By on November 21, 2017

It’s one of the great scenes in modern cinema: Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and Sean Connery as Malone, the beat cop who requires no proof of Eliot’s claim to be a Treasury Agent because, “Who would claim to be that, who was not?”

Yet there are people who falsely claim to be police, for various and nefarious purposes ranging from to getting a discount on lunch to raping 11 women. This kind of offense is punished with all possible severity, and for the most understandable of reasons: a society where we cannot easily recognize police is a society where enforcement of the law will become increasingly dangerous for all parties involved.

Then you have the crowd that doesn’t want to actually impersonate a cop; rather, they simply want to be briefly “mistaken” for a cop on the freeway, often for no reason other than the petty narcissism of believing they are frightening or impressing fellow motorists. As you’d expect, these people gravitate towards used police cars, which they often retrofit to vaguely resemble undercover or unmarked units. It’s a common enough practice that the Internet has coined a word to define the practitioner: “Wacker.”

Wacking, like any other hobby, is pursued with various degrees of proficiency. The rusted-out 1990s  Crown Vic with a drooping spotlight and mismatched tires is the preferred choice of people who are wavering between true wacker status and merely being a broke-ass dude behind the wheel of a blacked-out taxi.

The nearly new Chevrolet Caprice in the photo above, however, represents the apex of wacking, right down to the brand-new and freshly Armor-Alled Michelin Pilot Sport A/S tires. When I saw it on my afternoon commute today, I wasn’t fooled for long, as my little town of Powell, Ohio doesn’t have any unmarked or quasi-undercover units on the street. We also don’t require real license plates on municipal vehicles, meaning that the presence of a legit tag is a dead wacker giveaway. In some states, however, the only way to tell the difference between this and a real freeway speed enforcement unit would be to pull over and wait until the driver gets out.

The flood of used Crown Vics hitting the market as of late means that it’s never been easier to start wacking. The question is: Why do it? And what kind of person heeds that police-siren song?

Back in the days when I owned a Town Car, I strongly considered the purchase of an ex-police Crown Vic to use as a tire hauler and general dirty jobs vehicle. After a day or so looking through the CrownVic forums I realized that some people simply can’t help themselves when it comes to “wacker” modifications. Light bars in whatever color isn’t illegal for your particular state, train horns, limo tint on all the windows — some people even go through the trouble of sourcing the “Police Interceptor” badges for cars that didn’t have them. It caused me to give no small amount of thought to why someone would want to do that.

I think the most frequent, and most compelling reason, to be a wacker is this: It doesn’t take too many years on the American road to become utterly exasperated at the people with whom you have to share it. There’s always somebody ahead of you doing 10 mph under the speed limit and somebody screaming up behind you doing Mach 1.2 and somebody next to you who is half in your lane because they’re browsing Instagram. It’s hugely tempting to come up with some kind of solution, however imperfect, to the brimming surfeit of on-road discourtesy out there.

Some people buy massive trucks to insulate themselves from the stupidity. Others spend outrageous money so they have the power to drive away from anyone who is annoying them. But these are partial solutions at best. The real fix to the problem would be to come up with a vehicle that spontaneously generates respectful behavior from the drivers around you. Like it or not, a wackermobile can do precisely that.

If you have a wacker that really skirts the boundary between “ex-cop car” and “current cop car,” you can enjoy a myriad of benefits. That jerk in the lifted truck or 5 Series BMW swerving through traffic behind you? When he spots the Wack Job, he’s going to suddenly remember that he’s not in that big of a hurry. The vegan hippie in the Forester doing 54 in the fast lane? She’s going to move over once she looks in the rearview — which could be as soon as 10 minutes from now. All around you, people will put down their phones, turn down their stoplight stereos, call a halt to the last-minute cut-ins and cut-offs. All of a sudden, you’re living in the world of the driver’s-ed videos, surrounded by careful, attentive fellow drivers.

Eventually most of them will realize that you’re not a cop, and they will resume speeding/weaving/whatever. In the meantime, however, you’re safe and sound. And it’s better to have that Jersey-plated bully floor the throttle and drive away than it would have been had he just blown by you at a lightly-wobbling buck-oh-five. It’s a real pleasure to be a wacker, you see. No set of fender-mounted diplomatic flags ever generated the kind of respect that an even vaguely convincing wack job does.

There are drawbacks. Decent people will shun your acquaintance. Your Tinder dates will come to a screeching halt when the lady in question sees your car. Since this is America and not Europe, you don’t have wacking options from Bavaria or Stuttgart or even Castle Bromwich. And your interactions with actual cops will always start off on the wrong foot, the degree of wrongness strongly correlating to the degree to which your Crown Vic or Caprice or Explorer looks like the real deal. It might be too much trouble. Your mileage may vary.

