By on April 27, 2013

As the nation’s peacekeepers are learning to live without the venerable Ford Crown Victoria it is also a time to reflect on what police cars were like in the time before the Panther platform debuted in 1978 for the 1979 model year. In 1972, the cruiser of choice for the City of Lexington was the Ford Galaxie 500.

This particular car wears the blue and gold livery of the now defunct City of Lexington Police Department. In 1974 the government of the City of Lexington was merged with the government of Fayette County to create the Lexington- Fayette Urban County Government. All city and county services and departments were merged as well. This car was given as a retirement present to Chief E.C. Hale when he retired on June 1, 1972, which makes for a significantly better retirement present than the cheap gold watch I expect to get.

Chief Hale had served 40 years with the city department and passed away in 1974. The car sat on the street near his home, exposed to both vandals and the elements, for many years before his family returned it to the city. Originally a white unmarked unit, it was restored to patrol duty specifications and is now used for parade duties, although it still retains an official government property number (P# 0462) and its trunk is equipped with the fire extinguisher, first aid kit, and other equipment required by policy.

So what’s it like to drive a police car that’s older than you are? Kind of boring, actually. There’s a myth that runs through our popular culture that police cars, particularly the police cars of yesterday, were fire- breathing muscle cars equipped with “cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks, made before catalytic converters” that could run down the Mustangs, Barracudas, and GTOs stalking the nation’s streets with ease and sound like Death himself was chasing you while they did it.

1968-Ford-Lexington-City-PD-small

Like all good myths, the myth of the invincible old police car is rooted in truth. I was once told by a veteran beat cop that back in the old days when you were alone at night in an alley, trying to avoid taking a beating yourself while handing out “wood shampoos” to unruly drunks and screaming for help on one of the original 10- lb Motorola portables that could be counted on to work 25- 30% of the time, you didn’t listen for approaching sirens coming to your aid because the sirens weren’t worth a damn and you couldn’t hear them half of the time anyway. Instead you listened for the roar of the secondaries opening up as your backup thundered down the final straight leading to your last known location. That’s how you knew the cavalry had arrived.

But P#0462 is not one of those mythical cars. 1972 was a rough year, automotively speaking. Newly introduced smog controls were strangling all of the power out of our engines. Of course, power was already down across the board, at least on paper, since the manufacturers had been forced to abandon their wildly optimistic gross horsepower ratings for somewhat more realistic net ratings. Police service vehicles were no exception.

And then, as now, the vast majority of cop cars weren’t sold with the biggest, most aggressive motor. This car left the factory powered by a measly 177 hp 351 Cleveland 2 barrel. 335 lb- ft of torque help offset that number when taking off, but acceleration is still best described as “leisurely.”

You don’t really want much more than leisurely acceleration, however, given the overly assisted power steering. When you read an article about a new car in which the author complains about the steering being “numb,” you have to understand that the author has either forgotten or has never driven a car from the days when power steering was an option on most cars. The goal was to make the steering so effortless as to enable the driver to steer with just a finger, a mission which was accomplished (and then some) in this particular car. The steering wheel feels completely disconnected from the front wheels and spins as freely as the plastic Fisher- Price steering wheel attached to a toddler’s car seat. I couldn’t imagine driving this car in an emergency situation with so little feedback from the road. The modern tires added during the car’s restoration would help, but not enough to overcome the soft suspension and drum brakes.

For non- emergency duties, particularly the parade details it serves in these days, the Galaxie works just fine. Visibility is great, as it is in most old cars, even though a passenger side wing mirror was an option not selected when the car was ordered. Every couple of years during our annual in-service training we go out to the skid pad and practice our low speed precision driving skills. Much of the course is done in reverse, backing down “alleys” and reversing into “driveways” built with orange traffic cones. I would rather perform those backing exercises in this car with only one external mirror than in a new Taurus with a video camera.

There’s plenty of room inside, especially with the bench seat. The car was equipped with air conditioning, which still works. I had assumed that the A/C was ordered on the car because of it’s intended use by the Chief and that the rank and file would have made do without it. I checked with a couple of old guys and was surprised to learn that by the early 70′s we were ordering A/C on all our cars. The optional AM radio in this car was a special feature reserved for commanders and it wasn’t until the end the decade before stereos became common in all of our patrol cars.

As far as emergency equipment goes the Galaxie seems almost naked with only the two rotating blues on the roof compared to the low flying alien spacecraft theme you get from a modern patrol car at night. Since P#0462 was originally an unmarked admin unit, it even lacks a spot light. The old mechanical siren with it’s long, drawn out fade when you turn it off as compared to the instantly silent electric models of today is a hoot to play with in the parking lot of Comm Tech until you start to get dirty looks from the people who are actually at work inside the building.

So what’s the final verdict on this piece of history? I left my drive in P#0462 with a greater appreciation of how difficult street work was back in the day, when your radio only worked half the time and your car handled like a yacht. Just getting to your call was an adventure. We tend to forget just how much basic automotive technology has advanced and what each of those improvements meant. How many accidents, for example, have been avoided by the simple recognition that maybe dialing back in a little resistance into our power steering systems was a good thing because it provides the driver with vital information during emergency maneuvers?

Like most historical artifacts P#0462 is best appreciated through the soft focus haze of nostalgia heavily saturated by myth. It’s most impressive when viewed from behind the cordon as it rolls slowly past you in a parade with blue lights slowly spinning and the low rumble of a V-8 punctuated by whoops and yelps from a siren that slowly fades away. Any modern police car, including the lowliest V-6 powered FWD Taurus, would run rings around this car and any of it’s four- barrel equipped brothers. But the crowds watching from behind the barricades don’t know that and I doubt any of them will look at a 2013 Taurus, Charger, or Caprice forty years from now and speak approvingly and with a touch of envy about how special those cars are with their “cop tires, cop suspension, and cop motor.”

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100 Comments on “Cop Drives Classic Cop Car: 1972 Ford Galaxie 500...”


  • avatar
    Summicron

    Ah… thank you, Officer Hester.

    You can’t know how welcoming that interior view through the driver’s door is. Same color as my ’66 and not a lot changed otherwise. Sweet bench seats!

    I graduated from HS in ’72 after totaling my ’66 in February. A ’67 GTO smacked 90 degrees into the left front fender, just short of t-boning me, when we both fishtailed out of control after turning downhill onto a snow & ice covered suburban boulevard. Once I stopped at the bottom I watched him coming at me for a seeming eternity.

    The police did not assign fault to either of us, we weren’t speeding, drunk or stoned, just not yet as savvy on such conditions as we would later be.

    These “sweet” old rides could and did bite us in ways modern cars won’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Did we become more savvy, or did our AWD, ABS with stability controlled cars just make us think we did?

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Just meant “we”, meaning guys my age in the snowbelt, got better at driving on ice & snow. For example, I now have an instinctive feel for mass and momentum on treacherous roads and would never make the kind of turn, steeply downhill, onto an icy road like I did back then.

