The history of Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth police cars

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Police cars, like police work, have changed considerably over the years. Few of the early-day police cars were given insignias identifying their purpose. An early-day North Dakota federal officer, Lester Eddington, wrote in his autobiography, “we did not wear uniforms, just carried Customs caps to use while stopping cars.” Because of this, stopping cars was not easy; many times the officer would pull alongside the offending vehicle and display his badge to tell the driver to pull over. Even more dangerous was the practice of stepping out into the lane of traffic to hold one’s hand in the air, ordering the offender to stop.

Rarely was an early-day police vehicle equipped with a two-way radio, or even a receiving only (one-way) radio! Many of the officers who contributed photos of early police cars commented that the officer was not protected from the prisoners being transported. No information has been found indicating that any of these cars had any sort of cage or barrier to separate officer from offender. Many departments used the close coupled business coupe for police work, resulting in a transported prisoner sitting directly alongside the officer!

Plymouth has apparently been in the police car business longer than many people realize. The earliest reference we could find of Plymouth police cars was of the use of 1932 PB coupes by the Washington State Patrol. It wasn’t until the 1950s, however, that the term “police package” (referring to a specially equipped automobile designed solely for police work) would come into common usage. Most of these cars, of course, were equipped with the largest possible engine plus a special handling package not available to the general public. In later years these cars were true “muscle cars” in every sense of the word, except that the muscle car package was hidden in a “mom-and-pop” four-door sedan rather than the more noticeable convertible or hardtop coupe.

While early Ford V8s had a reputation for the speed and power desired by police departments, Plymouths were a popular choice for police work even in the early years.

The Greeley, Colorado, police department pitted 1935 Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth models against each other before deciding on which make to buy for their police work. The three cars were paced over a level one mile pavement course; from a standing start the Chevrolet covered the mile in 80 seconds, reaching a top speed of 78 miles per hour. The Ford ran the mile in 68 seconds, topping out at 82 mph while the Plymouth clipped through the mile in just 60 seconds, reaching a top speed of 90 miles per hour. Other Plymouth numbers were 0 to 60 mph in 20 seconds; 0 to 75 in 42 seconds; 0 to 80 in 51 seconds; and 0 to 90 in 60 seconds.

Acceleration Standard Chevy Ford V8 Plymouth Six
Full Mile – Time 80 seconds 68 seconds 60 seconds
Full Mile – Final Speed 78 mph 82 mph 90 mph

Over the years Plymouth turned out some special cars for police work. One of the first was the Wichita, Kansas, police department’s 1934 PE four-door “Flame Car.” The Flame Cars were factory attention getters designed to boost traffic into dealers’ showrooms. All were painted a flamboyant “Carotte No. 3″ paint commonly referred to as “the pumpkin color.” Many of the cars came with mirrored windows (you could see out from inside the vehicle but no one could see in), but these had to be replaced before the car could be sold since they were illegal for most uses. However, the Wichita car kept these windows and a loudspeaker system was fitted. An officer would park on a street corner and, unseen, watch for violations. Seeing one, he would pick up the microphone and draw attention to the offending driver’s actions by pointing them out to all other drivers in the vicinity!

By 1935, a more popular seller was the armour-plated Plymouth, followed in 1936 by an ambulance conversion that was aimed directly at the police sales market. A high compression cylinder head and various heavy duty taxi-oriented items also helped boost Plymouth’s sales in police markets.

Plymouths were popular “scout cars” with the New York City Police Department which continued to make yearly purchases of specially painted business coupes. These cars, beginning with the 1938 model year, were painted an odd three-tone color combination: the hood and roof areas were painted white, the body sides were green and the fenders a contrasting black.

The business coupe proved to be the most popular style for police work during the early years. When the North Dakota Highway Patrol purchased its first Plymouth, it was a 1937 P3 business coupe. It was joined in 1939 by three 1939 P8 Deluxe two-door touring sedans – the first sedans used by the patrol. Over the years since, nearly all police cars have been sedans.