Overall, however, I’m not sure that wacking is all that bad of a thing. Having a bunch of maybe-kinda-sorta-cop-cars around might raise the pulse of habitual speeders but it’s probably better for road safety as a whole. The question is: Could we turn this occasional phenomenon into an everyday occurrence, in a way that doesn’t endanger or upset anyone? I’m glad you asked.

It’s this simple: The era of dedicated police cars needs to come to an end. The era of butched-up police cruisers, complete with shadow graphics and bully bars, should be terminated with extreme prejudice as well. Instead, cops should just drive plain-Jane cars and SUVs. Camry. Explorer. CR-V. Cop cars should look like regular cars. We would all behave better as a result. Is that RAV4 behind you a soccer mom or a county mountie? You’d better pay attention to the road just in case. There would be no losers in this scenario.

Well, that’s not true. I don’t think today’s wackers would like it too much. Not that any of them would admit to it. Who would claim to be a wacker — even if such were the case?

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103 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Why Be a Wacker?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “It’s this simple: The era of dedicated police cars needs to come to an end. The era of butched-up police cruisers, complete with shadow graphics and bully bars, should be terminated with extreme prejudice as well. Instead, cops should just drive plain-Jane cars and SUVs. Camry. Explorer. CR-V. Cop cars should look like regular cars. We would all behave better as a result. Is that RAV4 behind you a soccer mom or a county mountie? You’d better pay attention to the road just in case. There would be no losers in this scenario.”

    No no no no no no no no no.

    I’ve been honing my skills at identifying makes and models by grilles and headlights since high school. I’m also getting really proficient at telling fake from real (NM requires that there be “government” plates – even on unmarked cars.)

    If you can’t – we’ve upped our skill level, now up yours!

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      Try going to Washington State. I see all manner of cars being used to pull over speeders, especially around Olympia for whatever reason.

      dirty cars, dented cars, $50,000 SUVs, $18,000 sedans. And it works — I never go more then 8 over on I-5 within 30 miles of Olympia.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        This isn’t meant to be a threat to you or law enforcement officers in any way, but I live in a “right to self-defense” state and if a weird car tried to stop me for going 5 over you can bet all your ill-gotten 4th amendment money that my pistol is going to be in my lap, if I even deign to stop.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        And also in Washington State, it is expressly illegal for the state police to use these unmarked vehicles for anything other than undercover operations. BUT there is an exception/loophole, by permission of the head of the WSP.

        So they drive a semi truck through that loophole and claim that routine traffic stops fall under the allowable use of an unmarked vehicle (I happen to disagree with this).

        It’s really nice when even the cops don’t follow the law, isn’t it?

      • 0 avatar
        trollson

        Jack you’ve just described Hawaii in your second to last paragraph. Cops get a vehicle subsidy which means the state basically buys them whatever car they want and they use it on duty as well as off.

        Most of them are 4runners but I’ve seen some camcords as well. They literally just slap a blue light on the roof and boom, it’s a cop car.

        Doesn’t do a damn thing to improve the average drivers though.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Police are supposed to be visible, not hidden. This isn’t East Germany.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        This times 10000000000000000000000000000.

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        Agreed, we should be like the Brits – day-glow yellow cop cars and jackets. Seeing a cop around will deter crime than trying to be ultra-stealthy. We must remember the police today are no longer “The Police” – they’re the new “Urban Warriors” and they must dress in black to hide themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          MikeyToot

          Except that there are a fair number of unmarked cop cars, including one particularly sneaky, old model 5 Series BMW with plain-jane roof bars and very small blue lights in the grlll, here in Scotland and the rest of Britain.

      • 0 avatar
        Heino

        Knew someone whose husband was an ADA in NJ. They used a lot of impounded cars (allegedly drug dealing) for routine traffic patrol, so yes you could be pulled over by an X5 or a Corvette. The strange thing was a lot of them had out of state tags, not sure how that worked.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The local police officer who spoke at my neighborhood picnic said the Plano, TX police department prefers to be very visible to deter crime instead of being stealthy to catch criminals. They drive around in big black and white Chevrolet Tahoes that are obviously police vehicles. They also have motorcycle cops to write tickets, but the standard patrol vehicle is meant to be seen from a distance.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I’m gonna have to disagree with ya. The sh1t I see every single day just going to and from work has gotten almost unbearable to watch.

      And the sight of a patrol car causes a complete 180 in behavior. So that tells me that the majority has zero respect for their fellow drivers safety unless there’s a chance they might have to be punished for that disrespect.

      So yeah, they should have no way of knowing if the Kia they just brake checked is my daughter or a police officer. I have zero concern for the feelings or rights of criminals behind the wheel of a car.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I have mixed feelings on this one BUT I’m inclined to side with @kvndoom. I am usually not too concerned about what kind of vehicle the police are driving since I tend to be within 10 kph of the posted speed limit and I try to drive courteously. If John Q Public drives more cautiously not knowing where the cop cars are, then I’m hard pressed to disagree.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    White Ford Explorer with a roof rack is the current car, although people buy those brand new innocently enough every day.