        And since I never had another accident in the intervening years without any of today’s automated aids, I’d say there was a learning process. But that won’t happen when younger people are propped up by those stability systems you mention.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I’m a guy your age from the snowbelt and I understood. That “instinctive feel” you speak of, at least in my case, is knowing the exact moment my car starts making decisions for me and letting it happen which goes against all previously learned instincts. I’m not unappreciative of the help, I’m not sure I’ll ever be entirely comfortable with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Completely agree. “Letting it happen” creeps me out no end. It’s always a matter of cortex ruling mid-brain to get through that.
            Just like having the gas engine cut-out on you in a hybrid. Too many years of that signalling big trouble…..

          • 0 avatar
            cargogh

            As a know-it-all youngster, I read where modulating the brake pedal provided shorter stopping distances than locking it up and sliding it to a stop. These were pre-antilock and for the most part pre disc brake days, when I guess it was the accepted way to stop quickest. I know that’s how Bud Lindemann tested them.
            That method may have been promoted by tire manufacturers and alignment shops.
            I tuned out my 6 year older brother and dad going at it on every aspect of life, except for cars and driving debates which were interesting. Brother was a good teacher, but had a bad temper, so when you’re 10 and being taught to power brake mom’s ’68 Polara, you learn quickly not to let off until the smoke fills the mirror.
            He taught early on that drivers have more control of their vehicle than most realize. (Someone else barreling into us is another matter.)
            I’ll always remember a few years ago watching a girl zoom past me in the rain on the Watterson’s exit to Dixie Highway in Louisville. I was impressed until I could see both hands held up in the ‘I didn’t do it’ position while her CRX spun round and round. She stayed in the middle, hit nothing, and was still maintaining that posture with an ashen face as I drove by. Stability control might have been good for her. Removing my hands from the wheel and letting it happen is an instinct I hope I never possess.
            Like cassettes and VCRs, look how many drivers have never once driven a car without something as simple as ABS.
            If a large solar flare ever wipes out all the electronic nannies, but the engines continue running for 30 seconds, the world will witness pileups of Biblical scale-if they had cars back then.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            @cargogh

            Hell, I still do that with the brake pedal. I don’t know… fights brake fade… helps cooling..? Got into the habit back in the days of all drums and just kept doing it.

    • 0 avatar
      llibskrap

      Yes, Thank you Officer Hester. Thank you for telling everyone that this is a “Galaxie 500,” when with a VIN trim level code of “53″ it is clearly a “Custom 500 (there’s a big difference). In one of the photos of the rear of the car, it can clearly be read: “Custom 500″ on the right side of the trunk. Lastly, more bad news for the good Officer Hester; this car is a “retail” (read: a “civilian” version) car, and NOT a police version of this car, which is clearly indicated by the 0-120 MPH Speedometer calibrated in 5 MPH increments. ALL Ford Police Package vehicles, even the 6 cylinder cars, came standard with 0-140 MPH “Certified Calibration” Speedometers which were calibrated in 2 MPH increments. They bought the Chief a Custom 500 “Retail” civilian car with next to no options, which was very common place for ANYONE to order if they wanted a full sized Ford, but didn’t want to pay for LTD or Galaxie 500 trim, chrome, options, etc. Please edit the article, Officer Hester, so that it’s technically and factually correct. Thank you. A Ford Police Package vehicle expert who actually drove the real Ford Police Package vehicles of the 1970s.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Well written and insightful. What has been said about this cop car could have easily been written about most American cars (and remember, most cars on the road in the US in 1972 were indeed American-built) of that era.

    Ponderous weight leading to poor handling, over-boosted power steering, 4-wheel drum brakes, and often sold with low-spec, small displacement, 2-barrel V-8s – most of the cars of the, say, 1965-1978 weren’t much fun to drive. I know; I drove more than my share of them.

    As an example, a 2013 base-model, totally stripped Mustang V-6 is scads more fun to drive than all but the most heavily powered Boss 429, etc. of the 1964.5-1973 era Mustangs.

    I believe the Mr. Hester has stripped off the rose-colored glasses with which many people look back on cars of the era, and done a fine job of it. I, for one, have no desire to own any car of that era, and am glad many of them have gone to the scrap heap.

    I make one exception to the above statement: Design. The only thing I miss about this era is that you could tell cars apart, brand-by-brand, and that the color palettes were widespread and varied.

    I think we can all agree that cars today, in terms of styling and color, are horribly bland by the standards of 1972. But that is all I miss about those behemoths.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “Ponderous weight?”

      1972 Ford Galaxie 4-door: 4195 lbs
      2013 Ford Taurus FWD: 4196 lbs.

      the poor handling of older cars is mostly due to:

      1) overly compliant springs
      2) mushy, tall-aspect-ratio tires
      3) high center of mass causing excessive body roll.

      #2 is a killer; I’ve seen photos of old skidpad tests where the outside tire was so far over on the sidewall that I couldn’t figure out why the bead hadn’t pushed off of the wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Don’t know how old you are or how experienced with those old tanks, but half of that weight felt unsprung and just aching to break the rear end loose, flip you or both.

        Add a road slippery surface and… voila!

        Edit…. didn’t see your edit.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          I learned to drive in a ’73 Cougar.

          that doesn’t mean I was 16 in 1973 (far from it; I wasn’t even born then) but I’ve driven all manner of tanks and boats. Unsprung mass is a consideration but it doesn’t explain a whole lot; given the live rear axle of my 2012 Mustang GT, its unsprung weight should be roughly comparable to its early ’70s counterparts. I think we can all agree that a 2012 Mustang handles just a bit better than a 1972 Mustang ;)

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        I will defer to the overall weight argument. It’s not so much *how much* it weighs, as where the weight IS.

        Not only is it the high center of mass as you mentioned, but there tends to be a lot of front and rear overhang, capped with massive chrome bumpers.

        Mass that exists within the wheelbase makes a car less ponderous than weight that occurs outside the wheelbase.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Remember those old cars had a high polar moment; meaning that all that weight outside the wheelbase helped create stability in a straight line. Think of a barbell sitting on the ground and try to twirl it by grabbing the midpoint of the bar. It will resist movement. Once moving, however, it resists coming to a stop. That is why these cars could speed along at high rates on the highway, but sucked in rapid directional changes.

          I still drive (on occasion) my 72 Fury, which was way better balanced than the car here. Handing was dramatically improved by: Adding a rear sway bar, replacing the torsion bars with a much higher rate bar, poly bushings, upgraded shocks, 60 series rubber. A modern car will still clean its clock on the track, but you would be surprised how much better classic cars can be made to handle. What I have not addressed yet is the steering, which is the worst I have ever encountered. Perhaps a rack from a Ram truck might be adapted…but early Mopar recirculating ball steering has to be the most feel-free thing ever encountered.

          • 0 avatar
            CobraJet

            Fords of that era were particularly bad about having numb steering. I agree that the mopars were not any better. My 74 Torino was hard to handle due to the large tires and very numb steering. On the other hand, my 69 Pontiac Lemans was much better in the handling department, even with the old bias ply tires. My 69 Mustang which I have been driving for almost 25 years was considered, at the time, to have sports car handling. Mine has the “competition suspension” with the 428CJ engine, but doesn’t handle anywere as good as my late model Chevy Impala with 17″ rubber.