Joe Schaap wrote that the New Jersey State Police used the 1955 Chrysler Windsor.

By 1956 the demand for fleet vehicles such as police cars and taxis was so great that Plymouth decided to openly advertise its products through special police car and taxi sales catalogs. Realizing the need to meet the demands of the customer, Plymouth offered not just one “police car” but a fleet of different police cars each designed to meet the needs of the various agencies to which the vehicles were to be sold.

In 1956, Chrysler’s first official police package was offered on Dodge Coronets; a year later, Dodge offered the 325 Hemi, with a variety of performance packages and a top power rating of 310 hp. By 1959, a B-body Dart Pursuit was available; most agencies chose the 325 hp 383, though there was a special 330 hp 383 with tuned intakes that had better highway performance. By 1962, Dodge had squads with 28 state police departments. (This paragraph based on Dodge, Plymouth & Chrysler Police Cars 1956-1978, by Cpl. Edwin J. Sanow and John L. Bellah)

1957 was the big year for Plymouth to enter the police market, which it dominated for many years. As Curtis Redgap wrote in his Insider’s Guide:

Keeping its eye on Dodge, Plymouth had come up with a “Police Pursuit” package on its own for the 1957 models. It was every bit as tough as the Dodge, and if you equipped it with (if you wanted it) the 318 cubic inch 8 barrel, 290 horse V-8, faster than a D-500 Dodge. Plymouth however, had put together a series of packages that appealed to a cross section of police work. Dodge wondered what was happening when Plymouth started grabbing orders that they had expected to get. Most fleet managers though are leery about multiple carburetor packages. They tend to be difficult to keep in tune. Hence the single four barrel on the 301. Which is the package that Plymouth sold the most of in 1957. There was one other advantage that I always wondered about. Plymouth put 12 inch brakes on all its Pursuits, where Dodge stayed with the 11 inch drums until the Polara model of 1961. If you thought the Dodge brakes were tough, the ones on the Plymouth were formidable!

A Nevada Highway State Trooper 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 runaway 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, and it was accelerating.

As soon as he could, the Trooper accelerated past the roaring 60 tons of rolling menace. Once in front of the tractor, he backed off the throttle, and slowly allowed the tractor’s front bumper to contact the rear of the Plymouth. 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 brakes, the speed began to steadily decrease. Slowly, then more rapidly. 80…75…65…60…50… and finally down to 20 miles per hour where the tractor driver was able to downshift his transmission, and use the soft edge of the road to stop.

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, but 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 could have easily surpassed 120 miles an hour on the 25 mile long grade, becoming a 60 ton road rocket with disastrous destructive potential. Bashed, bruised, and burnt out as it was, after the tires were changed, the Plymouth brought the Trooper safely back to his station.

Plymouth had a bit of brilliance when it put its Pursuit on the market. Instead of offering a whole gamut of mix and match hardware, Plymouth targeted three specific areas of Police work that covered the whole spectrum of the job. They had their six cylinder Sentinel package that revolved around economical city operations, much like a taxi. Then they had their “Metro Patroller,” that concentrated on the Sheriff’s Departments, which usually had city, suburbs, and wide open spaces to cover. Its featured engine was the Hi-PO 301 V-8 with the four barrel and dual exhausts. Then, of course, was the State Police/Highway Patrol “Pursuit Special” that centered on the 290 horsepower Fury V-800.

By 1959, Plymouth’s marketing strategy set the tone of fleet purchases that still lasts into today’s markets. You could buy whatever you wanted, but with the most popular options on the packages, it not only allowed for lower bids, it made the fleet manager’s job a whole lot easier. Dodge was making the headlines, but Plymouth was making the sales orders by out delivering Dodge at a 4 to 1 unit rate!

1960 saw the first and last official Chrysler police package with the Chrysler Enforcer. It only lasted a few years.

