Is Vandals Based on an Actual Motorcycle Club in Chicago? Do They Exist Now?

Jeff Nichols’ crime drama film ‘The Bikeriders’ revolves around a motorcycle club in Chicago called the Vandals. Johnny Davis founded the club after watching Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One.’ Gradually, the motorcycle club starts to garner attention throughout the region, only for the size of the organization to grow considerably. With several chapters based out of Chicago, the Vandals become a reputed biker gang. Like the founder, the group also has a real-life counterpart. Nichols presented the Vandals as a fictionalized version of an actual gang to avoid the latter’s reaction and ensure enough creative freedom to alter the establishment’s history for the sake of the narrative!

Outlaws Motorcycle Club: The Real Life Vandals

The Vandals is based on the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, also known as the American Outlaws Association. The Outlaws’ history can be traced back to 1935, when the gang existed as McCook Outlaws MC in McCook, Illinois. As per reports, John Davis, the inspiration behind Tom Hardy’s Johnny Davis, founded the club on behalf of the Electro-Motive Company employees of the time. By the time ‘The Wild One’ was released in 1953, contrary to the film’s depiction, the group had started to recruit members from Chicago. Soon, the gang was uprooted to the Windy City as the Chicago Outlaws MC.

As the crime drama depicts, the growth of the Outlaws was immense. In 1964, the Gipsy Outlaws from Milwaukee and Louisville became a part of the gang, only for the Chicago group to become the mother chapter. Danny Lyon, who followed the Outlaws as a documentarian, joined them around the same period. By the late 1960s, the members of the group were divided among “beer drinkers” and “pot smokers.” The change in preferred consumption material ultimately resulted in the murder of John by a “pot smoker.” In 1977, Canada hosted the Outlaws’ first chapter outside the United States.

Despite the unrest within the club, the growth of the group never suffered. More chapters were introduced in European countries like France, Norway, and Belgium, in addition to small groups in England and Wales.

The Outlaws After The Bikeriders

‘The Bikeriders’ ends with Johnny Davis’ death. Since then, the club has been growing immensely, with foreign chapters emerging in various countries, including Japan. Unfortunately, along with the gang’s size, the crimes allegedly committed by the group also increased. During the 1970s, the Outlaws reportedly were waging a war against California-based Hells Angels, supposedly paving the way for hundreds of fatalities. In 2000, the establishment’s “enforcer,” Randall “Madman” Miller, was sentenced to life in prison for a racketeering case. He eventually admitted committing three murders, which were part of the case.

As years went by, the Outlaws’ strength grew, with over 3,000 members in 441 chapters located across 43 countries. Currently, the organization is the third-largest motorcycle club in the world, ranking right below the Hells Angels and the Texas-based Bandidos. The numerous crimes committed by several of the members of the club provoked the officials to deem them as threats. As per the Department of Justice, the gang is described as one of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) whose members “use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises.” Violent crime, weapons trafficking, and cross-border drug smuggling are allegedly some of the crimes committed by the club.

The Department of Justice is not the only potent body that turned against the Outlaws. Europol announced that gangs such as the Outlaws are a national policing priority in seventeen European Union member states. The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada also approaches the organizations as threats. In November 2022, reports surfaced about the rivalry between the Outlaws and Mongol Nation Motorcycle Club, which resulted in multiple shooting incidents. Ninety years after its inception, the Outlaws is one of the most powerful outlaw forces in the country.

“The Outlaws are, in my opinion, one of the most ruthless outlaw motorcycle gangs on the planet right now,” Steve Cook, an expert in biker gangs, told The Times. “I would put them up against anybody for that title,” he added.

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