The Truth About Cars » ford police interceptor The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ford police interceptor That Police Car In Your Mirror May Not Be A Car, Police Package SUV Sales Up Wed, 21 Aug 2013 12:00:23 +0000 gallery_974x548_full

As police departments across the United States start retiring their Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptors, now that those out of production vehicles are reaching departments’ mileage limits, it looks like they are replacing at least some of them with SUVs, not sedans. Though the end of the Crown Vic has been mourned by law enforcement officers and car enthusiasts alike, both groups looked forward to the new police package sedans being offered by the domestic automakers. Ford brought out the SHO Taurus based Police Interceptor sedan to replace the Crown Victoria, General Motors is importing a police only Caprice PPV with rear wheel drive from Australia (while continuing to offer a police package for the FWD Impala) and Chrysler sells pursuit Chargers. Police department purchasing officials, though, are apparently opting to buy SUVs instead of the new cop cars.


The influential California Highway Patrol has added SUVs to their fleet, replacing some sedans, and the Nevada Highway Patrol is predicted to do likewise. Jonathan Honeycutt, Ford’s fleet brand marketing manager said that it’s not a fad, “This is where the industry is moving.” Demand from government agencies for police package SUVs has been growing faster than for sedans. Officers like the additional room that utility vehicles generally have, compared to sedans. As electronic equipment installed in police cars has proliferated, space has become an issue for police officers, who also have to wear a lot of gear on their persons.

When Ford replaced the Crown Vic PI with the Taurus based Police Interceptor, they also made a PI package available on the FWD based Explorer, expecting the SUV to account for 30% of police fleet sales. In recent months, though, the numbers have flipped and the Explorer PIs are currently almost 70% of the mix. For the year, the police Explorer is outselling the police Taurus, 7,288 to 6,046.


In addition to the Caprice and Impala sedans, GM offers a police package on the Tahoe SUV and a GM spokesman told the Detroit News that it expects to sell more Tahoes than the 13,000 the automaker sold last year. Chrysler offers the Durango SUV as an alternative to police forces as well as a special service package Ram pickup but it hasn’t released sales figures yet. Ford released their police fleet sales in connection with their announcement that police fleets can now order their Interceptor SUVs with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 engine. That option is expected to boost Explorer Police Interceptor sales even greater. While LEOs may appreciate the extra room, those responsible for purchasing decisions will appreciate better gas mileage.


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Capsule Review: Ford Police Interceptor Tue, 29 May 2012 16:35:42 +0000

Unlike most of the TTAC community, I am something of a Panther agnostic. To me, the venerable rear-drive Ford sedans are like cigarette ads in back issues of Car and Driver – a quaint relic of an era where “Occupy” was something you saw on the door of an airplane bathroom – because the Occupant was trying to suck down a Camel Light .

One generation above me may have fond memories of big, rear-drive V8 sedans with acres of rear leg room and questionable crash safety. For my cohort, the Pavolovian response that comes from the “doors open” warning chime is forever liked to another Ford fleet sedan – the Taurus- as well as the green-on-tan two-tone Explorer Eddie Bauer, chariot of choice for Baby Boomer “co-parents”. For that generation in need of a family car, The Taurus Wagon was an afterthought, since wagons carried with them the connotations of unhappy childhoods in parochial small towns devoid of health food stores, aerobics classes and people willing to engage in knee-jerk rejection of traditional values. Instead, the SUV was a clean sheet of paper, and it suggested that one was wealthy enough to have some kind of summer home that could only be accessed via the all-terrain prowess of the SUV, while wearing Eddie Bauer clothing.

What does my pseudo-sociological digression have to do with police cars? Not much. But I am going into this with an open mind. I’m not particularly wedded to the idea that a police car must be rear-drive, with body-on-frame construction and a V8 engine. I can confess that I’ve always wanted to drive at speed with lights and sirens blaring, and when Ford invited me to do just that, I accepted immediately.

Ford made two Police Interceptors available, a Taurus-based Police Interceptor and an Explorer-based Utility Interceptor. Both had all-wheel drive and the naturally aspirated V6 – the EcoBoost 3.5L engines were nowhere to be found. It ended up being a moot point, since we were only permitted to drive it on a cone-course “handling loop” in a medium-size parking lot. No driving on real roads, no putting it through our own paces.

Showing off the capabilities of the D3 platform on a mini-autocross is about as useful as letting Adele compete for Britain’s floor exercise squad, and even then, the slow speeds and sweeping corners made it difficult to glean much about the cars. Both felt relatively stable, with the Utility Interceptor feeling pretty well composed in light of its vehicular anti-Christ crossover nature. Steering on both cars felt fairly numb, likely a boon on the highway. Ultimately, this event is a carefully controlled way to give us a few thrills without revealing too much about the cars. There are PR and law enforcement types on hand, but a critical appraisal of the new PIs is going to happen right after a historic peace accord surfaces in the Middle East.

