The Down and Dirty (Troupes) of the Getaway Driver


When it comes to the heist (or the sting) and the getaway driver, there are number of phrases, characters, and such. We all know what you mean when you use a term or refer to a character but where did these things come from?

We’ve dug up some interesting and fun facts we think you’ll find entertaining.

(FYI: a heist is a term generally meaning a bank job, which seems to have reached peak usage in the 1970s and a sting is an operation involving deception, though according to the online dictionary its peak usage predates cars.)

Getaway: Meaning to make a swift exit after committing a crime reached a peak in the 1950s, likely because it was popularized by dime store crime novels—ya’ see.

The wheel man: Circa 1900. A driver, especially for a getaway car.

death-car bonny clydeBonnie and Clyde: (aka Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker) Famed bank robbers, even though they tended to rob small convenience stores and post offices. Famed perhaps, because they were in love and because they died violently in an ambush on a rural Louisiana road in 1934.

You might have seen Clyde standing on the running board of a car, firing his gun in certain films? The term “running board” comes from trams and streetcars. Every vehicle up to 1936 had running boards.

Ticking over: (as in “the getaway driver may keep the car ticking over”) means to keep an engine in neutral. It is also used to describe when the car is working but not moving, like when you put it in park without turning it off.

car-813482_1920Ticking over remained in use throughout Britten while in the U.S. most Americans replaced the term with “keep it running,” a term that came from film and television portrayals of bank heists. In reality a robber would be stupid to park a running car outside a bank as it draws attention.

Fake number plates: Having fake number plates seems to go back almost to the beginning of cars (logically the idea of having a real number plate needed to gain traction before criminals decided to fake them). It is such as lucrative industry especially in Asia that for many countries a real number plate might be hard to find. But in the US, except for a small number, plates are reliable.license-plates-3614254_1920

Armored car: The idea for the armored car goes back to the Wild West, where they transported valuables in strongboxes (though carrying strongboxes in carriages probably goes back further than that.) The first armored car that we’d recognize was introduced in 1910, but was more like a mobile bank than a delivery van. The financial industry, the mail, and jewelers all employ armored vans. So too, big name shops, schools, universities and so on to transport money or important records. There tends to be one driver which must stay behind the wheel and several guards on board.

Soft-skinned vehicle: This is any car which isn’t armored, especially one that is used to transport valuables. If you are transporting anything by this method you are employing a different strategy than outright protection. You might be semi covert about the nature of what you transport or have measures in place to “neutralize” the money so it can’t be spent if it is taken. There may be a special reason why the police would need to carry valuables in non-armored cars, for instance in undercover work.

Malcolm: The getaway car used in the film Malcolm (1986 by Cascade Films) might be worth a mention as it can split in two, widthways. The two parts can go down narrow alleyways. How exactly the drivers of the two vehicles avoid falling out of the converted vehicle isn’t that clear.

Transporter: Perhaps one of the most famous getaway drivers in recent cinematic history would be the transporter played by Jason Statham in 2002. The character was a professional contraband courier.

The Fast and the Furious: Deserves a nod because it’s a movie entirely about vehicular heists—by which we mean heists made by people from one a moving vehicle to another. This hasn’t been a thing in real life, at least on land, that we know of.

The Getaway: Which brings us to our last film nod, the movie The Getaway, and of course it’s remake. The most famous real life getaway scene was probably the slow speed chase of O.J. Simpson in his white SUV. But the rise and fall of the Juice is a topic for another post.

There are so many more references out there, so this article has been left criminally short…



A Strong Car?


Do you want a strong car? Well, it’s certain you don’t want that falls apart or stalls when you try to start it, but how strong do you want it?

What is a Strong Car?

old-2416225_1920People aren’t quite sure what strength means in a car. A quick web search suggests most people equate strength with safety. That might be the case if you are talking about strong suspension, or strong brakes. But what about strong doors or strong designs? It seems that not everything about your car needs to be strong. It’s about comfort and familiarity too.

If it means indestructible, well, there’s a market for those too. Although, many such “strong cars” like the Jeep, FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra have been discontinued.

The History of the Term

Classic cars were generally strong cars. Historically, roads weren’t that great and even if you lived an urban lifestyle, as late as the 1970’s, you might well encounter unpaved or poorly maintained roads. Also they didn’t face as much competition as today’s market so most cars will built to be sturdy. Also these cars weren’t as complex as modern cars and simple usually equates to reliable.

Recently, however, safety and sturdy are less associated. Crumple zones for example, tell the car how to sacrifice themselves in order to absorb impact during collision, which in turn keeps passengers safer. So the trend is away from strong car unless you need something specifically for off road or hauling. Being a sturdy runabout is not seen as a priority in today’s cars, only that they are safe.