The 1960 Plymouth police offerings came in three models: the Patroller Special, the Patroller 30-D Economy Six and the Pursuit Special Golden Commando 395. The first was equipped with a 230 hp 318 V8; the second, powered by the new 225 cid 145 hp slant six engine, was designed for city police work where top speeds were not crucial. The third, a more potent version of the Patroller, was fitted with the 361 cid 305 hp V8. (The “395” referred to the foot-pounds of torque put out by the engine.) Advertised as having “lightning-like acceleration” and “eye-popping getaway,” the Pursuit Special was recommended “specifically for patrol service on expressways, highways, super highways and turnpikes.

In addition to two- and four-door sedans, a line of “Emergency Wagons” for ambulance use was offered. Again, engine choices came to a six or the small V8 for the six- passenger wagons while the nine-passenger version was offered with a V8 only. Like all police cars, these Plymouths were fitted with heavy duty components designed to with- stand the rigors of police work.

Bob Wieland wrote: “In 1965, my dad bought a 1964 New Yorker state patrol car that had been used in New Jersey. It was blue with black rubber floor mats instead of carpeting, push button automatic with a single 4 barrel AFB and the 413 engine. The main option I remember was that it had a rear window defroster ( blower ). I was too young to drive at the time when dad had that car but between dad and an older brother, there were enough acceleration / speed runs that it has made a lifetime impression on me as to how well that police package worked.”

Based on Dodge, Plymouth & Chrysler Police Cars 1956-1978: The Mopar squads got the big-block 413 in 1963, generating 360 hp and 470 lb-ft from a single carb, running a quarter mile in 16 seconds. By 1965, when Plymouth had a Belvedere and Fury Pursuit with an optional 330 hp 383, Mopar squads were used by nearly every state. The Dodge Polara pursuit, with a 413, managed the quarter mile in 15 seconds flat, with a top speed of 129 mph.

In 1966, Dodge received the 440 Wedge, the top police engine until 1978. In that year, it pumped out 365 hp and 480 lb-ft using a single carburetor, and as available only in the Polara Pursuit. Other squads could get a 330 hp 383, which brought them from 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds despite their bulk.

In 1967, the 440 was available on the Polara and Fury I, in two forms: the 350 hp standard-cam and the 375 hp special-cam.

1968

In 1968, the Belvedere Pursuit was released with a 330 hp police engine and a package that resembled (except cosmetically) the Road Runner. The 1968 Polara 440 was one of the fastest squads ever made, and handling and braking of all the full-sized squads was said to be quite good.

1969 (courtesy Seth Ellestad)

Squads in this era were normally available as two- and four- door sedans in lowest trim levels, and were available in base or pursuit-class versions. There were also Emergency Wagons, specially modified station wagons.

1969 was the year of the ultimate squad; for a quarter century afterwards, nothing could match its performance capability – the 1969 Polara Pursuit. This was the apex of the high-power era, the last year before lower compression engines and tightening emisions requirements. The 1969 Polara Pursuit, with its 375 bhp 440, sleek new “fuselage” bodystyle, and standard 3.23 axle, could do 0-60 in 6.3 seconds, the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds (at over 99 mph), and run out to a top speed of (or, by some accounts, above) 147 mph!

It took a 25 years, a Corvette engine, and a four-speed transmission for any other police cruiser to match these figures. In LAPD use, the 383-engined Belvedere Pursuit was extremely successful and well-liked, gaining the (accurate) nickname “four-door Roadrunner”.

Why the 1969 CHP Polara was such a big deal (by Mike Sealey)

It held the record on the Chrysler test track in Chelsea, MI for highest top end achieved by a factory-built 4 door sedan (149.6 mph). The record was eventually broken by a 1994 Caprice with an LT1 but it took 25 years and a Corvette engine to finally do it.

CHP and LAPD were prized enough customers that Chrysler made specific parts for each department, factory part numbers and all. CHP even had its own cam grind among other things.