The most noticeable changes came just from sitting in the cars themselves. Even at 5’10 and 175 lbs, the civilian Taurus feels uncomfortable and cramped when sitting in the driver’s seat. The Police Interceptor does away with console-mounted gear lever and the absurdly high plastic console pieces that make knee and legroom as scarce as Manhattan real-estate. The cloth seats, with far less padding and bulk than the regular Taurus, free up plenty of room for our nation’s Finest to stretch out, or accommodate larger-sized bodies. If the civilian Taurus came with this configuration, complaints about a lack of space would evaporate, though asinine criticisms about a column shifter would likely deafen out the real world advantages of this setup. The real test would have been to requisition a Kevlar vest and gun belt, but nobody in the right mind was willing to lend me one for “evaluation purposes”, lest I take my “pretend cop” act a little too far.

The big problem with press events like this is that evaluating the car in such a specific environment really tells us little about the car. I decided to consult with resident Panther expert Sajeev Mehta for some additional (admittedly biased) context. Sajeev felt that the Tahoe, rather than the new generation PI, Charger or Caprice would end up becoming the next police vehicle, due to its simplicity and size. I think Sajeev is partially right – I suspect that the Utility Interceptor will find favor among a number of departments - and the California Highway Patrol is apparently one of them. The Taurus will likely make a fine detective’s car, but as Sajeev notes, “…In any place where pickup trucks are common (fly over states) there’s no f*****g chance this water’d down Volvo will ever catch them, when a nut is behind the wheel.” Chicago’s Police Department is buying a number of new Ford PI’s – coincidentally, this is where Ford is building the new PI – while some Canadian departments are buying them as well, ostensibly due to the AWD capabilities among other criteria.

Any law-enforcement readers of TTAC are invited to send in their thoughts to expand on my brief, stage-managed drive of the new Ford Interceptors. As far as I can tell, the Utility Interceptor might make a nice basic SUV in a few years, once they begin to be retired from police departments. But take a step back, and so far it looks like the void being left by the Crown Victoria hasn’t quite been filled yet, and may not be for some time.

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BRB Driving Police Cars Thu, 26 Apr 2012 14:02:26 +0000

Today is a busy day. Bertel and Ed are off somewhere plotting their next round of skullduggery, Murilee is prowling the junkyards of Denver for the elusive 1991 Isuzu Impulse AWD, Jack is laid up in bed with an illness certainly caught from his child’s pre-school, Steve and Sajeev are collaborating on their next hit column and I am commiting a cardinal sin according to the Church of Panther…fraternizing with the enemy.

Ford has invited me to drive the newest Police Interceptor cars today – and while driving a police car has been a fantasy of mine since childhood, I’m sure some of you must be wondering how the newest versions stack up against the beloved Panther-based CVPI. Let me know in the comments. Ford probably won’t let us take the cars off the test course, but if they do, I’ll make sure to get video of me pulling up to my girlfriend’s workplace, sirens blaring, calling her name on the megaphone.



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Curbside Classic: 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Police Interceptor Fri, 12 Mar 2010 19:08:57 +0000

Finding Andy Griffith’s cop car on the streets of Eugene wasn’t exactly high on my predictability scale. But I’ve finally thrown that away, and nothing surprises me anymore. As far as I know, Deputy Barney Fife grew a ponytail, headed to Eugene and is using his old Mayberry cruiser in a ruse to keep the cops away from his grow operation. But there it sits, and it being Cop Car Friday, it’s now yours to ponder its existence on a side street off 1st Ave. But since its light isn’t flashing  and might not hold your attention sufficiently, let’s also do a mini-history of the cop car.

What’s obvious is that this is a fake, since police departments didn’t spend their money on top-of-the line Galaxie 500 trim cars. They would have been riding in a stripper Ford Custom, if Ford was their choice of Cruiser, which was reasonably common enough. Well, actually, by the sixties, Dodges and Plymouths were taking a big chunk of the police car market, but Mayberry wasn’t exactly representative of the real world. And Ford obviously had a product placement deal with the producers of The Andy Griffith show.

I did a little I Tubing last night in hopes of some footage of the ’64 version of Sheriff Andy’s car, but no such luck. A brief glimpse of a ’63, and a ’65 was about it. But there is this short clip of a typical Barney Fife routine with a first year season ’60 Ford (the show ran from 1960-1968). (You Tube, embedding disabled).

From old articles and such, it seems that Fords were particularly popular cop cars during the flat head V8 era of the thirties through the early fifties. The V8 was a tad more powerful than its competitors, although not nearly as much as legend might suggest. In fact the OHV Chevy six nipped at its heels most years, and some years like 1953, was rated higher than the Ford.

Allpar has an excellent article on the history of Chrysler Corp. police cars (naturally), which even claims that a test (slightly suspect) by the Greeley  CO police department of 1935 Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth models showed the flat head Plymouth six outrunning the competition by a healthy margin, with a top speed of ninety, compared to 82 for the Ford and 78 for the Chevy. Ringer?

