Car Collector's Corner: 1985 Oregon Highway Patrol Special Service Mustang

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland

The Fox-bodied Special Service Mustang probably saved more lives than roll bars at the Daytona 500 for one simple reason: Scofflaws feared these fast little ponies.

They gained a “more fact than fiction” reputation of invincibility in a high-speed chase because they could crack out insane 0-60 times and top out at well over 135 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast in 2012. In 1985,-it was Warp Speed 10.

Gord Holdcraft wants to make it faster.

Holdcraft is the current owner of this vintage police car, and his vision for the Special Service Mustang is measured in quarter mile times. Gord was a drag strip guy in his misspent youth, and he saw a bright future with this car. The ‘stang has seen track duty already because the rear end has been swapped out for a stouter track-rated ratio.

This car was originally an Oregon Highway Patrol vehicle. That explained why Gord reported: “It’s a totally rust-free car from Bend Oregon”. He found the light bar in the trunk and added it as part of a static display at car shows. He said “he brought them out for the novelty” and clearly the strategy worked because the little pony car was surrounded immediately when it arrived at the show.

Gord had to re-learn a manual transmission even though he is a professional driver. He drives a taxi for 14 hours a day. He that admitted “it’s been 40 years since I owned a stick and this clutch is a little stiff but it all comes back plus the 5 speed is great.”

He’s done a very thorough assessment of the Mustang and he has found a few surprises. He found that the seats were originally red, then dyed blue and there were surprisingly few equipment holes in this ex-police vehicle. Gord’s main goal at this point is to map out a strategy for the next phase in the car’s life.

He’s highly impressed with the overall condition of the Mustang and admits that “it’s a lot less work than I expected plus it’s a sedan instead of the fastback – I like that too.”

Part of Greg’s plan might sound like heresy to fans of vintage police vehicles, but he’s “considering swapping in a 351 T-bird motor” to get the car to another level of performance at the track. Regardless of the shift in designated use for the Special Vehicle Mustang, Greg takes pride in the one thing as he explained, “I’m an average car guy now that I’ve got something to work on”.

This Special Services Mustang is a classic example of an entry level hobby car and its new owner has already embraced the average car guy philosophy.

The hobby has gained a new disciple.

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J Sutherland
J Sutherland

Online collector car writer/webmaster and enthusiast

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  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Feb 29, 2012

    During this era the Texas state troopers drove these, equipped with a stick. Oh those bad old malaise era days with the ridiculous 55 mph speed limit. I was living in San Antonio,always driving to Dallas to visit my GF or Houston to visit GF or my family . What driver was going to drive less than 70 on an interstate in Texas for Chrissake? I got more tickets than any time in my life, often from DPS guys in one of these admittedly cool Mustangs whose flashing lights I always dreaded. Ah the bad old days.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Mar 02, 2012

    Very nice find, thanks for sharing. A former co-worker had an '84 5.0 convertible 5 spd

  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.
  • Joe65688619 I agree there should be more sedans, but recognize the trend. There's still a market for performance oriented-drivers. IMHO a low budget sedan will always be outsold by a low budget SUV. But a sports sedan, or a well executed mid-level sedan (the Accord and Camry) work. Smaller market for large sedans except I think for an older population. What I'm hoping to see is some consolidation across brands - the TLX for example is not selling well, but if it was offered only in the up-level configurations it would not be competing with it's Honda sibling. I know that makes the market smaller and niche, but that was the original purpose of the "luxury" brands - badge-engineering an existing platform at a relatively lower cost than a different car and sell it with a higher margin for buyers willing and able to pay for them. Also creates some "brand cachet." But smart buyers know that simple badging and slightly better interiors are usually not worth the cost. Put the innovative tech in the higher-end brands first, differentiate they drivetrain so it's "better" (the RDX sells well for Acura, same motor and tranmission, added turbo which makes a notable difference compared to the CRV). The sedan in many Western European countries is the "family car" as opposed to micro and compact crossovers (which still sell big, but can usually seat no more than a compact sedan).
  • Jonathan IMO the hatchback sedans like the Audi A5 Sportback, the Kia Stinger, and the already gone Buick Sportback are the answer to SUVs. The A5 and the AWD version of the Stinger being the better overall option IMO. I drive the A5, and love the depth and size of the trunk space as well as the low lift over. I've yet to find anything I need to carry that I can't, although I admit I don't carry things like drywall, building materials, etc. However, add in the fun to drive handling characteristics, there's almost no SUV that compares.