Had there been a 1970, the Polara might have been even hotter. California Governor Ronald Reagan was insistent that all state agencies buy from different sources at least once in a while… CHP got 428 Mercury Montereys in 1970. These were a disappointment. (My uncle the former CHP officer tells me Chrysler tried to convince CHP to enter into a 5-year contract, and offered to make stuff even beyond what they actually made if they could convince CHP to do so, but the state refused to go beyond year-by-year.) (A reader wrote: “These were purpose built for the CHP and the Missouri Highway Patrol. They were not available to the public. It was quite fast and had no power steering making it unwieldy around town.”)

The 1971 was a little less powerful, although not as (relatively) gutless as the 1972 and later. Chevron dropped its high-octane Custom Supreme gasoline in 1970-71 to start marketing unleaded from that pump. The 1971 had just a fraction lower compression ratio, made necessary by lower octane premium fuel.

The lineup included four cars, which fell roughly into the luxury category when sold to regular consumers. As squads, most luxury features were yanked, leaving only beefed-up drivetrains (not necessarily including higher power!) and suspensions, with some features for squad use (e.g. electrical system changes).

1969 Model Classification Wheelbase
Dodge Polara Full-Size 122″
Plymouth Fury Full-Size 120″
Dodge Coronet Mid-Size 117″
Plymouth Belvedere Mid-Size 116″

A Sure-Grip differential was optional (except on pursuit vehicles, where it was included). Axle ratios were:

The 1969 Axle Ratios
Transmission / Engine Standard Optional
Manual 6 3.55 3.23
Manual 8 3.23 3.55
Automatic 3.23 2.94 or 3.55

Engines included the venerable, low-power Slant Six; the “economy V-6″ 318; the performance-oriented, low-buck, workhorse 383; and the powerful 440.

Suspension upgrades included heavy-duty shocks, extra-heavy duty springs, a special front sway bar, an optional rear sway bar, and extra body welds and reinforcements. Squads also received extra heavy duty semi-metallic police brakes, a heavy duty cooling system with H/D radiator and engine fan, heavy duty seats and interior trim, and a heavy-duty electrical system with H/D battery and high-output alternator. TorqueFlite automatic transmissions were specially calibrated for police use.

From Jim Benjaminson: By 1969 the V8-powered Plymouth was called the Fury Pursuit and the six, the Fury Patroller. The smaller Belvedere was likewise available in either Pursuit or Patroller trim as well as in a line of Emergency Wagons. Fury buyers had the choice of four V8 engines: the standard 230 hp 318; the optional 2bbl. 290 hp and 4bbl. 330 hp 383s; and top-of- the-line 440 V8 with either 360 or 375 horsepower. Belve- dere buyers had to settle for the base 318 or the two 383 options. Patroller models were relegated to the 225 cid 145 hp slant six.

1970 Mopar squads (courtesy Seth Ellestad)

There weren’t many changes for 1970, though engines began to lose compression to comply with new emissions standards. Models and axle ratios were identical to those available in 1969. Power ratings remained the same, but they lost a few horses to the lower compression ratios, whether Chrysler chose to face up to that fact or not. The big 440 HP (high performance) Pursuits could “only” make it up to about 141 mph now. The 1970 Olds Delta 88 Police Apprehender, with the 390 bhp Interceptor 455, had a similar estimated top end. GM waited until ’71 to begin dropping the compression ratios on their high-power engines.

Most Chryslers had minimal changes from the previous year, just to keep them recognizably new models, but the 1970 Coronet was facelifted significantly. It was now visibly different from its Plymouth relative, with a new, unusual “twin loop” front-end styling job. At the time, most reviewers found this both strange and unattractive, though it had an aerodynamic benefit, giving the Coronet a small but definite performance advantage over the Belvedere.

1971 Dodge and Plymouth police cars (courtesy Seth Ellestad)

1971 marked the end of the high compression era, although Chrysler had slowly started lowering compression ratios beginning the year before. Ford held on to its high-compression performance engines through the 1971 model year, the last manufacturer to do so. The compression ratios of Chrysler engines fell once more, as they were subtly retuned yet again.