          • 0 avatar

            Most cars of thta era were all about isolating you from the road. You are right, a few basic upgrades can make a world of difference. And if you own a popular model, you can get more upgraded parts that will fix a lot of the geometry issues with the suspension and make it even better.
            Probably not to the level of most new cars, but still enough to suprise a lot of people.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      @ eggsalad

      I completely agree with you about the lack of styling and especially the lack of color when it comes to modern cars. I’m actually working on a piece for next week about how paltry our choices are when it comes to exterior and interior colors on modern cars.

  • avatar
    Geeky1

    Sounds like the steering on this thing is basically identical to my ’73 Riviera. Unsurprising. It’s definitely not confidence-inspiring, but I think if you’d had an opportunity to really beat on the car in an environment where there wasn’t any chance of hitting anything, you would probably have been surprised.

    I’m in my 20s, but I grew up driving huge, old cars with no steering feel or feedback; mainly Mercedes and GM stuff. And, like any other teenager, I did all kinds of stupid stuff with them. You learn to read the car through the seat of your pants instead of the steering wheel-hell, I still do, even though my current cars have decent steering feedback.

    I can’t speak to the Ford specifically, I’m not really a Ford guy. But there’s a youtube video of an old road test of a ’72 Riviera that has some footage of it running on a road course and through a slalom; the cars are about the same size and weight, and I’m sure the suspension tuning is similar, so it’s somewhat comparable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQOpmpTxe1g
    It’s slow, and there’s enough body roll to make even the most seasoned sea captains nervous, but it’s not messy.

    I’d be willing to bet that the Galaxie is perfectly capable of being pitched through a corner at an angle most appropriately described as “sideways” and recovered with a minimum of histrionics. I mean sure, either car’s handling limits are so low that a modern minivan will embarrass them around a track. No question. But within its very limited capabilities, the Ford should be pretty easy to control. The wheelbase on this thing is longer than Alaska; it doesn’t really want to come around on you the way something with a shorter wheelbase will. It’s just hard to trust a car that’s not interested in telling you what it’s doing.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “car that’s not interested in telling you what it’s doing”

      Feeling like the car was on gimbals with every corner told me enough.

      • 0 avatar
        Geeky1

        I’ve only driven one car that gave me that sensation; a 2010-ish Grand Marquis that I rented a while back. Took it down the same mountain roads that I’ve flogged just about every car I’ve ever owned on. None of my boats were ever troublesome on these roads, but the Mercury…

        The back end on that thing just flat out would not settle down. Any kind of midcorner bump, dip, or sudden camber change would send the tail hopping and skipping across the road. Very irritating.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          After my Galaxie I got into a succession of VWs of the era, didn’t have another monster car till a ’77 Malibu wagon bought used for hauling amps & drums. Never had the hippo-on-iceskates feeling from that like I did the Galaxie. Weight distribution? Stiffer suspension? Don’t know.

          Also drove some pickup or other throughout my life until 2008. Never felt as tenuous in them either. I’m guessing that soft springs and bias tires were the culprit in the Galaxie, like eggsalad says.

          • 0 avatar
            Geeky1

            Yeah, tires are a good point. I’ve never driven anything on bias ply tires. I know they’re supposed to handle very differently than radials but I have no idea what they feel like.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d chalk it up to better suspension design on the Wagon. GM re-used the Camaro front suspension design in the 73-77 GM A-bodies ( your 77 Chevelle Wagon being one of them) which lead them to be quite capable handlers, and in the wagon enough weight was on the rear to make it behave, as my ’77 Chevelle sedan can be kind of a handful on low-traction surfaces.

            Fords then were noted for their smooth ride, but atrocious handling.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Thanks, texan01

            Good to know there was a structural reason because that big ol’ wagon, not yet downsized, was a real pleasure to drive… the last thing I expected when I bought it.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      I love how the driver goes off the course at the end of one of the slaloms in the Riviera review just as the narrator is talking about how great it did. You’d think they would have edited it out.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    How neat! I owned an almost identical ’71 Custom 500 4 door with the 351 Windsor, 2 barrel carb, and single exhaust. It was solid white with an identical interior and black wall tires (white walls turned inward).

    I owned it from ’83 when I was in HS to ’88 up until I graduated from Ga Tech and bought my first new car. It had radials on it when I paid $500.00 cash for it, but by ’85 I had to replace them with cheap ass bias-plies. Talk about bad handling! But it was my first car ever and something to tool around the streets of Decatur, GA and Atlanta with.

    I remember that the automatic choke was controlled by hot air from a metallic tube, about the diameter of a drinking straw, that ran from the driver side exhaust manifold up to the carburetor. That tube had long since rusted away, so I replaced that setup with an electric choke opener from the JC Whitney catalog that bolted into the intake manifold where the thermostat was. When the coolant became warm, the choke supposedly opened. In practice, the choke stayed mostly closed, causing the engine to run very rich until it was just about to flood out before the choke finally got the signal to open, allowing the engine to run halfway decent. Once warmed up, it did OK, although I thought the direct drive cooling fan (no clutch fan) with the flex blades made it sound like a school bus on rev-ups.

    Great memories – thanks!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    But the crowds watching from behind the barricades don’t know that and I doubt any of them will look at a 2013 Taurus, Charger, or Caprice forty years from now and speak approvingly and with a touch of envy about how special those cars are with their “cop tires, cop suspension, and cop motor.”

    You Sir underestimate the power of nostalgia. There will always be history, nostalgia, reverence, and awe wrapped up in mechanical things regardless of the decade they were built in and regardless of whether they run on asphalt, dirt, railroad tracks, desert sand, or fly through the air.

  • avatar

    I’m kinda surprised no one’s brought up the fact that Fords of this era were bottom-of-the-barrel in the handling department compared to GM’s and ChryCo. Fords were renowned for their quiet ride, but at the expense of any handling ability even by the standards of that day.

    Chrysler, on the other hand, was in the throes of its affection with torsion bar suspension, many police departments preferred Dodges and Plymouths for that very reason.

    GM had gotten its handling act back together in the late 60′s and by the 70′s had hit their stride.

    Again this is all relative to the era in which these cars came, which is to say most anything built today would blow it away. But even when new, it was well-known that if you wanted a car that could handle, you didn’t shop Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      Geeky1

      Perhaps this is an unfounded bias on my part, but post Fords have always struck me as bottom-of-the-barrel, full stop, from the end of WWII clear into at least the mid 90s.

      Since I don’t really care for them, I haven’t really paid close attention to them, but over the years I’ve picked up some stuff that doesn’t really paint a very impressive picture. For instance, I’ve heard that their transmissions had issues with the parking pawl and with slipping into gear, and when they did work they did not hold up to abuse as well as the Dynaflow, the TH400 or the TF727 did. The flathead V8 wasn’t actually a very good engine, from what I understand, and there were a number of I6s and I8s from other companies that were available at the time that made more power. Indeed, it seems like a lot of Ford’s older engines have problems with winning horsepower races; the 460 won’t make as much power as easily as a Buick or Pontiac 455 or a Mopar 440, the 390 was basically a boat anchor from the factory, that made no power because the heads don’t flow well, the Y block and MEL engines seem to have been mostly forgotten, and it seems like the only way to make decent power with a modular motor is to go to forced induction… I’ve also been told that the fit and finish and just general build quality (panel gaps, squeaks and rattles, that kind of thing) of Ford products-specifically their ’60s stuff-was notably worse than GM’s, and possibly Chrysler’s as well. It also seems like I read about a lot more late ’70s Fords with rust issues than I do with other domestic cars of that era. Just a bunch of little stuff like that. I wouldn’t call them bad cars, but it’s been my understanding that they were rarely as good as GM’s products, and they often weren’t as good as the Mopar offerings, either.

      Someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about any of that, it’s just rumors and conjecture that I’ve never bothered to verify. Like I said, maybe it’s an unfounded bias on my part. *shrug*

      • 0 avatar
        greaseyknight

        Fords of that era did have an issue with “jumping” into gear. But there is nothing wrong with the C-4 and C-6 that makes them less durable their GM or Mopar counterparts. I can personally attest to the long term durability of the c-6. I don’t know enough about the older automatics like the Ford-O-Matic and Cruis-O-Matic to say one way or the other, but I have not heard horror stories. The flathead v8 is solely responsible for all the V8′s we have today. It was ahead of its time when introduced, but used pass its prime in production cars. Its major downfall is the propensity for the block to crack for no reason. Not much is done nowadays with the MEL, but the Y-block has a devoted following, so much so that I have heard rumors of a new block being cast that allows for more cubic inches and its possible to get plenty of horsepower from them. The problem the 390 had is just like you said, smog. Low compression engines with all sorts of gimmicks to try and get it to pass smog. Just like everything else of the era. A properly done FE will give you all the horsepower you can afford, not as easy as a sbc or bbc but very possible. As for I6′s in ’59 the 235 chevy had 135hp and the 223 Ford (my favorite btw)had 139. Same thing with the 460, smog was not kind to it. Nowadays it is claimed that its easier to get horsepower and major cubic inches out of them then a BBC. Can’t comment on rust or fit issues……but it was Detroit during the 60′s and 70′s, was anyone making a truly good product?

        I am a self proclaimed Ford guy, so I may be a bit biased :)

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          …but it was Detroit during the 60′s and 70′s, was anyone making a truly good product?…

          I’d say yes, there was plenty of good product, at least in the 60s and early 70s. By 74 or so, the variance grew quite a bit. I recall reading in what I believe was the early 1980s in CR if any cars of the recent past offered reliability of the then-current Japanese offerings. CR stated that “yes there are; they are mostly big Fords…” going from memory here, but the line is correct.

          • 0 avatar
            west-coaster

            I guess it depends on the maker.

            A friend of mine was into collecting old Cadillacs a few years ago, and swears that the GM quality on all Cadillac models began to really drop off by 1968. Cost cutting cheapened up even GM’s flagship brand, especially in interior and body assembly.

            You’re spot-on about 1974. I saw a completely original, unrestored ’74 Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman (the absolute top-of-the-line that year) at a car show a few years ago, and the fit and finish was apalling.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        When I bought my 74 Gran Torino, I shopped comparible GM vehicles. My parents had bought a 73 Lemans the year before and it was already losing trim pieces on the interior. My Torino seemed to be better assembled than the GM Colonade bodied cars. It had the 351 Cleveland and C6 auto. The engine made very little power (about 150 hp?)but so did all the competition. The C6 was very under-stressed and was flawless. The engine never gave any trouble, either. The car’s faults were the numb handling, low power, and uncomfortable bench seat. Certain systems, such as the air conditioning, were not as well developed as GM models. All in all it was a good car, and not too terrible on gas, at least on the highway. I traded it on a new 1980 Olds Omega, but that is another story.

    • 0 avatar
      luvmyv8

      Also what happened with the Fords (at least as far as police cars go) is that they all pretty much suffered with having lousy brakes. Now granted this was all before I was born, but time after time in police car history books and such, and some of the retirees talking about their former units, the braking issue always came up. Funny too, Ford did offer as an option rear disc brakes on the fullsize police cars. Pretty rare option though, they stopped before the introduction of the Panther platform. Even the Mustang SSP (severe service package) had poor braking performance; it used the police package Fairmount’s brakes and were pretty much good for only one high speed panic stop, that’s it. The other Ford that was notorious for bad brakes was the 80′s ‘Baby’ LTD, also otherwise known as the ’4 door Mustang’. It had the same 5.0 ‘HO’ engine, but terrible brakes, legend has it that the Santa Monica (Or was it Santa Barbara?) Police Department bought these but traded them back 3 months later because of the brakes. Too bad as for the 80′s, it was a stellar performer.

      That and it was extremely tough competing with the Mopar squads of the late 60′s and early 70′s. True, much of it is ‘Rose Tinting’, but the 440 police cars were timeless and really were ass kickers.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ luvmyv8 – You’ve just reminded me of the ’84-’85 LTD LX. I’d completely forgotten about that car! In my mind’s eye, there’s a racing series where those compete against Chrysler H-body turbos and the performance versions of the GM A-bodies.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    The state of full-size police cars in the era of this Galaxie is what led to such rave reviews for the Chevy Nova 9C1 when it debuted in 1975.

    Created for, and with development support from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the Nova police model was a breath of fresh air in a world of land barge cop cars. It was trim, nimble, and ideal for handling the canyon roads of L.A. County. (The various twisties of Malibu, Angeles Crest Highway, et al.)

    You can find images of them online, and they looked fairly bad-ass for the time. The fat tires were only 14-inchers, but they looked pretty meaty mounted to steelies wearing poverty caps. The 350/4bbl under the hood was still of the Emissions Era, but barked out a nice roar, especially if Mr. Deputy chose to invert the air cleaner lid (essentially converting it to an open-element style), helping the Quadrajet resonate against the hood with the boom of a timpani.

    Interior space was cramped, but the officer driving was treated to the same thick-grip steering wheel found inside the Camaro. In so many ways, it was the antithesis of the typical patrol vehicle: Smaller, sportier, and able to keep up with more pursuees when the road turned curvy.

    And apparently, civilians with the right connections at GM could order them too. Talk about a sleeper.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Ah, the “moaning kit”. I inverted the lid of the air cleaner with my ’71 Custom 500 – even with it’s 2 bbl, it still sounded like a 4 bbl at WOT. In practice, I didn’t notice any difference in performance, but it sure sounded cool.

      To my understanding, the air cleaner snorkel draws in cooler air away from the engine – if even only a few inches, whereas the open air filter sucks hot engine air, so any benefits in performance are negated. And anyway, the carburetor is the biggest restriction in the air intake system, so the air cleaner snorkel shouldn’t hurt performance as opposed to an open element. But I’m no engineer, so I’m sure TTAC’s B&B have their differing opinions on this.

