Let’s I.D. The Car From America’s Biggest Museum Heist

Illustration for article titled Let’s I.D. The Car From America’s Biggest Museum Heist

Just before 1 AM on March 17, 1990, a car pulled up outside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. A man got out, was let inside, and then left. Twenty-four hours later, $500 million in art was stolen – the biggest heist in U.S. history. And 25 years later, we have video of the car likely involved in the theft. Let’s try to I.D. this thing.


The thieves made off with 13 works, among them a Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and several Degases. The U.S Justice Department released surveillance video today and the following statement:

The video footage released today, captured by Museum security cameras 24 hours before the Gardner heist, shows an automobile pull up next to a rear entrance of the Museum. The car matches the general description of a vehicle that was reported to have been parked outside the Museum moments prior to the theft on March 18, 1990.

The video also shows an unidentified man exiting the automobile and then being allowed inside the Museum, against Museum policy, by a security guard. That event occurred at 12:49 a.m. on March 17, 1990, almost exactly 24 hours before the thieves entered the museum through the same door.

While the images of both the vehicle and the unidentified man are low resolution, law enforcement officials hope that releasing the footage will assist with identifying the man or the vehicle in the video.

The case was reopened in 2013, and a $5 million reward is being offered for any leads that result in the artwork being returned in good condition.

Here’s the video:

Let’s do this.



I think there’s a strong possibility that it’s an late 80’s Escort as others have pointed out.

In the screen capture where the reverse lights are on, you can just barely make out a gap between the brake and reverse lights. This means that any cars which have the reverse light right against the brake light can be ruled out, because the reverse/brake light combo would simply create one mass of light. The Escort has this gap to allow for the signal in between. However, it seems as though the reverse light is roughly the same height as the brake light, though that may be because of the brightness.

Another thing worth noting: There are two reflections of light beneath the licence plate, the Escort appears to have a “ridge” directly below the licence plate, then the bumper directly below that (which is also chrome) These may create the double reflection seen in the first screen capture.

EDIT: Upon further Googling, it may actually be an ‘84 Escort. It has the reverse lights that are the same height as the brake lights. And the bit of chrome that surrounds the tail lights could be the second reflection under the licence plate.

1984 Ford Escort: