Metropolitan Police dubbed the Transit “Britain’s most wanted van”. It said: “Ford Transits are used in 95% of bank raids. With the performance of a car and space for 1.75 tons of loot, the Transit is proving to be the perfect getaway vehicle,” a spokesperson for the police said.
A blue Ford Transit was used in the Brink’s-Mat robbery in 1983. Having stolen £26 million worth of gold from a security warehouse at Heathrow, the gang’s Transit broke down on Earl’s Court Road, just 12 miles away. If only the police had noticed that the suspension was creaking the under the pressure of carrying three tonnes of gold.
Subaru Impreza WRX
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Fed up with being outrun by ram-raiding no-gooders in stolen Subaru Imprezas, police forces in Australia were quick to adopt the Japaneseperformancecar as one their own. There were more than 100 pursuits involving Imprezas during one two-year period.
A red Subaru Impreza WRX starred in of one of the best opening scenes to a movie, when Edgar Wright selected it as the getaway vehicle at the beginning of Baby Driver. One of the cars used during filming was given to Ansel Elgort (Baby) for his birthday. “I just kept begging for them to let me have it”, he said in an interview.
Using a Citroën DS as a getaway car could save your life. In 1962, a group called the OAS plotted an assassinationattempt on the then President Charles de Gaulle. As he and his wife were travelling along the Avenue de la Liberation in Paris, 12 OAS gunmen opened fire on the car.
Two of the president’s motorcycle guards were killed, the car’s rear window was shattered, and all four tyres were punctured. The chauffeur controlled a skid and managed to drive the president and his wife out of harm’s way. De Gaulle owed his life to the driver and Citroën’s legendary suspension system.
Whether it’s because of Bullitt or The Dukes of Hazzard, the Dodge Charger is known for being one of America’s greatest getaway cars. They’re big, powerful, accessible and they look great surrounded by tyresmoke.
Fancy being the cop rather than the robber? The Dodge Charger Pursuit package comprises a 3.6-litre V6 24-valve or 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine, rear or all-wheel drive, ballistic door panels, secure park, steel safety frame construction, front and rear crumple zones and a lifetime supply of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
History.com has named it “the most infamous vehicle of the 20th century. On a Friday in June 1994, a white Ford Bronco driven by Al Cowlings, led police cars through 50 miles of Orange County, while helicopterscircledoverhead. In the back was a certain OJ Simpson.
Around 90 million people watched the footage on television, before Simpson surrendered outside his house. The white Bronco is now on display at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Tennessee.
The V8 van!
Freight Rover added the option of a 3.5-litre V8 engine to the 300 Series at the end of 1985. It continued to be available when the van became the Leyland DAF 400 Series and, later, the LDV Convoy.
Popular with the emergency services and express delivery firms, the large van would be a fantasticgetawayvehicle. It’s amazing to think that the platform dates back to the Leyland Sherpa of 1974.
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Star of countless American movies, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is perhaps best known for its appearances in the original Cannonball and Smokey and the Bandit films. The former is inspired by the illegal cross-country race, first organised as a competition in 1971. It was won by the racing driver Dan Gurney.
Not to be confused with the Cannonball films starring Burt Reynolds, the 1976 movie sees drivers participating in a Trans-America Grand Prix, with the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am taking a lead role.
Citroën Traction Avant
If cars with a Lotus connection were the getaway vehicles of choice in Britain, French crims tended to prefer Citroëns. In post-war Paris, a group known as Le Gang des Traction Avants used the famous Citroën in a series of violentraids.
Though the success was short-lived, the gang got away with stealing some 80 million francs, with the Traction Avant becoming synonymous with bankjobs and jewellery raids.
Ever since it starred in the 1998 film Ronin, the Audi S8 has developed a reputation for being a getaway car of some merit. Launched in 1996 with a 4.2-litre V8, the second-generation S8 featured a V10 engine it shared with the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Today’s S8 features a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, but it’s no slouch. It’ll accelerate from high street bank to 62mph in just 3.9sec, so the crims will be home in time for tea.
Alfa Romeo Alfetta
The original Alfa Romeo Alfetta (‘little Alfa’) arrived in 1972 and remained in production until 1984. To look at, you might question its getaway credentials. Indeed, the range of engines wouldn’t stir the imagination of many would-be bank robbers.
However, a 1980 Alfetta 2000 was the personal transport of Francesco Muto, a member of the Italianmafia. He equipped the Alfa with bulletproof panels, wheels, windows and door locks, and fitted an aftermarket telecommunications system. Quite how the 2.0-litre engine managed to cope with the extra weight is anyone’s guess.
Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9
The formidable Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 made its debut in 1975. It was, at the time, one of the world’s best cars and one of the fastest saloons you could buy. You’d need the proceeds of a bank job to buy one – and that’s before you think about its unquenchingthirst for four-star.
It wasn’t just quick; the hydropneumatic suspension would do a fantastic job of keeping things balanced as you made your way back from the bank with a boot load of loot.
On the face of it, the Countach would be a terrible getaway car. Poor visibility, difficult to enter and exit, nowhere to stash the swag, and so on. And yet the Lamborghini went on to become one of the vehicles of choice for drug runners in the 1980s.
At the time, Countach drivers could be found on both sides of the criminal divide. Florida's police policy of using confiscated evidence to support law enforcement meant some 80s cops really did drive exotics, not just the ones seen on TV shows like Miami Vice.
We had to end with another Jaguar. Launched in 1963, the S-Type occupied a place in the Jaguar range between the Mk2 and the Mk10. Usefully bigger than the Mark 2 but as nimble as a small saloon, it soon became the vehicle of choice for cops and robbers.
Power was sourced from 3.4 and 3.8-litre engines, the latter of which was used in The Sweeney. According to IMDb, the stunt drivers favoured them for their safety; the same cars could be repaired, repainted and used a number of times.