      • 0 avatar
        west-coaster

        Yep, you’re spot-on. The effect was more for the noise than any actual performance gains.

        That was especially true later in the decade, when OEM intake systems started using flexible snorkle ducts to pull air from up in front of the car.

        I got to hang out on a few movie locations in the 1980s, when 9C1 Impalas were the recycled cop car of choice for the film industry. The trasportation guys would always flip the air cleaner lid over for effect, and directors loved the sound they made. The best example of this was in the chase scene from “To Live and Die in L.A.”

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Did this make the air-cleaner lid act like a speaker cone?

          When flipped, was it mechanically driven by contact with the carburetor body?

          • 0 avatar
            dastanley

            That’s an interesting question – I never thought about it that way. The lid had a wing nut that screwed onto a center bolt that went into the middle of the carburetor, so I guess that was the mechanical metal to metal connection when the lid was upside down. The raised portion of the lid (not necessarily the outer most edge when upside down) sealed against the filter gasket, which was rubber or plastic. It was a silly thing to do but still fun. But by doing so, you eliminated any benefits of the hot air pipe into the snorkel that assisted with cold start drivability and preventing carburetor icing.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Hee hee.. not gonna rest till I find an old carbureted something or other and try this.

          • 0 avatar
            west-coaster

            It didn’t work on every car. But most domestic V8s had a simple round air cleaner, with the entire assembly stamped out of sheet metal. It was held down to the top of the carburetor with a threaded stud in the middle, and a simple wing nut holding it down. (This was to enable easy checking of the filter element.)

            On most every design, there was a flat area embossed into the lid, essentially creating a seal with the rubbery edge of the filter element.

            If you removed the lid and inverted it, the flat section was still in the correct position to seal with the filter, but the rest of the lid then canted upward, rather than downward to meet the rest of the air cleaner assembly.

            Voila! Poor man’s open-element air cleaner. With the entire outer edge of the filter exposed, the sound of it sucking in air at WOT was rather magical, even if if was in fact, as pointed out already, not really any kind of gain as far as performance went.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I can tell you that the inverted lid thing does not work on all engines…my Fury will not allow the lid to sit properly with if flipped over…maybe just a Mopar thing?

        • 0 avatar
          cargogh

          I was so impressed with how my ’84 Delta 88 Royale sounded after inverting the lid. It did sound just like a cop car under full throttle.
          When I was back visiting my parents I revved it for my brother who always had mega buck exhausts and everything perfectly tuned (later chipped).
          He was, “Meh, you didn’t do anything but flip your breather lid.”

    • 0 avatar
      luvmyv8

      Ah, the Nova 9C1. You’re right, it was a very innovative and influential police car.

      It was the perfect urban cruiser. Small enough to be easy to drive in traffic in heavily congested cities like Los Angeles, but not small enough to be impractical. It only had a 190hp ‘LM1′ 350, but since it was small and light, the performance was quite good for a ‘malaise’ era car, plus it borrowed legitimate heavy duty police parts from it’s bigger brother cop cars, such as the brakes; they came from a full size car (I forget whether it was the Bel Aire or Impala?)but the thing was that it was designed to be a perfectly balanced police car and it was for the times. The LASD used them and they spread out across the country; I know for sure Boston and St. Louis used them.

      However, they are quite rare today, Car Craft magazine found one in an Arizona junkyard a year or 2 ago, complete with it’s ‘certified’ speedometer and I’ve seen one on ebay, I ‘think’ it was legit as it had all the features a real 9C1 had, but I’m not an expert on GM stuff. Also I do know that the LASD has one on display in their museum since that car technically was their baby.

      The Nova was replaced by the Malibu 9C1, while still a credible urban cruiser, didn’t match the Nova as the Malibu’s top engine was a 305, it still made a great patrol car.

      Ford’s response was very halfhearted; they tried a “police” Maverick, while it was decent when equipped with a 302, the suspension and brakes were all wrong and it made the Maverick be a handful, but even so, the car did POORLY. I think Ford only sold maybe 300 of these and I know of only 1 that still exists. The NYPD tried these, but promptly returned them back. The second attempt was the Fairmount. While considerably better then the Maverick, it still failed, in fact, many books and references state the Fairmount as being the worst police car ever built. Tepid performance from the 129hp 302, if you even had that. These came standard with the 2.3, or 3.3 I6 as an option. Bad ride, poor front bench seat, cramped interior, the only good thing was ironically; good braking and good handling. It flopped. You can see these in the movie ET, the pale blue police cars were Fairmounts. I know San Diego ran these cars as patrol units, they looked funny because they used the full size light bars from bigger police cars.

      Mopar tried also, though not as robust as the Nova; the Dart and later Volare/Aspen packed a punch, you could option these cars with the 360 HO, it made these cars quite fast. These are also rare as rust got most of these and also most had the 360 yanked out before they met the crusher, but some of these still exist today and make a devastating sleeper.

    • 0 avatar

      The 9C1 Nova was a four door Z/28, only better because the Nova body was stiffer than the F body cars. As far as I understand, all the suspension goodies from the hi-po Camaro bolted right up to the Nova

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    In 1981, I had to make a business trip to a small town in north central Oregon. The only thing available for rental was a full size, retired, Dodge police car at a dealership. Expecting the car to be a land yacht, I was surprised at how well it drove. The steering was accurate, the suspension was firm and confidence inspiring, and the engine had plenty of power. The only down side was gas mileage which was terrible even for the day.

    My experience with the Dodge makes me wonder why Lexington failed to order the Galaxie with the good parts. Perhaps, it was bought as transportation for the chief and never intended for use as a patrol vehicle.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I love cars of this era.

    I have two 70′s Malibus. One a 78 Sedan, the other a 79′ coupe. The coupe has the “cop suspension” (F41 package) and a V8. Getting past all of the improvements and down to the bare chassis, the cars are night-and day in their handling and ride. The 78′ is comfortable, but “floats” a bit (which is a good thing for commuting the rough interstate I do). The Coupe is far different, and can handle a curve much better. It doesn’t bounce or float.

    I’ve driven many different cars, and there is a 2012 Mustang V6 sitting next to the 79′ coupe in my garage. The Mustang can hug a curve better, but not that much, and the overall ride the 79′ is far better. They’re too close to call on acceleration, but the 79′ is so much more fun to run open.

    I love these cars, but not just as toys, as the 78′ Sedan is a daily driver. 95hp slow, but it never feels that strained, and it’s the perfect car to bum around in.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    It’s amazing how many people are so stupid to think that the Crown Vic has a “cop chip” or a supercharger. Little do they know that the CV left the factory in 2001 with a measly 235HP. And it 2012, it was only 250HP.

    Amazing how stupid the general public is…

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      Yep.

      Once, during one of our infamous Los Angeles televised police pursuits, the genius helicopter reporter for one of the TV stations kept going on and on about how the fleeing car was no match for “those special souped-up Crown Victorias.”