As previously mentioned, one of the best ways to make a strong car is to keep it simple and sturdy. That necessitates different design decisions, particularly in suspension. So most modern strong cars aren’t known for their handling.

280px-Budapest,_Hungexpo,_AMTS_2017,_51Internationally though, AvtoVaz of Russia gives us one of the strongest cars available commercially, the Lada Niva. This unholy combination of all things practical is a new look strong. It looks a little like a Yugo and a Toyata FJ had a baby. It’s sorta cute in a way, and almost feminine.

It’s an off-road, compact SUV, with a unibody and a plush interior. It drives like an SUV, hard to handle, but fits in city parking spots. If you’re exactly the right person for it, it’s exactly the right car for you. If you’re not the right person, you will find it off-putting.

So are Race Cars Strong?

auto-racing-583032_1920On the race track, cars run hard for long periods of time. They also get bumped into. Race cars are the extreme version of the modern idea of strong the engine is powerful, but the body is fiberglass. The goal with race cars is to protect the driver and allow new parts to be cheaply and quickly replaced. All cars are, to a degree, being constantly replenished with new parts throughout, but this is extra true. Only a percentage of the car that starts the race is present in the car that finishes the race.

What about 1st Responder Vehicles

fire-1006924_1920Now we’re closing in on the idea. Police, fire, and EMS are generally outfitted according to municipal guidelines that stem from the needs of that area. Fire trucks obviously have the best type of fire gear for the type of fire they see most, but have you ever seen some of the emergency response vehicles? Each city has to decide what public service agency will deal with what type of crisis. Road issues like breakdowns increasingly go to DOT responders who can deal with non-emergencies like break downs. Because these vehicles have to respond to unknown problems in difficult or dangerous circumstances they are well equipped to route traffic safely around the problem and trained to asses and call in specialists if an injury has occurred.

ghostbusters-1515155_1920Search and rescue is largely staffed by volunteers who bring out their own equipment most of the time. Still, some of these heroes tool-up as well as any government sponsored vehicle and train just as well too. But does cool equipment make a strong car?

Security! Can Someone Call Security?

For a security car strength is a specific thing; a car needs to be bulletproof, in other words provide ballistic protection. Don’t confuse bullet resistant with bullet proof. Most folks will tell you there is no real bullet proof vehicle. They haven’t seen Cadillac One.

Every few years a president will order upgraded the Limo detail. Donald Trump’s Cadillac One is a whole new creature, befitting a polarizing President. Not only does it have a special “armor” which prevents the penetration of bullets it can also shielded from underneath to stop IED mines (Improvised Explosive Device mines). The tires won’t go flat and the drivers are specially trained to perform skill evasion manuvers at high speed in that exact vehicle.

In order to support the weight of the armor, the suspension is reinforced and the engine is horsepower is topped out. (See our post on presidential limos.)

They have radically increased the technological equipment from simple office style car phones to coded wifi and satellite communication. Whenever Trump is aboard there is also several bottles of blood of the President’s own type just for safety’s sake.

If you’d like to do-it-yourself a bullet-proof car it can take between $40,000 and $100,000. It would be cheaper just to put bullet proof glass and install armor plates in a car than to start from scratch. Naturally Cadillac One is built custom from the ground up, and has always been so. Creating a bulletproof or armored car is certainly big business, especially given the high profile clients.

In Conclusion

Just what makes a car a “strong car” is probably in the eye of the beholder, but admit it, however you define it, you want one.

The Race Driver’s Vital Statistics


Most people see a racing driver navigating a bend and think, “I could do that.” But what really goes into performing that turn?

  • What makes a great race car driver?
  • Why does it seem like you see more portly athletes in sports like baseball, football, and golf than you do racing?
  • If soccer players injury their ACLs and basketball players injure their ankles, where on the body is a driver most prone to get a sports injury?

Well the reason why drivers need athletic bodies is pretty obvious to anyone who takes a ride in a race car. Trying to navigate a turn under high g-forces requires muscle. Maintaining a fast reaction time at high speed in a constantly vibrating car requires a mental focus that leans heavily on your physical conditioning. Let’s break it down.

Being in a race is like being a pressure cooker. The heat alone is nauseating. Drivers need to maintain at least 60ml of oxygen in their lungs to make sure they are in control of the steering. While you do go faster in a private jet there isn’t nearly as many things to hit.