    But from a quarter mile ahead on 315 or 71, you have no idea if it’s live or if it’s Memorex. The simple fact is, you can’t see the sides of the vehicle–to determine if it has the decals or not–until you’ve slowed down and let him pass.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The blackout steelies with the little chrome pie centers are a dead giveaway on Explorers…but you aren’t going to see that until it’s too late.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        Used to be the blackout grille treatment was also a giveaway, but they started putting that on the regular ones too.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          The `16 and up Interceptor Utility has a distinct grill compared to the civilian versions. For 2018 the rear end treatment changes with a new fascia and down turned exhaust. The front fascia carries over from the 2017 models—separating the two versions.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That and any sort of grey, white, blue, or grey Charger.

      Tahoes are easy to tell apart, the police ones have a totally different stance to them, unless that particular department got the 4wd higher clearance variant.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        As far as I can tell it seems to me like even the 4×4 Police Tahoes are a little closer to the pavement – or perhaps its my eyes playing tricks on me.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I think you’re right actually. I think it goes like this:

          2WD pursuit Tahoe: low stance

          4WD pursuit Tahoe: low stance (maybe a smidge higher?)

          4WD non-pursuit rated Tahoe: standard ground clearance

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            The RCMP use quite a few 4×2 Tahoe’s for city and Highway patrol. 4×4 Tahoe’s tend to be rural patrol or dog men. The Exploder and Taurus are the most common police units bar far.
            I’ve been on the freeway around Hope BC and have seen minivans and various small to mid sized SUV’s used. At one time they had Mustangs and Camaro’s but that was decades ago.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      When I see a blacked out Explorer, I start to slow down. Local PD uses them, but at least they have a nice side decal that’s large and multi-colored.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop?”

    My younger brother’s a wacker. Drove a clapped out Crown Vic for several years and enjoyed shining the spotlight on people. I always wondered why he never just took the plunge and became a cop.

    (Well, there are reasons, but I’d rather not air his dirty laundry over the Internet.)

    I’d take that Caprice with the V-8, just not with the fake-cop frippery.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Now that Explorers are becoming the cop whip of choice, everything from a white limited to a hubcapped dark blue model causes me to pause. To me, only the dub-wheeled Sport models are safe. So there your wish is coming true.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    My ex-FIL has been driving cop cars be buys at auction for DECADES. He is an independent insurance adjuster and he has found that people in East St Louis IL and other less-than-stellar places tend to leave him alone if they suspect he’s some sort of LEO. He doesn’t make any effort to play-up the pseudo-cop car aspect, but his current black Crown Vic was a police chief car and there’s no mistaking it for anything but a cop car.

    He started doing that in the mid-70s…bought a retired City of St. Louis Chevy Nova and has been doing it ever since…

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I suppose if you have to be seen getting out of a car in a bad neighborhood, a cop car is not a bad way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Having driven through that area, and noticing the emergency call boxes along the interstate at each light pole (hmmm, never seen anything like it anywhere else in the country – this was back in the 1980s so maybe they are gone now), I heartily concur with his strategy.

      Makes me think of that bad neighborhood that the Griswolds end up in on their way to Wallyworld.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I had the opportunity to drive a Durango SSV in full GFX law enforcement garb for a few days and got to experience the joys of “whacking”. It even had full lights, sirens and PA to the interest of my neighbors and kids. The wife wasn’t terribly thrilled, she wouldn’t ride in it. I wouldn’t want to drive it every day, though. Every cop kinda glared for a few moments too long.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @danio3834 – A buddy of mine used to be the fleet manager for the local RCMP. He often would go to Vancouver to drive new police cars back. He ran a speed trap once on the freeway but fortunately they did not pull him over since they assumed he was a member. He did get lectured on the air. He had a blast watching car noses dive when he was spotted. He was in one car with a radar gun and would entertain himself with the “instant on” button.
      The ambulance service used to get a pass on highway speed limits until some idiots abused the “privilege” too much. After that, anyone caught speeding without lights and sirens was in deep sh!t.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    This is already common where I’m at. Grey or black or white Explorers, Chargers, F150s, Mustangs, even Camrys, all hidden lights, normal alloy wheels and painted trim.

    It’s not even fun anymore.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    My long-gone brother-in-law drove a wack-job in the late ’60s to early ’70s. A ’67 ex-Ohio State Highway Patrol pursuit Chevy; two-door, white, cop brakes, cop motor, special bucket seat with harness-style belt, and the spotlight on the driver’s side “A” pillar. At that time in Ohio the OHP could blend in more easily- the cars needed to be marked but the size of the marking back then was a very small OHP decal on the “C” pillar (which was removed but replaced with some random decal) and the lights were hidden low in the rear window and behind the grill. He drove it like he stole it and would intimidate folks to get out of his way by waggling the spotlight on folks as he came up from behind at extra legal speeds. It was all pretty thrilling for my 16-year old butt to be cruising with him “on patrol” making record-time runs throughout Ohio burning $0.32 premium at prodigious rates.