    • 0 avatar
      Scribe39

      I guess this might be a good spot to address a few of the comments. First, the so-called “cop chip” exists, to this extent: A standard CVic has a chip to limit top speed to 109. The chips in police vehicles have no limiter.

      The Fords were always popular police cars, to my knowledge (and use of same. The C-4 tranny was OK, the C-6 quite stout; no real problems. The Ford-O-Matic was two-speed and average; Cruise-O-Matic was three speeds with a tender first gear.

      Tires were a problem, although some high-speed outfits actually used six-ply tires! The standard 390 was a slug; the police 390 was fearsome. It used solid lifters and had factory headers. The 390/330 (which referred to horsepower) was a 130 mph car.

      Other cars were as fast. The difference was the “cop equipment” referred to. The belts, hoses, radiators, generators, etc. were all special duty. Other vehicles could run as fast, but we could do it as long as gas was in the tank.

      • 0 avatar
        west-coaster

        I guess that was a regional thing. Fords were NEVER “popular police cars” in Southern California back then.

        The LAPD, LASD, CHP, and countless smaller agengies around here pretty much used Plymouth and Dodge police cars exclusively. The exception came in the mid-1970s, when the LASD started using Novas (see my above comment). And the LAPD took a break from Chryslers in the early 1970s with their famous AMC Matadors, as featured on “Adam-12.”

        As a kid, I remember taking a trip to San Diego in the early 1970s. I saw an SDPD Chevrolet, and was blown away. At that young age, I had just assumed that ONLY Chrysler made cop cars.

        Big Fords started working their way into California law enforcement in the early 1980s, probably due to the Diplomat being comparatively small and perhaps a push by Ford to market and price their CVPI more aggressively.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The reason you saw mostly Mopars in California was the CHP had extensive specs for their needs and Chrysler would build to spec, not just provide a list of options. The CHP spec became Chrysler’s standard police package, but it was still pricier than the competition, and more suited to highway patrol use than city police patrol. By the mid-70s, Chrysler couldn’t afford to divert the engineering or absorb the expense of limited run spec cars, and began offering only heavy duty and standard options. Even before then, CARB (the California Air Resources Board) had throttled even the CHP’s requirements, flat out refusing to approve the Mopar 360 engine for use in Cali. The CHP had to settle for the 4bbl 318.

          • 0 avatar
            luvmyv8

            The infamous ’81 Dodge St. Regis. A car too slow for the CHP and due to the response, ushered in the Ford Mustang 5.0 SSP as a CHP pursuit car.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            @luvmyV8, what a beautiful day that must have been.

        • 0 avatar
          luvmyv8

          Actually, you could say the same for the rest of the country in reality; Mopars were usually the top dog police cars back then.

          Ford only came back because of the need of an all out pursuit car in the Mustang 5.0 and Chevrolet discontinuing the Caprice in ’96. Dodge quit in ’88 or ’89 with the Diplomat/ Gran Fury. After ’96, Ford was the only game in town, because the Lumina just didn’t count… (yes, they did make a Lumina police package)

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        “I guess this might be a good spot to address a few of the comments. First, the so-called “cop chip” exists, to this extent: A standard CVic has a chip to limit top speed to 109. The chips in police vehicles have no limiter.”

        That’s completely wrong.

        The Crown Vic with 3.27 gears was limited to 129MPH and if it had 3.55 gears it was limited to 119MPH.

        Why? Because even with the extended tail shaft on the transmission (for a shorter drive shaft) and a drive shaft made out of aluminium, the drive shaft was still too long to go any faster.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No such thing as a US 2012 Crown Vic and the later Crown Vics did have more HP and steeper gears than the civilian versions.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Lexington then was all blueberry? Cause I spy blueberries & cherries on today’s Panther background. Is there a visibility advantage one for the day the other for night? I don’t think the 72 gold & blue was exactly high visibility.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      Kentucky law requires at least one flashing blue light on police vehicles. Most agencies across the state use only blue, but urban departments tend to use a combination of blue and red. I’m not sure when we went blue and red combined instead of blue only.

      The rationale for using both blue and red is that the red lights are more visible in day light and the blue lights are more visible at night.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        I think Florida law is similar. LE has to have a blue light, and can have a red as well if they want. Red and and white only is Fire Rescue/EMS. I know FHP will change their light colors based on day and night. Most LE agencies seem to use a mix of both in central Florida. The sad part is despite the UFO lights we have how many people still fail to get out of the way. That was the toughest part of learning to drive the rescue truck (ambulance) and will be on the fire engine (if I ever get to that point). You think traffic will part like the Red Sea in front of you and it just doesn’t happen like that. Going through intersections against red lights is always nerve wracking, as is major highways at rush hour.

        • 0 avatar
          fincar1

          Particularly in urban areas you also have to watch for the type of driver who will try to cause you to rear-end him by stopping in front of you. And then after the accident you find out the only English words they know are “back hurt”.

  • avatar
    gsf12man

    Those two Fords are not Galaxie 500s.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      You know what? When you’re right, you’re right. I relied on some of our internal documents to identify the car and an online serial decoder for some of the engine information. I looked it up again using a different decoder and learned that the correct model is, in fact, a Custom 500. I was under the impression that “Custom” was a trim level and Galaxie was the model. Learn something new every day.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    You are right about some emergency vehicles looking like UFOs. Some have so many lights in seizure inducing patters to be almost useless. Someone I used to know works with this guy who really knows his EV lighting stuff. These cars are so much more visible than cars with the same amount of lights set to flash in crazy patterns.

    http://elightbars.org/f79/2012-nps-dodge-charger-42250/

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Sure fun to have to drive past those at night… total blindness around and past the police car, especially when the stop is made on a ramp.

      Large Marge could be barreling 100 mph the wrong way right at you and you’d never see her in that void.

      They have *got* to make it harder for the officer to keep awareness of other cars coming from behind that might clip him/her.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        That is a common problem with all lighting. People have the mentality that if two aspirin is good, well 8 must be better. That is why you find areas such as ATMs at banks incredibly overlit for “security”. What they don’t realize is that you distract those who are there, and the “bad guys” can be hidden in what appears to be darkness because the point of light is too damn bright. Kind of like a campfire in the woods. Step 30 feet away and you can see everything. But next to the fire you can only see five feet around you. Yet the idiots continue to overlight everything…

  • avatar
    Loser

    By looking at the valve covers and air cleaner I’m pretty sure this has a 351 Windsor, not a Cleveland.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      Yeesh. See gsf12man’s comment above. Looks like I’ve gotten burned on details all over this one. The car’s really painted blue and gold, right?

      Truth be told, I’m a lot better on vintage GM and Chrysler products then I am on my Fords.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        No big deal, it’s a very common mistake. No matter what I still enjoy reading your writing and look forward to more. Thanks for taking the time to do these.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Very much enjoyed the yesteryear feeling of the article, well done. I feel a “police cars throughout the decades” series coming on.