The forces of gravity affect the neck most. A driver’s body is demanding he protect his neck while his life actually depends on keeping the car on the road. Blood is forced up into the brain or down into the feet at different points during a turn. Although a system of cords, nicknamed “bungee cords” inside the helmet try to limit the actual strain on a driver’s neck when a car goes round a corner various lateral and latitudinal forces play havoc on the man trying to master the machine.

auto-racing-558089_1920.jpgIt’s more than skill at the wheel that keeps a driver alive and in first place. It’s the ability to notice and react to the smallest item on the track, all while tracking what the pit is feeding in his ear piece. This takes a rare combination of neurological system and reflexes.

You’d think that the least worked part of a drivers sitting body are the legs. Until you realize that the left leg has to control the brake and the right leg has to control the throttle. Imagine balancing on your posterior and stabilizing with your stomach and moving your legs to work brake and gas in rapid alternation. But since more power is needed to deal with brake than the throttle this creates an imbalance. It wouldn’t be easy to do if all you had to do was tap a button with your big toe, but a driver must actually judge the right amount of pressure to apply to either foot at the right moment. It’s all about judging it right, every few seconds, under extreme pressure.

The shoulders need to be raised in order to sit upright in the car. Although this sounds obvious, the force from the rest of the car increases the tension in this area.

Even in go-kart racing, where most drivers start fitness training is a factor in winning. All car racing involves g-forces and vibrations which a body must train for.

Every sport requires athletic training and favors one body type over others. For racing it’s about being as skinny as possible. Because of the G-force issue, their BMI or Body Mass Index is constantly checked to see if they aren’t carrying excess weight. The diet is described as strict and hard. Formula One even created rules for a minimum weight this year.

swimmers-79592_1920Where many athletes spend a lot of time in the gym there is usually some flexibility in style. A swimmer for example, may need to deal with drag as a result of bulking up, but may feel the power from the extra muscles justifies it. There are specific gym activities racers cannot do, muscle weighs more than fat and too much muscle will take you out of the race. Some people’s natural weight, even when healthy makes it impossible for them to be a top racer. It takes a skinny frame and high power-per-pound capability. It can be easier to start with a naturally skinny person and add muscle.


Free Spirit and Cars


Advertisers tend to have a problem marketing products to the free spirited, but not so much with cars. It’s understandable, the idea of having a car and obtaining your freedom.

kombi-2400356_1920No one likes to think they are susceptible to advertising, least of all the Free Spirit. That’s why advertisers go to what they call “the Sage” or “the Yoda.”

When selling to the average car consumer its all about luxury, so the standard advice is “sex sells.” The Free Spirit tends to desire living within your means—not they always do so, but its an ideal to hold up to. So this needs a work around in any campaign.

Honda’s Power of Dreams campaign might be one such example. It is based on making our dreams a reality, which is slightly different campaign from just marketing to a free spirit but is still in the same ballpark. It uses 3,000 illustrations in a flip book animation of an engine turning into a real car in the hopes of inspiring innovators to come and work for Honda. Many innovators can be found among Free Spirits.

It’s always nice when you can advertise a job and reinforce your brand at the same time. But does Honda’s Power of Dreams work? It probably depends on what you’re measuring. For sales, yes, Honda is the most sold car in many markets, including the U.S. Not so much on the race course, it seems. In the recent Red Bull race, Honda took third place.

Maybe too much success is a bad thing, as noted by Honda’s advertisement called “Failure: The Secret of Success,” set in Honda’s race industry. It consists of many interviews with engineers, which doesn’t sound like a riveting advert to me, but then I’m not an advertiser.

adult-2822644_1920What kind of Ads you ask?

The free spirit and the open road are a theme on TV advertisements but also can be seen on billboards. One local billboard entitled “raise the roof convertible” depicted a man in sunglasses driving and a woman with a parasol sitting on the hood of the car. Talk about mixed imagery. So sex and free spirit work together in some adverts.

Cars names Free Spirit

On the subject of marketing a number of brands have used the Free Spirit name, though you might not have heard of any of them. The Buick Century Free Spirit Pace Car for example was created to celebrate the bicentenary of the United States. Obvious the colors were red and blue the design was wavy lines, bringing to mind the Stars and Stripes which almost everyone associates freedom—except Hippies, the biggest Free Spirits of them all. Rather something more associated with patriotism than “anything goes.” Ironically, despite being a “free spirit” car it seemed to be made for roads, rather than being an all-terrain vehicle. Definitely designed for someone tied to the system rather than a free soul.


Free spirit car movies

Linking a film about a free spirit and a car seems like a good idea, though as with most things nowadays it started off on social media. A road movie about a school dropout making the journey across America, the van has a fiery design with a symbolic coyote. If you haven’t heard of Free Spirit, that may be because it was a short film and wasn’t shown in most theaters. Nevertheless the use of vans with the Free Spirit images worked well as a promotion. It was especially popular at Universities.

So even if you are free, prepare to be targeted by car advertisers! And watch out for tricks by “the man.”