    • 0 avatar

      What was the rating on premium at that time? 89?

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        100 to 110 RON octane as I remember it full to the brim with delicious tetraethyl lead goodness. Sunoco would allow you to blend at the pump using a rotating handle to blend the 100 RON (current 93 pump octane) premium with the 94 RON (current 87 pump octane) regular to give intermediate grades at differing prices using a mechanical device to change the price window.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      AFAIK, it’s still a law in Ohio that traffic enforcement vehicles are required to be marked. Of course, as one might imagine, there are loopholes used to get around it. Besides using the aforementioned small markings, one of my favorites was the mobile speed camera Ford Escape used in Hamilton, Ohio. Because it wasn’t owned by any Ohio jurisdiction (it belonged to the photo camera company), it was exempt from the marking law. It was still recognizable by the multiple spotlights facing in all directions on the roof but, by then, it was too late.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Wonder how often people will slow right to the underposted numbers if one of these comes up behind them?

      Heaven knows a retractable push bar on the front end would be nice, in order to PIT the worst of the left-lane bandits!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’ve had some interest in buying a used CVPI in the past, but I would lean toward undercover cars with the nicer interiors, that hadn’t been beaten on as hard as marked cars. But, you can’t just buy one without a thorough inspection (assuming you’re allowed a pre-purchase inspection).

    A friend is a fleet maintenance supervisor (and OBD-II wizard) for the city of Dallas, with a lot of experience working on cop cars. I’ve heard the stories of the abuse cop cars get, like u-turns involved hopped curbs. Also, there are plenty of stories about ex-cop cars whose electrical systems have been butchered in the process of having lights and equipment removed, causing all kinds of grief for subsequent owners.

    When I see some of the sketchy people that drive old CVPIs I wonder if they came to admire them after having ridden in the back seat of some, as a “client” of law enforcement.

    And as far the Caprice goes, I thought GM’s original plan was that these cars wouldn’t be available for sale to the general public, whether as new *or* used cars. It didn’t sound as formal as Carbon Motors’ plan, where used E7s would be recycled, but it did sound like they had some plan in mind.

  • avatar
    Eggshen2013

    I was a Wacker and didn’t know it.
    Back in 1997 my wife fell in love with a black Grand Marquis. We ended up buying it. Not a bad car for a land barge.
    While driving on Rt 80 here in NJ I noticed that people quickly moved out of the fast lane when thy saw me coming. I realized with my dark blue NY Yankees hat and sunglasses I looked like a cop to anyone glancing in their rearview mirror.
    I must say it was great.
    Sadly my wife wrecked that car on a rainy off ramp on the NJ Turnpike.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I rented a Crown Vic for a weekend trip to Boston when we lived in Manhattan. It was the quickest I ever got to Boston. I-95 parted like the sea when I rolled up on someone in the fast lane.

    It was fun for a weekend but impersonating a cop is not my thing. My black 2012 Charger R/T would have looked like a cruiser if it weren’t for the 20″ polished rims and rear spoiler.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    A few years ago I drove a white 2001 White Grand Marquis. Not quite a Crown Vic and anyone who knows cars would know the difference. But – especially at night – I had several instances of being mistaken as a cop car. It made the worst drivers pause a moment and drive a little better. At least for a few moments.

    When I switched to a Toyota truck, I really did miss being mistaken for a cop. Not out of any sense of power, but just to temper the worst impulses of the average Michigander driver.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      I bet a B&W Crown Vic does create a mobile zone of better behavior around you. Any driver over 30 has been well-trained. My nervous response to them is positively Pavlovian, though it’s fading now, because I rarely speed. Those young’uns today should be reminded of two slow decades when the speed limits were 20 mph slower, strictly enforced by these vehicles.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    “Camry. Explorer. CR-V. Cop cars should look like regular cars. We would all behave better as a result. Is that RAV4 behind you a soccer mom or a county mountie? You’d better pay attention to the road just in case. There would be no losers in this scenario.”

    My dad and I had a chat about this for some reason recently. When we lived in Michigan when I was a kid, our town switched all the cop cars to a batch of civilian cars of various makes. When they wanted to make themselves known, they put a red gumball light up on the dashboard.

    He said it ended up being a short experiment, because the police quickly learned that the deterrent effect of seeing a marked police car was meaningful, both for traffic enforcement and for reducing petty crime.

    (Having every driver one visit to NAPA away from looking like a legit cop probably didn’t help matters.)

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      You don’t want all the crooks to think, “Where did all the coops go? This place isn’t patrolled at all.”

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I remember an incident 20 years ago or so when a University of Toledo student was murdered by a sleazebucket posing as a cop, and driving a Buick with a gumball light. She pulled over, was “arrested,” etc.!

        You’d just be asking for that stuff to become more routine by putting all cops in plain-brown Kias!

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          I was driving on Woodward through Bloomfield Hills MI one day. All of a sudden, my radar detector started going crazy. I was looking around, and couldn’t find the cop. Finally I got closer to a yellow Wrangler parked on the side of the road. I saw the cop with his radar gun inside. All I thought was how I would never stop for that guy. There have to be some standards.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Aren’t you the same guy who posted a how-to guide for extreme freeway speeding a few years back? Kind of surprised by the position you took at the end of the article.

    Besides, cops are already diversifying their fleets these days. 10 years ago all you had to learn was the shape of the lights on the last couple of Crown Vic refreshes.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    I wish that there was a LAW that ALL police enforcement cars (That have the right to pull you over) would be required to have the same visual identification signatures.
    I like the old Michigan State Police set-up.
    * Distinctive blue color. (Even better with white doors!
    * Bubble spinning light on the roof.
    * Name plate on the hood
    * Log & writing on the door and other strategic locations.

    Not that I like getting pulled over, but I would feel more secure if the police vehicle pulling me over anywhere in the state was easy to identify and looked the same.

    At the same time, a fully identified vehicle that someone tried to clone for bad purposes would be more difficult to pull off and would be easier to track if it did occur.

    For undercover work they could be unmarked, but not be used for traffic enforcement.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      About 10 years ago a friend and I were engaging in late-night/early-morning hooning on forest service roads in the mountains east of Portland. At about 3AM we see a car approaching us, where there should be none (literally 10 miles of dirt roads from anywhere) at reasonably high speed with flashing headlights and red/blue grill lights.

      We made the quick decision to flee and hide, and sure enough the car that eventually passed us was no cop car, just a jacked blazer full of trouble-makers impersonating one.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    I’ve been thinking about getting one, not to be a wacker, but to have as a beater that I don’t care if it gets dinged, scratched or bumped. I like the idea of a cheap, full size, BOF beast with simple, antiquated technology that can take some abuse. But I don’t want to appear as I’m trying to be a wacker, so I’m also considering the Merc GM and a nice grandpa-spec Town Cow.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    I was a Wacker. I had an 82 Plymouth Gran Fury, formerly of the Cloquet MN Police Department. Dark blue, white front doors, with just enough of the reflective badge decal left on to scare the crap out of my fellow teenagers.

    After a year or so I painted the doors, installed air shocks, tore out the emissions equipment and pretended it was fast. Traded one set of insecurities for another.

  • avatar
    Messerschmitten

    A few months ago, two cops in a new police-edition Ford Explorer pulled up next to me at a stop light. I was sitting in my white-with-a-black-vinyl-top 1967 Cadillac Eldorado. They offered to trade me straight across.

    I could live with a police force that endorsed the ’67 Eldorado as the Icon of Righteousness.

  • avatar
    mikey

    A “Wacker’ Oh ! we have a classic Wacker in the neighbourhood . A Black 2013-14 W Impala. I know that Impala never was a Cruiser. I’d say more like a former daily rental ? (no duel exhaust, no trunk lock, wrong tires)

    The Dude has equipped it with the twin small antennas growing out the sides of the trunk . Black Steelies and always super clean.

    The Impala has been around the neighbourhood for a couple. of years. Everybody knows the guy is just a geek, and not a Cop. I’m sure the real Cops are onto him. Chances are he’s couldn’t make it as a real Cop so he pretends..We all laugh at the guy and his Impala. Truth be known, I find it kinda pathetic.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    If you are going to impersonate a cop – at least go all the way:

    https://movieweb.com/transformers-5-last-knight-barricade-decepticon-photo/

    “To punish and enslave”

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Our state troopers drive every type of Ford: Explorers, Fusion, Taurus, F-150, Expeditions, and may still have the Econolines. Explorers and some Expeditions are marked. The Fusions get heavy use as unmarked – nothing distinguishing about them save for the tint. Was not consideration when I purchased mine, but I’m certainly not going to object to people getting the heck out of the passing lane when I come up behind them.

    The jamokes that go full cop appearance on newer vehicles – it doesn’t sit too well with me. A bit too weird – even worse are the one’s who make sure their Explorer looks full cop and spend all their free time chasing trains.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    “Ghost Graphics” This is the topic I’d ask you to cover. How about it Jack?
    http://www.grafixshoppe.com/sites/grafixshoppe.com/files/Stealth_Police_Car_Graphic_ParmerCountySheriffDurangoStealth1_0.jpg

    Above link will take you to an example.

    Trend is for law enforcement agencies to apply graphics to their marked vehicles in a way that is makes them difficult to read or detect. Often used in states with laws that require marked vehicles for traffic enforcement.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I was thinking about this the other day. At night, my ’14 MKS looks enough like its Taurus PI sister that people invariably move over when I flash my brights at them in the fast lane. That wasn’t the case with any other vehicle I owned.

  • avatar
    srh

    Is Alex Roy the ultimate wacker? Or just the ultimate wanker?
    http://cdn.bmwblog.com/wp-content/uploads/Alex-Roy-M5.jpg

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Then comes the “pretend” wacker. Just as you blew it off as a common poser and go right back to slicing around the slowpokes, BAM it’s a REAL unmarked cop!

    How? The cops simply keep it off the wash rack, permanently. Filthy and disgusting? Yep gotta be damn wacker!

  • avatar
    Rob Cupples

    Put black bull bars on anything. I don’t know why but those always scare the crap out of me in the rear view mirror.

    In Washington state we have a specialized plate you can get to support a law enforcement memorial. Whenever I see those on a vehicle I don’t necessarily think it is a cop but I do think it is somebody who has a concealed carry permit who may or may not be a cop.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    One day I was driving home from work, and in the US 3 traffic, I noticed a black Dodge Charger with a front brush guard approach me from the rear in the adjacent lane. The traffic wasn’t too bad, though, and he rolled by. He had a bumper sticker that said “Relax, I’m not a cop.” I forget if he had New Hampshire or Massachusetts plates. I almost considered throwing something at him, but didn’t.

    I’m surprised no one has keyed his car or suffered any kind of retaliation because I’ve seen some asshat drivers before, but this guy is one of the rarest of breeds. Just be honest with yourself that you’re an ass who’s trying to get the benefits of impersonating a cop. The haw-haw “Relax, I’m not a cop!” sticker piles on the jerk points.

    I get wacking, I really do. From a self-interest point it’s a logical thing to do, at the cost of annoying the rest of society.

    In Massachusetts, you have one of four vehicles for general police use:

    Crown Vics (these are going away at a very fast rate, they are a rarity now except for city/town cops)
    Chargers
    Explorers (most common now)
    F-150s (rare, but out there)

    I’ve very rarely seen Impalas (they’ve all cycled out by now, I think, but some municipalities used them). The Mass State Police is all Charger/Explorer, and marked cruisers have a distinct navy and sky blue livery that I personally find attractive. Most town/city police use a black/white livery, while the Boston police has their own all-white livery with blue stripes and lettering. Unmarked cars are black, white, or a kind of warm grey color.

    I personally disagree with a majority of unmarked vehicles, because I believe a visible police presence is a good thing! It keeps people (mostly) honest but it also makes sure you know you’re dealing with a police officer. Unmarked cars for revenue generation purposes (e.g. speed enforcement) is a bad thing. Obviously you need unmarked cars for some things, but the trend of things like ghost graphics is a very bad one.

    Also, people with black/blue/black stickers on your bumpers? You’re not fooling anyone. My grandfather was a police officer, that doesn’t get me a get-out-of-ticket free card (and it didn’t for my dad or other relatives either). Why do you think buttering up cops would work for you? Police are not your friends, and this has nothing to do with traffic enforcement.

    • 0 avatar

      Not too long ago I was on I-40 near Durham, NC in the morning, and I got behind a gray Crown Vic with PI badge, window tint, huge trunk-mount antenna, hitch-mounted rear pushbar, it even had a sticker on it with the silhouette of a German Shepherd.

      The vanity plate read, “Not 5-0”

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I always thought a good vanity plate for a large, darkly painted, darkly tinted, a few superfluous antennas, sedan would be “UNOFICL”. ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        As a vanity plate enthusiast I look disapprovingly at that person.

        To those people like the one you ran across, I would say just be honest that it’s about being selfish. You want people to mistake you for a cop, going “Aw, I’m not a cop, really!” is just schoolyard stupidity.

        I imagine real police also don’t think it’s very funny. But hey, there’s always stupid people out there.

  • avatar
    tommytipover

    I knew a guy who drove a Lime Green rattle can painted ex Michigan State Police Crown Vic (MSP cars are a distinctive dark blue) he was in the broke ass dude spectrum. I asked about the paint job and he said he just couldn’t make time driving anywhere. People were always dropping below the speed limit. I hate people who drive BELOW the speed limit.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    I have seen a few times when whackers get whacking with each other. One big whacker-off.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I passed up an opportunity to be a wacker in 1988 when I had the chance to buy a new Mustang SSP off the showroom floor of an Orlando, FL Ford dealer. The car was a red notchback with a 5-speed. Apparently it was a leftover from a reduced highway patrol order. I don’t remember the sticker price; besides, I decided I didn’t need a new car at the time.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’ve been using Panthers as my usual daily driver for over 20 years. My first was a highly trimmed 92 in the dark cranberry color. It just so happens that a local police chief had pretty much the exact same car, sans the leather interior. I had been wondering why so many cops would wave at me until I happened to go to that city hall to get a building permit for a rental property I owned in that city. Along the curb was a sign stating that the parking spot was reserved for the Police Chief and there was my car’s twin. The federal agents stationed in Seattle also had a number of them in the exact same color. Of course at the time Aero Vics were still new, sold pretty well at retail and the whale was still the most common cop car. So no I didn’t get the respect of the average citizen but darn near every cop in the area waved at me and didn’t bother me when I went through their speed traps at 10mph over.

    When my daughter started driving many years later the landscape had certainly changed and of the Grand Marquis, Fusion and Real Taurus that we had when she got her permit and then license she preferred the Grand Marquis by a mile. She found it funny as all get out when she would roll up behind cars, see them drop their phone, put on their seat belt, check their speed and move over. So when it came time to get her own car there was only one thing that interested her and that was a CVPI. On the minus side it does attract the attention of males her age who want to get behind the wheel or at least play with her spot lights.

    In the mean time I’ve had a CVPI for several years my self and it still sports its push bar, though I’ve removed the wrap around PIT bars, and full dark tint as it was a semi stealth vehicle with the lights in the windows instead of on top, or a real cop car designed to look like a wacker. Fact is it is the easiest car to drive for my commute to the city. People do let you into traffic much easier either because they think you are a cop or they think you are a wacker and may not have insurance. So all around a much easier drive in downtown rush hour traffic than when I’m in one of our other vehicles.

    Unfortunately in most areas it is quickly getting much more expensive to be a wacker. There is no flood of retired CVPIs that is slowing to a trickle and the typical hammer price has be climbing for the last couple of years. There was a time when the local county auction would have between 20 and 30 CPVIs and you could get a nice one for $1200 all day long, now $1200 is the entry price for one that has some sort of an announcement, like “bad brakes” or “Check engine light”, and there are very few good ones because they get snapped up by other less well funded agencies.

    Plus the flow is down to a trickle because there just aren’t many still in service, so unlike 3 or 4 years ago people are much less likely to think you are a real cop and do those things like drop their phone and put on their seat belt.

    So now if you really want to be a wacker the CVPI just won’t do any more. So around here you need an Interceptor Utility if you really want to look like a cop and those will set you back ~$10K if you can find them that made it past the priority agency stage and are offered to the general public. The less effective Tahoes and Caprices are the bargains in the $5k-$7k range.

    • 0 avatar
      TCowner

      Same here, I’ve driven panthers the last 20 years (Town Cars and GM’s) and got my son a clean CVPI 4 years ago, dark blue in great condition. It has been a good car for him, super cheap to maintain, don’t have to worry if it gets a door ding, and I use it as my beater to haul stuff. When my daughter turned 16, bought her a used Avalon – didn’t seem right seeing her drive around in it.

  • avatar
    jimlongx

    The first company car my employer provided me was a ’97 white Crown Vic LX equipped with the ” special handling package” which included oversized tires. The V8 had no passing power but it was a joy to drive on mountain roads, that suspension made a difference. It looked so much like a cop car that police would wave at me. The big down side was cars in front of me immediately would slow to the posted speed limit or even slower. It was so bad I considered making a sign that I could hold up in the windshield saying ” poC a TON ma I “. Maintenance was high on that car, front end tie rods, differential seal.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    I wouldn’t want to be even accidentally perceived as impersonating a police officer…but that wouldn’t stop me from buying a former patrol or unmarked vehicle, if the price and condition was right. I know that I might get vinyl floors and seats, and that the electrical systems might be weird since the lights would have been pulled out, but the heavy duty brakes and the usually tougher transmissions and engines are still there. That makes them at least worth looking at, to me.

    But I’d change the wheels to a more civilian looking alloy at the very least. No bull/brush guard up front either.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    On the subject of visibility adding to the deterrent effect, the previous chief of the Cincinnati PD spent an enormous sum of money to set up the light bars on CPD cars so the outboard lights were lit up all the time…red on one end, blue on the other. You can see them coming a mile away…gives miscreants plenty of time to skedaddle before the cops arrive.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Then there’s the municipal police departments using wackers.

    Ashland, VA (I-95 and VA54, exit 92) still has it’s old black and white Chevrolet Impala’s on “duty” – come off the I-95 exit and head west on 54 towards town and you always see one parked in a nice radar pick-off position within a half mile of the exit ramp. Only, upon closer inspection, there’s nobody inside.

    Yep, the town uses the black and whites as decoys. Moves them to a different position daily

    Now, if you see a black Charger, that’s one of the real ones all ready to write up some moving violation. And like all Virginia sheriffs cars, they’re equipped with always-on radar pointing in all directions.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    The biggest drawback to being a Wacker is, Explorer and MAYBE Charger aside, having to drive garbage.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Hell, most unmarked police cars should have the words “Unmarked Police Car” decaled down the sides.

    I mean, who else drives an Impala with black trim and dog dishes?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Ding ding.