The big block 383 and 440 used different pattern heads to better meet emission strandards, switching from the “906” casting number units, that had helped power the awesome 1969 Polara 440 Pursuit, to the “346” heads which helped the engines run cleaner. A new engine, the 360 small block, equipped with a 2v carb and single exhaust, became optional on the Fury and Polara squads as a mid-range lower compression optional police engine. This was the beginning of a very succesful police car motor.

New this year were net horsepower ratings, giving a more realistic measure of useable engine power than the previous “gross power” rating method. For 1971 only both rating systems were used side-by-side, no doubt to ease the shock of auto buyers.

1971 was a year of very little change for Chrysler’s full sized cars, and even the obligatory sheetmetal alterations looked little different than last year’s. However, the Chrysler intermediates were all new. They were wider and larger and were given “fuselage” styling that resembled the current full size cars much more closely. They were also given a one-inch longer wheelbase, and the Plymouth version, formerly called “Belvedere,” was now known as the “Satellite”, the former name having been dropped completely.

Axle ratios were similar to those available in 1969 and 1970.

Curtis Redgap noted: We had some 1971 Plymouth Fury I patrol units that had gotten 360 V-8s instead of the 440. Instead of turning them back, we tried one of them out, and kept the lot! They ran very well! These were equipped with a four barrel carb and dual exhausts and performed close to the 440. I have never been able to find a publication that lists this engine, nevertheless, we had twelve of them. Perhaps an experiment. Plymouth again beat Dodge by offering the police package in the “A38″ group. It could be had on any model car, not just the base cars. Gave the Chiefs, Detectives, and the higher ranks a plusher ride, but it was still a cop car.

Details on the 1971 Dodge squad cars, with specifications and photos

CB radios in police cars (by Wes Notovitz)

The police used pretty much any brand CB radio on the market in the 1970s. Most of the antennas were trunk lip mounts like the Hustler, or the more common types available most anywhere. Magnet mounts were not uncommon. Many of the CBs in state cruisers were property of the particular trooper as the agencies often wouldn’t buy them.

The 23 channel models were fairly mainstream in 1974. It was shortly after then that the 40 channel models were first marketed after the FCC allocated more channels to the Citizens Radio Service.

If you want one, start checking the flea markets. I always see older ones. I picked up a 23 channel compact Radio Shack model last year for $2 that works perfectly. I used it in one of my copcars.

In the 1970s, they all carried a two way public safety radio for dispatch and communications, but CBs were not standard equipment. During the heyday of CB in that era (one I remember quite fondly), you most commonly found them in patrol cars, state police, highway patrol,and sheriffs that ran interstate highways to keep in step with the truckers who used them a lot to try and foil speed traps. Occassionally, rural departments might have had them, but urban departments generally did not use them.

1972 AMC, Dodge, and Plymouth pursuit vehicles (courtesy Seth Ellestad)

Starting in 1972, engines had to be tuned for more stringent emissions standards and had to run on low-lead gasoline. Compression ratios dropped noticeably, and net measure became the only system used to rate power output. The venerable 383 engine was at long last discontinued, but a bored-out 400 version suited for low compression replaced it.

1972 was a year of little styling change to the midsize cars, while the fullsize cars sported noticably altered sheetmetal. The Plymouth Fury got a twin-loop grille that, while although not completely separated, bore a definite resemblence to that of the 1970 Coronet. Higher line Furys used the same basic grille with hidden headlights. The Polara also got a rather odd new styling job front and rear. The grille and front lights were now dropped down to be integral with the front bumper, and the taillights were put into the rear bumper.

The midsize squads finally became available with the high-power 440ci block. This, despite the power loss of the past few years, made them lightning quick. Even the big Polara with the 440 E86 could still reach over 130mph and run 0-60 in around seven and a half seconds (about the same as a 2001 Chrysler 300M).

