SKY launches a new satellite TV channel tonight, the highlight set to be a lavish new drama series Boardwalk Empire, directed by Martin Scorsese.
Having already received huge acclaim in the US, the series, set in prohibition days, is screened here on Sky Atlantic.
British actor Stephen Graham was hand-picked by Scorsese to play history’s most infamous gangster, Al Capone.
A publicity shot for the series, right, shows Graham, in Capone guise, in a warehouse standing next to a van.
Among those likely to be tuning in tonight is Layton ward councillor Roy Haskett, who can boast that as a youngster he actually sat behind the wheel of the 1928 four-ton bulletproof Cadillac Sedan once owned by Capone.
And he did not have to travel far, as the unforgettable encounter took place in Blackpool, in a warehouse not unlike the fictional setting.
An even bigger co-incidence is that a Gazette photographer was despatched to get a picture of the infamous car exactly 53 years ago today!
Roy says: “I was a paper boy in Layton and saw the feature in The Gazette in February 1958 and decided to go and see the car for myself along with a school chum.”
He recalls: “When we got there an auction was in progress, so we managed to sit in the car without attracting too much attention and get the feel of what it was like to drive the getaway car.
Roy admits: “The name Al Capone didn’t invoke too much fear at that time, but films like Baby Face Nelson (with Mickey Rooney) and Dilinger had been on release in 1957, so we knew all about the types of cars gangsters drove about in and how dead bodies flew out as they went fast around corners.
“Some years later on in the mid 1980s, I was working with a chap called Frank Stanley, from Bispham, who told me he had been employed by the auctioneers to bring the car to Blackpool in 1958.”
Back in February 1958, The Gazette reported: “It stands, ugly and forlorn, in the corner of a Buchanan Street motor auction saleroom.
“The body is armour-plated and on the inch thick windows – the rear one is hinged for an obvious reason – there are bullet indentations.
“Said the Blackpool auctioneer today ‘if only the car could talk, what a story it would tell!’”
The car, which used a gallon petrol every six miles, was bought in Manchester by George Wragg, of West Coast Motor Auctions on behalf of Toronto ice cream manufacturer Harley Neilson, who planned to run the Cadillac in such innocent pleasures as vintage and novelty car rallies in Canada.
During its Blackpool stay, the vehicle was towed to Devonshire Road, North Shore and filmed by TV cameras as it freewheeled down The Knowle Hill.
Further digging in The Gazette archive produced a yellowing press release revealing that the Cadillac was to be shipped from Liverpool in the motor vessel Concordia on April 5, 1958.
Now it is in America, where it has been put up for auction again, this time in a fully restored condition.
Roy says: “According to the provenance on the auction website, there seems to be a gap in information on who owned the car between 1939 and 1958. Perhaps Memory Lane readers know more of the tale.”
Visit www.rmauctions.com for more details about the infamous death car.
As for Italian-born Capone, he moved into his sinister power after the passing of the 1920 Prohibition Act and controlled the distribution of half the illegal liquor in America.
Capone was said to be responsible for some 250 deaths during his criminal career – some of them probably murders in the car that came to Blackpool – and his organisation had an annual income of many millions. The gangster died of pneumonia following a stroke in 1947.