Q: Greg, I bought a 1931 Dodge in Burlington, IA, in 1997 and I thought the owner was kidding when she told me it was once owned by Al Capone who bought the car for his bookkeeper in 1931 before he went to prison.
My Dodge is a four-door sedan and all original. It has an eight cylinder engine, which was rare for the time as most of them were six cylinder. I need to know how I can get proof of ownership and paperwork on it. I tried the Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and they wouldn't tell me. I also tried the DMV in Iowa, and they couldn't help either.
The previous owner doesn't have any information in writing. I really enjoy your columns, and I'm wondering if you can help? Thanks much, Leon Cloney, Jefferson City, MO.
A: Leon, thanks much for the nice words and I wish I could help you in your plight to track down the original owner. However, sales information in those days and official records of many cars just don't exist anymore, even though somewhere down the line they did.
I was a huge fan of the TV series, "The Untouchables," and then the movie with Kevin Costner, which I usually watch at least once a year. In the television shows, it pinpoints the association of Capone's bookkeeper, namely Jake "Easy Thumb" Guzik, who appeared in six episodes of "The Untouchables" in 1959.
Guzik was a lifelong and trusted friend of Capone, especially after tipping Capone there was a "hit" on him and actually saving Capone's life. Guzik also took care of Capone and his family all the way to Capone's death in 1947. Guzik died a natural death in 1956, and never owned a gun or was involved in "hits" during his career with the crime syndicate. His was strictly money and bookeeping.
A second Capone financial wizard was Edie O'Hare, a noted St. Louis attorney, businessman and bookkeeper. He played a major role in the 1931 conviction of Capone as he worked undercover for the IRS in the tax evasion conviction. In 1939, a week before Capone was released from Alcatraz, O'Hare was shot and killed while driving his 1939 Lincoln Zephyr. Notable, too, is his being the father of Medal of Honor recipient Butch O'Hare, for whom the Chicago airport is named.
Therefore, of these two bookkeepers, Guzik is your man and surely the one who owned the 1931 Dodge if the story is true.
As for the 1931 Dodge eight cylinder, it has the new "straight eight" 240 cubic inch engine that produces 84 horsepower. This larger Dodge version became the flagship for the Dodge brand.
Although most of this is a history lesson on Capone's bookkeepers, I'm hoping one day you find evidence that it was indeed a Guzik or Capone-owned Dodge, pending if Guzik ever had it signed over in his name or didn’t. Good luck in your continuing search.
Regardless, it makes for an interesting sideline to a great old car.