Old law and order film noir movies from the last 40s and early 50s are a real education because they tell you what was rolling on the street back in the post war era of classic iron.

Highway 301 is a great example because it exposes the reality behind how cars like a big Lincoln handle high speed runs, so here are five automotive players in the movie.

The plot centered around a team of ruthless bank robbers on a crime spree. Violence and fast cars were part of their toolbox, so their typical robbery was a high-paced operation.

Jerry Sutherland

Their first heist went askew so the police arrived before their getaway, so the hoods jumped into a stolen 1941 Buick Century and high-tailed it out of town.

The Buick handled like an oil freighter in a rolling sea, but it had enough performance to escape the clutches of the law.

The escape in the Buick wasn’t without incident. They ran a 1946 Ford Super Deluxe station wagon off a narrow dirt road when they cut it off badly when the two cars met.

The hoods carried on to pick up their next getaway car–a 1949 Lincoln Sport Sedan. The driver of the Ford wagon wasn’t impressed with their stunt driving after he hit the ditch–so he ratted them out and aimed the police at their hideout. The ‘41 Buick was there, but by then the bad guys were long gone in their big, bad Lincoln.

The Lincoln was registered to one of the hoods, and the ’46 Ford driver gave the police a partial plate number so the cops had a big lead on the bad guys.

There was another botched robbery of an armored car, and this time the crooks had to use the Lincoln as the getaway car. They hit some hard turns during the escape, so this was a great chance to see how the big Lincoln handled high-speed turns—as expected, it wasn’t anything like a new Mustang.

A 1929 Studebaker Commander played a minor role in Highway 301. A female witness caught severe lead poisoning when the alpha male bad guy shot her in the back seat of the old Studebaker taxi.

This car was unusual because a 20-year-old taxicab would have been rare—even in 1950. It just looked out of place because shoebox Fords were cutting-edge in 1950–a ’29 Stude just looked old and slightly out of place.   

The police all drove shoebox Fords that emphasized why the ’29 Studebaker was out of place in 1950. They were involved in the last major car scene when the bad guys grabbed a car for yet another run from the law.

This time things didn’t work out because the police pursuit ended like a lot of hot pursuits—with a bad crash. They rolled a ’40 Buick and it didn’t survive the impact—neither did the bad guys because back in those days police didn’t hesitate–or read rights when a hoodlum shot at them.   

Call it a golden era for justice and classic iron—even if the cars were a little sketchy when pushed too far.              

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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