1973 Plymouth patrol cars

By 1973 the Belvedere pursuit had been replaced by the Satellite Pursuit, which was, itself, to be eliminated in mid-1974 (at least in name; the B-body would live on, using the Fury name.)

Curtis Redgap noted:

In 1973, power was down, but the Polara were powerful and fast. The 1973 Fords were nowhere that year, with their poor disc brake performance, and low power. The Ford 460 ci police interceptor of 1973 produced 219 net horsepower. The 429, in its last year in police trim, produced a mighty 202 horsepower. These figures increased slightly over the next couple years due to different rating systems. All Ford squad engines were 8.0 to 1 compression.

Road & Track tested several police packs in 1973, as cited by Ed Sanow. The 460 Ford Torino went up against the 360 Dodge Coronet, as well as the 401 Matador. The 460 Ford ran a mid 16.47 sec 1/4 and 84 miles an hour at the trap. The Dodge (with 100 fewer cubic inches) ran a 16.60 sec 1/4 and an 84 mile an hour trap. The Matador whipped them both with a 15 second 1/4 an 88 mile an hour trap. The California Highway Patrol test of the Dodge Polara with a 440 ran to 60 in 7.7 seconds, did the 1/4 in 15 seconds with a 90 mile an hour trap, and ran it out to 129 miles an hour, beating all others, again.

Comparison to Fords of the late 1960s / early 1970s (by Curtis Redgap)

Ford never did well, not so much as to the engines or speeds, but for their poor braking performance. Some testing agencies rejected Ford out of hand due to their brake deficiencies. It isn’t always a drag race that counts. However, once the speed is achieved, it IS a matter of stopping, and I know from experience that Fords were shunned by patrolmen, given choices of other vehicles.

The New York State Police were given a “SPECIAL OPTION” 1968 Plymouth Fury I that had a 426 Hemi engine in it, dual Carbs and all. It allegedly reached reached 155 mph speeds in straight line testing on the I-81 Northway. The SP rejected it due to the dual carb set up, poor mileage, and high cost of the engine option, as I recall.

The Ford 429 was fast, but a good 440 would easily whip the 429, 428, and probably run close to the full bore 427! Most police units were equipped with the 390. A 383 would eat them for lunch, out drag them and run them out top end. I don’t know why. GM and Chrysler always had more “pop” in stock form than the police edition Fords.

1974-1979 Chrysler Corporation squad cars

The 1974 Dodge Monaco squad was immortalized by the Blues Brothers, who drove a nearly indestructible 440 version in the movie.

In 1974, there were 15 police engines, including a four-barrel 360. On top was the 275 hp 440 and a 250 hp 400, available in both full sized and intermediates. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office found the 440 to beat the Matador 401 and Montego 460; the 360-equipped, 200 hp Dodge Dart squad outran a 350 cid Nova, running from 0 to 60 in 8.1 seconds.

Jim Benjaminson: 1974 saw Plymouth sell more police packages than any other car maker. The Fury Pursuit came with a standard 360 V8 while the smaller Satellite Pursuit was offered with a choice of a slant six or 318 V8.

Curtis Redgap wrote:

For my county in 1974, the bid price for the Dodge Monaco, and Ford CVPI (neither Plymouth or Chevrolet bid that year, and Plymouth had not bid since 1971) came within $5 of each other for the total per unit bid. I
gave Monaco the nod because of the 440 V-8, and as we all knew, better brakes.

We were looking at about 150 units that year. Once the bid became public, Ford Fleet actually called the County Manager, and offered to set their bid price $100 lower, because of a so called “irregularity” in their process. He called me up to his office, and tried to intimidate me to accept the Ford offer. I said “no,” I was going to go by the state law regarding bidding. Once the bid is accepted, that is the bid, and by law, unless there are notable exceptions, like items left out, or clear mistakes in equipment. It cannot be altered, unless you bid it, equally, again. Bids are submitted sealed to the bid manager (me).