      My local law enforcement (city police, sheriff department, and state highway patrol) have a tendency to park “unmarked” cars in the median.

      Da fuq? Why not just put up a billboard? When I see a car that is purposely trying NOT to look like a cop car, parked where it is not supposed to parked, I know exactly what it is.

  • avatar
    raph

    Man, always wondered how good somebody might have done getting the panther tooling and hammering out CVs for cop and taxi duty.

    Ford could still machine 2v 4.6’s on the same line as the coyote or for added power you could use their big bore boss block and a stroker crank for a 5.3 and knock down maybe 290-300 horsepower to keep power relavent to today’s cars in a simple yet tough package ( the Boss block is compacted graphite iron like many manufacturers use for light weight cast iron diesel blocks ) and back it up with one of today’s better automatic trans.

    The only down side I can think of is the crash structure since the Panthers were old as hell and BOF.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    There is a forum elsewhere on the “net” who have a group of individuals who think the Crown Vic is the best automobile ever to come out of Detroit-they are almost worshiped.

    It doesn’t matter if they are Interceptors or the civilian version.

  • avatar
    duncanator

    I’m guessing people do it because some are so used to spending time in the back of one as a guest of the police department, that they just naturally look for them when buying a car. It’s one of those things where familiarity is comforting.

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    Everyone comments on how “wackers”, like real police cars, encourage better driving. But in certain scenarios, both lead to problems that make driving more dangerous for everyone involved. For example, during my commute on I-5 between Orange County and San Diego, where there is some, but not too much traffic. Average speed is just over 80 mph, even with reasonable spacing (following distance to car ahead). Yes, there are usually a few who want to go much faster, and a few who want to drive only at 70 mph. But everyone coexists. Until a police car or a wacker appears. Then traffic bunches up next to and behind the police car or wacker. Some nearby drivers jockey for position to be closer to, but not pass, the police or wacker. Other drivers further back who have not spotted the police or wacker approach the crowd at speed and slam on their brakes. This persists until either the police car exits the freeway, or enough drivers confirm the existence of the wacker and signal that by speeding off. This is much more dangerous than just nearly everyone speeding.

  • avatar
    Ford_Intercept

    Interestingly, I just came to TTAC again to read up on the Ford Taurus – this post made me finally sign-up.
    I am very close to finally buying a Ford Taurus Intercept Ecoboost. AWD, Twin Turbo? It checks all my boxes. now that I have a family. I’ll never be able to afford a GTR, this is as close as I can get to one.

    Not having drivers cut me off? That is value added.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The barriers to becoming an actual cop, at least a podunk cop, are right up there with the barriers to being a shift manager at McDonalds. That says plenty about the wannabes.

    But the barriers to being a good cop car are pretty high. Survive bottom dollar maintenance while being driven all day, every day, by men with company gas cards and a total exemption from traffic laws. Cop motor, cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. That says something too.

    You don’t need to be the former to partake of the latter.

  • avatar
    Bill

    There aren’t any Crown Vics left in police service around here so no one is fooled by a wacker in one of those anymore. Explorers are widely used around here as are Caprices. I do tend to be cautious with any Explorer in my rearview until they get close enough to where I can see if they have lights hidden in the grille.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Not one mention of The Blues Brothers, though a few posts came close by mentioning ‘cop’ tires/motor/suspension/brakes. You people disgust me. Moving on: is the term ‘Wacker’ in reference to Wacker Drive, one of the sites of the infamous car chase in the aforementioned movie – a chase led by an auctioned cop car?

    Am I the only one to put this together or am I lunchy in the head?

  • avatar
    Drew8MR

    I drove an 96 Caprice 9C1 ex City of Tustin for years. Took out the partition, but never bothered to repaint it, painted over the door logo and that’s it. Used it to commute between Sac and Santa Monica. Perfect for bombing down I5, just ramp it up to 95 or so and folks would fly to the right when they saw you in the mirror. The downside was you could get boxed in by nervous folks all doing 60.

    • 0 avatar
      Yuppie

      So now imagine how dangerous it is for everyone (including you) when you are boxed in by a bunch of other drivers who are all looking at you to see if you are a “wacker” or real police instead of paying attention to the unnecessarily dense moving traffic that has formed around you.

  • avatar
    guardian452

    “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.”

  • avatar

    As far as I know, in Michigan, even unmarked police cars have to wear municipal license plates, so as long as you’re behind them, you can spot them.

    One problem with current police vehicles, at least for drivers who don’t want attention from Johnny Law, is that Ford offers the Explorer in trims and colors that are hard to distinguish from their Police Interceptor versions.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I once met a guy who was the classic cop wanna be. Had a Crown Vic, traded in on a Charger. He was arrogant and so full of himself. Wanted to hang out and get to know each other. Nahh, I’m cool man, I got to know enough that I don’t want to know anymore. No thanks.

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