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    This officer drives an old vehicle everyday and doesn’t seem to mind:

    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Vintage-Seattle-police-car-draws-attention-204600701.html

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I used to see old cop cars come in for smog tests after they were auctioned off, and the old Fords equipped like this were the weakest of the bunch, by a lot. Most Mopar cars had 440 4 bbls in them, and they were the best runners, even with a ton of miles on them. I saw a couple of them with Six-Pack short blocks in them. A friend had one and put it in his Satellite, while the old cop car got the 383 the Satellite came with. He and his dad soon had the former cop car looking new and it was plenty quick. He had the cop car a long time, but stupidly traded it for an OJ style Bronco, instantly regretting it. The GM police cars i saw had everything from Chevy 305′s to Olds,Pontiac, and Chevy 350′s to 455′s. I tested a 69 Buick 225 455 or 425 4 barrel police car once. It was an odd turquoise and white, with a spotlight on both sides. Unlike almost all the other old cop cars, it passed the smog tests with ease. Most needed vacuum hoses to fix the hissing vacuum leaks they almost always had, if not plugs and wires. One of the Mopar cars was 10 years old with the original fiberglass with carbon particle plug wires! I owned a couple of Mopars with those wires, and by the age of 2 or 3, they were only good for putting on a light show under the hood. They would get hard and brittle and would often tear when you muscled them off the plugs they would be glued to. I changed them on my cars after about 18 months on both after I was able to see an occasional spark dance at night.

  • avatar

    I had two brothers who were in the RCMP during this time and both were very impressed with the performance of the Mopar police cars of the late 60s and early 70s. The police duty Fury models were large and in charge with a highway patrol version that featured a 440 that got down the highway in a hurry according to them. The cars were capable of serious top end speed for the era and were pretty good in the handling department for early 70s specs. Thanks for this article because a current duty police officer is a good choice to drive an old school cop car.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    This article is a bit misleading – this is most certainly NOT a police car – just a stripper-model sedan that was used by the chief.

    As one whose family owned a 1971 LTD (from 1970 to 2000) that I did essentially turn into a police car (going so far as to track down the 140mph ‘certified’ speedometer, although I never actually installed it because the numbers were too closely spaced, making it very difficult to read quickly), trust me, there was a world of difference between the car discussed above and an actual police-spec car.

    Stock, the car was scary to drive at 90mph. In police form, 120mph was no problem (I chickened out and never took it past that). Bigger springs and shocks were installed, a much thicker front sway bar and steering box from a 1979 Thunderbird, 7″ wide wheels (vs. the 5.5″ the car came with) and bigger brake drums from a 1971 Ford station wagon, and the stock 400 2bbl was replaced by the 460 with throttle-body fuel injection (Holley Projection 2V) along with a Duraspark II ignition. Tires were 65 series from a 1988 Mustang GT.

    I’ve also driven a 1977 Dodge police car, and I think it handled even better than my LTD after its modifications (although I probably had the edge power-wise). Brakes – well, they sucked, that is true – when you are going triple-digit speeds, no 1970s car had brakes that were sufficient to stop fast enough.

    The downside to the police-spec suspension is the tendency towards oversteer – this actually got me into in accident shortly before I decided to get rid of the car (too much power + oversteer + slick Seattle roads = not good). The stock bent towards understeer was I think safer from the manufacturer’s standpoint for big, heavy cars meant for the general public.

    If any of you ever get a chance to drive a real police car, do it! You will be surprised what you can do with such a large car. I recommend the 1994-6 9C1 Chevy – considered by many in the police force to be the best police car ever made (despite a few well-known weaknesses such as weak front ball joints).

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I’ve always believed the legend of the muscle car era was because of what came next. Imagine you were in your early 20′s during the late 60′s or early 70′s. You, or a friend might have had a GTO, GTX, Mustang, or similar big blocked monster. Then it’s the mid 70′s. Now you’re a cubicle dwelling member of middle management. Your daily commute is in a Datsun 210, a Gremlin or Pacer, Vega, or Pinto. Even worse, it’s got a rubber band filled slushbox. When you pop the hood instead of an intake that resembles the mouth of a Baleen Whale, it now looks like two soda straws with a butterfly. You remember when cars had power, and could roar. It doesn’t take much to remember it as the power and sound of a Saturn V rocket.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      It was disappointing to watch Road Runners morph into Volares and Mustangs into Mustang IIs. Detroit went on a crash diet shedding pounds and horsepower and we all starved with it’s meager offerings, but with the scarcity of fossil fuels being a constant threat through-out the ’70′s it didn’t much matter what was sitting in your driveway, you weren’t going anywhere.

  • avatar
    roger628

    WRT the drum brake reference.
    This car has disc brakes. A close look at the pedal reveals an embossed circle in the pedal pad. This signifies disc brakes. In fact Ford was an early proponent of them. Starting in 1968, ordering power brakes, which the feature car clearly has, got you discs automatically.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think that the vast array of movies involving cop-chases in seventies police cruisers have to do with the rose-tinted view of these cars…at least as far as the general public-opinion goes….

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Has the word “livery” always been used by American auto journalists? I swear, I’ve been reading about cars for 40 years, but it seems I see it more this year than the others combined. Somehow it is hitting me like “bones” in architecture features.

    My parents traded the Polara for a 8000 mile ’73 LTD in 1974. I think this was Dad’s all-time favorite car. This car is it with the exception of lower body molding, white vinyl top and a browner copper, instead of gold. LTD’s had a red reflector filling in the upper middle of the bumper.
    That skinny steering wheel could be cranked with a little finger. It really was a good car. At 130K when it got exchanged for the new 80 Cordoba, the interior and paint was still in good shape. That was even with Mom doing her Hints from Heloise fast waxes with kerosene.
    Ours had a 400ci. It seemed fast back then. I think gas mileage was around 19. It was almost all country driving. I can remember hitting 90 on a certain long clear stretch often, but I don’t remember going faster than that. If my hot rod brother and I had been nicer to the car, it might still be in the family.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “Has the word “livery” always been used by American auto journalists?”

      Thank you. I never saw its constant use before reading TTAC.

      Makes me think of carriages and footmen…..too much BBC.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Journalists probably got it from airlines. “Livery” is how the airlines describe their color choices and identifying designs, such as the eskimo on the tail of Alaskan Airlines planes, or American Airlines’ red, white and blue stripes over polished aluminum. I guess it’s appropriate, since police cars have not been predominantly “black and white” with only the front doors white for quite some time.

  • avatar
    old fart

    My dad had a 71 brougham with the 400 engine ,lots of torque and was actually fun to drive especially on the back roads of PA. The car took all your concentration to push it hard, would be allot of wrecks today with all the social media distractions going on. Cleveland had three special pursuit cars in the mid seventies they were all plain looking LTD’s with minimal markings but were set up to catch the hot rods of the time , word got out fast on the street not to challenge them as you’d lose ,but still some unsuccessfully tried.