I spoke with the Chrysler Fleet Zone Manager and told him what had happened. He said that they would not hesitate to bid again, if it was rebid. They would not, however, violate state law by changing the bid amount outside the bid process.

That, in my mind, cemented the deal. We got the Monaco, and kept Chrysler products up through 1989, even after I retired. The county Sheriff, who also happened to be the Republican Party Leader, (and could fire the manager, no confidence vote) stood firmly behind my choice. Needless to say, I was never questioned nor asked to explain choices for bids again, not even by the Sheriff. I also took a lot of heat because they were such terrible quality!

The Pursuit models were specially built police package cars that utilized all the “standard” heavy duty equipment normally expected to be found on such cars. But what if a buyer didn’t want to purchase a regular sedan for police work? Plymouth obliged by making option package A38 available, effective with the 1974 model year. The A38 package could be had on any Fury I, II or III two-door hardtop, four-door hardtop, four-door sedan or station wagon. Together with a “special handling package,” the A38 included a battery heat shield, police brakes, 140 mph calibrated speedometer, firm police power steering and heavy duty seats.

The A38 package was continued into 1975. Buyers not wanting the “standard” Gran Fury Police Pursuit or the Fury Police Pursuit could get the same equipment on any Fury, Fury Custom, Gran Fury or Gran Fury Custom with power choices ranging from 318, 360, 400 to 440 cid engines.

1975 saw a major drop in power, as the 360 fell to 190, the 400 went to 245, and the top 440 only made 250 hp. With the loss of the Satellite, Plymouth offered a Fury squad; its full-size was a Gran Fury.

Jim Benjaminson: For 1976 the Plymouth police car range was increased to include not only the Fury and Gran Fury Pursuits but also the Chrysler Newport Pursuit and a Valiant Pursuit. The Valiant was available with slant six, 318 or 360 engines [this very rare car would be surprisingly potent!]. The A38 police package could be had on any other body style. Ditto for model year 1977, which saw 17 Chrysler police packages, led by the 245 hp 440.

The Volare squad replaced the Valiant after 1976 — though the Valiant pursuit package had only been introduced in 1976! Not many Volares were actually used, though there have been sightings (not the least of which was in the movie Strange Brew). These seemed most popular in the Northwest and Canada.

Mike Sealey added: “About 1976, Seattle’s police department obtained a Chevy Nova with the 350 and 9C1 police package for testing, and Chrysler loaned them a 360 Volare with the A38 package and non- standard generic “POLICE” markings. The F-body won, because the 1977-79 fleet was all Aspens.”

For 1978 Plymouth offered the Volare Pursuit in addition to the Fury Pursuit. As well, there was a new addition to the line, a full-size Plymouth Voyager van known as the Law Enforcer. In its long wheelbase form, the van was perfect for transporting large numbers of prisoners. Plymouth captured 80% of the police car market in the United States in 1978.

The 1978 Dodge Monaco and Plymouth Fury were said to be among the best Mopar squads, equipped with the 440 and 400 in their last years. The 440, thanks to Lean Burn and new catalytic converters, was up to 255 hp. The Fury, in its final big-block year, beat the best of its competition in the Michigan State Police tests, recording a top speed of 133 mph and reaching 100 mph in under 25 seconds. The Aspen and Volare replaced the Valiant and Dart as compact squads, but, like their predecessors, were quite rare.

The Royal Monaco, a popular police car, made many appearances in The Blues Brothers, in chase scenes that were filmed at over-100 mph speeds.

The 318 saw its first duty as a pursuit in 1979, when Chrysler added a four-barrel carb to it, raising it to 155 hp. It propelled squads for ten years, until 1989, when the Volare’s successor went out of production. The 360 was the top engine, pumping out 195 hp (190 in California); it was capable for duty in the lighter St. Regis (seen frequently in Hill Street Blues), and could move a Volare to 100 mph in under 23 seconds — better than the 1978 Fury 440.

