Photo shamelessly stolen from here because I can’t actually show the one I drove.
Prior to my current posh post, last year I was posted in the now defunct TTAC Caribbean bureau. It was in Curacao, a small Dutch protectorate just north of Venezuela.
While there, I did have a chance to test drive a “Hard Car.” A 2005 Scaletta Moloney Armored Police Code Crown Victoria. When offered the keys to this unnecessary luxury, I snapped them up faster than the boss could say “what the…”and hit the streets of Curacao looking for villains to mock from behind 2 inch layered ballistic glass like Billy Crystal ala’ “Running Scared.” Alas,’ there were no criminal masterminds. Like most tropical locations, Curacao has a good bit of petty crime, but is a safe place. Instead, I occupied myself by sampling the manners of a unique version of a very common car.
The first impression was “this car is a tank.” The second was thought was “…well duh.” But it’s not obvious from the looks. The car is designed to be pedestrian and hide in the throngs of dull sedans. The modifications follow the same lines as the original. Open the heavy door and the reduced entry is not apparent, until you actually try to get in. I found a ruler and examined the difference. The door is over 9 inches wide from exterior to the arm rest. All of that mass intrudes into the passenger compartment. Additionally the inside in crammed from armoring from the floor and roof.
Once inside, you can see the expanded A, B and C pillars to accommodate the bullet resistant glass, reducing visibility. At the point the glass meets the pillars; the view is distorted due to the multi layered laminate. So with the smaller interior, porthole view and massive doors, the tank sensation is apparent before you fire the engine.
Which you want to do quickly; even with the reduced exposure area, the ballistic glass accelerates the greenhouse effect, already in overdrive because it’s the Caribbean. You need the A/C going.
The underpinnings are standard Panther code fair. The controls feel, move and click the same. The interior is completely removed during construction, but as often as possible, original components are reused. You sit on the flat tweed buckets. The dash, stereo, window switches are our old friends from FoMoCo.
Anyone who has been to Florida knows asphalt near the ocean is made using crushed coral. This makes very slick pavement, especially when it rains. Given the mass of this particular Vic and reduced traction, I feared for the worst. As you would expect, the mass is obvious once moving. Unsure if this model had upgraded brakes, I mentally adjusted my stopping distance.
Then a sinister thought crept inside my adolescent brain. If it slides when stopping, it should slide from a stop. Mwahahahaha! Leaving the parking lot going is a slight uphill right turn. Killing the traction control, I pressed the brake, slid my foot on the gas, cranked the wheels and released.
The next intersection was freshly paved, slick and involved a left turn. I took the same steps and even killed the AC. Still nothing. Aw man. I thought for sure that the suspect traction, run flat tires and big honking V-8 would get the pig lose, but every attempt resulted in brisk acceleration, but no hoonage.
This was a shame, because it leads to other ridiculous behaviors. Curacao has fewer Crown Vics than you have toes. Most of the actual police vehicles are Nissan pickups. The two unmarked vehicles on the island are a black 4 Runner and Accord. They are not used for issuing tickets.
Even with a rare silhouette, Victoria still gets her respect. Cars instinctively heel to the right at her approach. I resist the urge to hit the flashing blue lights.
And I fail. It was a blank stretch, avoiding an international incident. Still awesome.
The next morning the keys go back to my boss (who I hope you have figured out, didn’t actually work for TTAC.) The car was overkill for this work, but I understand why we had it. It’s as cool. As my time in this line of work stretches into its third decade, I find that is often the impetus for a lot of purchases and probably a subtle subtext of our current economic crisis.
So even if it isn’t a tropic location, should anyone offer you keys to an armored Panther Victoria, take them. You may not hoon, but you’ll enjoy it.