  • avatar
    RetiredSoCal

    When I began my law enforcement career, the first patrol car I was assigned was a 1971 Ford Custom, one trim level below the Custom 500. It was powered(?) by a 351W 2-barrel, with an FMX transmission. I had to remember to firmly apply the parking brake on traffic stops, since the gear shift detent, when worn, would allow the shifter to slip out of park and in to “2″ and roll forward. The car had a mechanical first-gear lock-out. The next year we received the 1972 Ford Custom with the 429 4-barrel, single exhaust. Much faster than the previous cars, but the brakes were no better, disc front, drum rear. I buried the speedometer (120mph) while in pursuit of a Camaro, but faded the brakes completely. The Camaro jumped a curb and hit a building, ending the pursuit. The next two years we used AMC Matadors. They were equipped with the 401 4-barrel, factory inverted air filter housing, and the transmissions were TorqueFlite 727′s. The rear gears were 3.54, non-limited slip, and were good for lots of wheel spin. Great acceleration, but not much top speed, which was fine for a city patrol car. The timing chain and lower control arms were the weak links. Next were 1975 Dodge Coronet’s, 400cid 4-barrel Thermoquad carb. First year for catalytic converters and unleaded gas. Next year brought 1976 Pontiac LeMans, 400 cid Pontiac engine, followed by 1977 Pontiac LeMans powered by the 403 Oldsmobile engine. The Pontiac engines did not meet California emissions standards, so we got the Olds 403. 1978 brought the 9C1 Chevrolet Nova’s, 350 cid 4-barrel, dual exhaust. Great cars, but a little small inside. Ended my 35 year career in a Ford CVPI, but my favorite patrol car was the 94-96 LT-1 Caprice. Great engine and brakes, lots of interior room and very comfortable for a 12 hour shift.

    • 0 avatar
      llibskrap

      Nice posting. You’re “right on” with all but one car that you mentioned. F.Y.I. That single exhaust 1972 Ford 429 had a 2 barrel carburetor and it was their “Trooper” Police Package which was very seldom ordered by law enforcement agencies that year or in 1971. The reason why? For $150.00 more per car, the agencies could order Ford’s top-of-the-line “Police Interceptor” Package, which came with a 429 CJ 4V High output motor! The Ford “Police Interceptor” Police Package vehicle was equipped with a 429 CJ 4V High Output motor and it had DUAL exhausts with an “H-Pipe” crossover for compression equalization,……and it would REALLY haul ass!

  • avatar
    niky

    Lovely piece! The Galaxie was undoubtedly a brute of car, and while it took forever to hit the six-oh, I don’t doubt that it would take almost all of that speed through a brick wall if one happened to be standing in your way.

    • 0 avatar
      llibskrap

      The full sized Ford Police Package cars of the 1960s and 1970s were usually in the most economical of trim levels, usually in “Custom” and “Custom 500″ trim (as the featured car IS NOT a “Galaxie”). These cars were slow when equipped with six cylinders, 302s, and 351W motors. When equipped with the 351C H.O. the 400M, and especially with the 429 CJ motors they were extremely quick. The 429 CJ motors would have these full sized Ford Police Package Vehicles doing 0 to 60 MPH under 7 seconds and being able to do 1/4 mile runs in the high 13 second range. I’ve driven the 429 CJ “Police Interceptor” cars and they would solidly throw me back in the seat when “punched!” In conclusion, not all of the full sized police package vehicles from Detroit during those years were “slow.”

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Considering my first car was a 16 year old Cadillac with over 100k miles on the clock.

    I totally understand everything about “numb disconnected driving” The amazing part is that the Cadillac felt like a sports car compared to the equivalent Fords of the time, those were even more disconnected and floaty and “effortless steering”.

    didn’t drive a big Chrysler built before 1977 but that was tremendously better than the Ford, I think it was similar to the Cadillac, however I know the Cadillac’s interior was far superior.

    Driving these huge vehicles, you really have to think and plan ahead, we should probably put every teenager in one. See how far they can go without hitting a curb or another vehicle.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Notice that with all the advances in technology since this police Ford was new in the Seventies, the automakers don’t seem to be able to make anything as cool as this today. Now, much of that is due to government interference in the free market (CAFE, unleaded fuel, unnecessary nanny state stuff like 5mph bumpers/seat belts/headrests) but even so, nothing on the new car lots appeals to me like that Ford Custom…or a super stripper Chev Biscayne.

  • avatar
    llibskrap

    The Mopars(Dodges, Chrysler, Plymouths of the 160′s and 1970′s, especially the ones equipped with their big block “440 Magnums” their 383 High Outputs that were used mostly by State Police and Highway Patrol Agencies were big and bad. Most of them “rocked the ground” and sounded like top fuel eliminators! In the short runs, for sprints they were very quick! In the long runs, however, during “sustained high speed pursuits,” and unlike the Ford 428 CJ, 429 CJ, and later the 460 H.O. motors, all of the Mopars that I ever saw get into a “sustained high speed pursuit (at speeds in excess of 100 MPH) BLEW UP! Their oil sumps were bad and they lacked the proper cooling systems, a double wammy, and they ALL BLEW UP! Let’s here it, again, for those big and bad late 1960s, 1970s big block Mopars!!!

  • avatar
    docball

    Officer Hester…….my name is Larry Ball I was Assistant Chief when I retired from LPD in December 1996 right before you came on in1997. I am currently in Bahrain visiting my son who is a navy pilot. He mentioned that he saw the old Lexington police car on this website.

    I thought you might want a little more history on Chief E. C. Hale and how I obtained the car. My recruit class of 1972 was the last class of the city police department and Chief Hale was still chief. At that time the chief chaired the interview boards and I remember him asking me, “boy if somebody tired to hurt you what would you do?” I said, “that I would hit them as hard as I could.” I was afraid that might have been the wrong answer until Chief Hale started laughing….and then said “that’s what I want to hear from my young police!”
    Needless to say I was hired and Chief Hale retired shortly after that.

    Fast forward several years and I was a Lt. in Community Services and saw Chief Hale”s car parked in the alley behind his house on S Broadway. The car had 2 flat tires and had not been moved in months/years. I knocked on the door to see if I could get the car because it was the last vehicle or almost anything left from the old LPD. The grand daughter came to the door and I told her I would be interested in getting the car to restore. I gave her my card and she called several weeks later and said they would sell the car for $5,000! I told her the car was not worth anywhere near that price and to call me back if they ever lowered the price.

    Several moths later she called and said they would take $1,800 for the car. I thought that was a fair price and was determined to buy it. I had never mooched anything while on the PD until I got Alan Bloomfield of Gall’s to make a donation to the PAL program to purchase it. Alan also had a set of original type blue lights that were on the cruisers back then….which are still on the car now!

    Getting the car turned out to be the easy part! I took it to the garage and they agreed to paint it and go through the mechanical parts. While it was being painted Mayor Beasler saw it and demanded that NO MONEY be spent on it and refused to allow a number to be given to it for repair work. Luckily the guys at the garage keep on working on it and billed the stuff to other accounts because that was how the did it at the Fire Department when they restored old fire trucks. It took me a year to officially get the car a part of our fleet. We use the car in numerous parades and keep it stored at Safety City.

    I am glad to see you have kept the car up and have added additional ones to the restored fleet. When I return from Bahrain I would like to get with you and see the old cars….that brings back GOOD memories for me.


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