Mike Sealey wrote:

Seattle actually ran a full fleet of A38 Dart police cars, and seemed happy with them. Seattle had previously used B-bodies (last ones were the 1973 Satellite) for police duties, while most other municipal cars were Slant Six Darts. In 1973, they obtained what I believe was an experimental police-package Dart for evaluation, and must have been happy with it, as their 1974-76 squads were all Darts. (Seattle city streets are hilly and often curvy, so handling was more important than top speed).

The freeways were the province of the Washington State Patrol, which mainly used 440 C-bodies at the time.) SPD switched to 9C1 Malibus in 1980, went back to MoPar for 1982 Diplomats, switched to the Fairmont-based LTD LX in 1983, and then used Gran Furies through the end of RWD production in 1989.

AMC squads (Curtis Redgap)

AMC did make a short forey into the police car market. One of the biggest customers was the Los Angles Police Department, several Southern California agencies, and the Los Angles Sheriff. The first purchase for LAPD came in 1972. Most car companies were in the stranglehold of the EPA and V-8 power was down.

AMC used a 401 cubic inch V-8 that blew Mopar and every thing else out of the water for that size sedan. It got to 60 in 7 seconds flat! Top speed, while not a blazing requirement for LAPD was about 125 miles an hour which the Matador could reach in about 43 seconds. This was faster than the 1970 Plymouth Satellites that were so well liked by the Officers [webmaster note: in 1970, the LAPD used Mercury Montegos, which Ron Hurwitz called “a disaster,” while detectives used Plymouth Belvederes]. And it sure beat the pants off the 1971 Satellite models that were down on power, and with the new re-styled body, heavier than before.

AMC equipped the cars right, with all the goodies that Chrysler had. Since AMC had made arrangements in the late 1960s to purchase Chrysler Torqueflite for their automatic transmission, it was virtually assured of little trouble in that area. The Matador was purchased by LAPD again in 1973, and again in 1974. They were the biggest users. A change in the body style for 1974 added weight, and for some reason the reliability was not as good as the previous two years. The increased weight affected handling and performance. No Matadors were purchased after this, and the model faded after a couple more years.

Comments
  1. acptulsa says:

    Nice article, thanks!

    Just a few comments. Chrysler developed the Enforcer at the end of the era when higher priced cars had bigger engines. Yes, 1960 was the year, but in fall for the ’61 MODEL year. In ’61-’62 Dodge and Plymouth engine sizes caught up to Chrysler’s, and in ’63 the 426 (wedge) surpassed the Chrysler 413, but the Enforcer remained. Chrysler made the marketing blunder of downsizing in ’62 when the American public preferred to buy cars by the pound. The Enforcer kept them in the hunt for the California Highway Patrol Enforcement Units, which had to have a wheelbase of 121″ or more. This is why the ’69 Polara is so often commented on. It was California’s highest performance highway patrol car. But other jurisdictions ordered the same 440 engines in ~700 lb. lighter Satellites and Coronets (and ~200 lb. lighter Furys) and got better performance as a result.

    Volares and Aspens weren’t terribly common in ’76, but then took off big time. My home town of Tulsa bought them from ’78-’80, and they weren’t alone. The Diplomat and the ’82-’89 Gran Fury were mechanically identical except for yearly technical evolution.

    Tulsa Police Department was one of several who did a silly thing in the early ’70s. The AMC Matador and Ambassador were mechanically identical. Some people, however, decided without any evidence at all that the more luxurious Ambassador was also bigger! So, some cops got the more comfy Ambassador, as did Tulsa officers in ’73.

    One last tidbit readers might find amusing. When the first radios with walkie-talkies that talked to the car radio and car radios that repeated the walkie-talkie signal appeared in the late 1980s, many of them caused Chrysler electronic ignition systems to cease functioning when they transmitted. So, a cop would key up to tell his dispatcher he was in pursuit and the car would stall! Chrysler redesigned their ignition modules about then…

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