First recorded use of a getaway car
Santillana del Mar robbers
first first
Spain (Santillana del Mar)

The earliest recorded use of a getaway car took place on 14 February 1904 in Santillana del Mar, Spain. A group of robbers broke into the Collegiate Church of St Juliana and stole a huge haul of gold and silver church plate (reportedly weighing 450 lb). They made their escape in a "fast motor car". The raid was described as having been "skilfully planned".

The first use of a getaway car in a more straightforward heist took place on 1 September 1906, when a group of three thieves broke into the Post Office in Kingston, New York, and blasted open the safe with nitro-glycerine, netting $500 in cash and $800 in stamps before escaping in a car. It is likely that this was the "Red Auto Gang" – a group of New York City-based housebreakers and bank robbers active in Long Island and the Hudson River Valley from late 1905 to their capture in December 1907. The gang comprised two men, Geoge Carr (aka George Vogel) and David Gilman, and two women, Anna Slattery and Katherine Courtney. It's not clear who present for this particular robbery, but witnesses mentioned that one of the robbers appeared to be a young woman in men's clothing.

Cars began to be used in the commission of crimes around 1905, with "auto gangs" springing up in the UK and the USA. The most common modus operandi for early motorized criminals was to venture out to the empty country homes of the wealthy (early reports are from the Home Counties of England and Long Island in New York), strip them of valuables, then use their cars to escape before the police arrived. Law enforcement was initially unable to respond to these highly-mobile criminal gangs.