In 1949, the new Ford offered overdrive, which combined with the 100hp V8 made it the fastest of the low-cost Big Three. But Mercuries with the bigger flathead were also popular, and big cars like the eight cylinder Chryslers were not uncommon.

That Allpar article also points out that most early cop cars were of the business coupe variety, lacking a back seat. Perhaps their large trunks made a safe way to haul a suspect to jail. And it wasn’t until 1956 that Chrysler began to advertise its police and taxi fleet cars, and offer the first official police package. Detroit’s horsepower war of the late fifties played right into the growing market for police cars, and bragging rights to the fastest police cars became the flip side to the muscle car era of the times.

The police car business became increasingly competitive, and I remember vividly the accusations of bribes when Baltimore County switched from decades of Fords to Chevys in 1968. Well, corruption was rampant there anyway, but the ’68 Chevy was might appealing, with its 396 engine and slotted rally wheels through which to admire the new disc brakes. The Ford FE 390 couldn’t touch the new Rat Motor, as if it really mattered anyway, in Balto Co.

But there’s no doubt that Chrysler engineering was particularly appealing to hard core police work. In the pre-disc brake era, Chrysler offered big 12″ drums that were as good as it got. Here’s an excerpt from that article about a cop stopping a runaway tractor-trailer truck:

A Nevada Highway State Trooper, while patrolling in the mountains near Sparks in his 1957 Plymouth, spotted a tractor-trailer going down the mountain. The driver signaled wildly that the air brakes had gone out. The Trooper wheeled around in a “bootlegger’s turn” at 40 miles an hour. He then accelerated to over 120 mph to catch the run away truck. Momentarily blocked by on coming traffic, the Trooper had to stay in line behind the free wheeling 18 wheeled monster. He clocked it at 85 mph, as it was accelerating climbing towards 90. As soon as he got clear, the Trooper accelerated past the roaring 60 tons of rolling menace. Once in front of the tractor, he backed off the throttle, slowly allowed the tractor’s front bumper to contact the rear of the Plymouth. Using his service brakes, the Trooper steadily pumped the brake pedal, keeping the front bumper of the truck against his car. At first, it didn’t seem to have much affect. However, with smoke coming from all four of the Plymouth’s service brakes, the speed began to steadily decrease. Slowly, then more rapid. 80…75…65…60…50…then 40…30…and finally down to 20 miles per hour where the tractor driver was able to stop by using his transmission downshifting, and the soft edge of the road. It was a good thing because the Plymouth had precious little left to give. As the Trooper stopped the two front tires explosively blew out from the tremendous heat. The fins and truck area were bashed in, as well as pushed downwards from the force of the weight of the truck. However, Once again, MoPar engineering had saved lives! Had that truck entered the small town at the base of the mountain, who knows how many could have been injured or killed.

It might also be relevant to know that hardly all police cars were the high performance versions. Chrysler offered three distinct levels: the six cylinder “Sentinel” for economical city operations; the “Metro Patroller” with a mid-level V8; and the “Pursuit Special” with the highest output big-block V8. A 1964 Dodge Polara with the 413 wedge had a top speed of 129 mph.

But the real golden era for high speed cop cars were the 440 powered Dodges and Plymouths, as favored by the CHP. A 375 hp special-cam 440 in a 1969 Polara sedan held the record for fastest police car, timed at 149.6 mph at the Chelsea test track. That would not be bettered for twenty five years, when an LT-1 powered 1994 Caprice finally took the crown away.

But the years in between those two were a deep valley. Smog controls and CAFE regs utterly destroyed cop car performance in the seventies. The absolute nadir was in 1980 and 1981, when the Dodge St. Regis police cars came with no more than a 318 rated at 165 hp. According to the allpar article, this sad “police pursuit” topped out in CHP testing at 105 mph without the light bar. Since I was an inveterate speeder in CA during that time, I know as a matter of fact that these Dodges petered out at about 90-95 with the light bars installed (and flashing). Don’t ask.

It was a major embarrassment for the CHP when this became public knowledge in California, especially since radar was banned at the time. If the CHP couldn’t keep up behind you to pace you properly… Anyway, there was a good reason the CHP grabbed the first batch of new Mustang GT coupes available for pursuit work as soon as they became available in about 1983 or 1984. Yes, it all seems like a distant dream now, when speeding was still a fun cat and mouse game, with a level playing field. Or unlevel, in the case of the St. Regis.

We haven’t talked much about this Ford car, but if it had been a top-line pursuit car, a 390 would have been under the hood, since the 427 was not police-friendly, and the 428 was still a few years away. That alone helps explain Chrysler’s popularity with the police departments during this era. But it’s probably just as well that any seriously fast cars were kept well away from Barney Fife.

More new Curbside Classics here

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