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Pontiac Police Cars


OldsDoug
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A friend just emailed me a picture of a restored NYPD '76 Catalina and that got me wondering...

How many of these did NYPD have?

Did Pontiac offer a police package on the full-size cars that year / in other years around that time? Or were they special-ordered somehow?

What other jurisdictions used them or other Pontiac models? (I live in Montgomery County MD and they had some Phoenixes at about that time - I believe they have a restored one...)

I believe there was a police package offered on the intermediates of that vintage... I remember seeing Pontiacs used in Montana when I was out there on a vacation somewhere in that time frame...

Any information that anyone has would be of interest!

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Edited by OldsDoug (see edit history)
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I don't know about the 70s but during the period of the late 50s-early60s Pontiac offered police packages. They came equipped with heavy duty components that people doing super duty clones are seeking and every once in awhile someone will find one and part it out. I have never seen one restored as a police car. I would think that few were sold due to price since Pontiacs were more expensive than then the low price three. I am surprised that New York had them in '76; must have been assistant chief's cars or something like that.

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WOW is that cool, thanks Doug.

Apparently Pontiac always had a police package available but they only turned up here and there. I read an article once by (I think) the late John Sawruk about some LeMans in 1977 that were slated for NYC. Of course they were used in Pontiac MI for years.

I have also never seen one restored or at a show.

In Decatur IL the police used Catalinas in 1978 or 1979, said to have 400 V8s in them.

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PS to Doug, this is an article on the 1967 Olds Delmont 88 used by the California Highway Patrol. If the link does not work go to Hemmings Muscle Machines, Feature Articles and look in the Olds section. Really interesting

Click here: Hemmings Motor News: Reighn-Breaker

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, NYC had Pontiac RMPs in 1976. The Catalina was used for Highway Patrol and the LeMans with a Chevy 6 cyl for precincts. Although Plymouth was used most often Chevies were used in 66, Fords in 69 & 70, Pontiacs in 76, Chevy for highway cars in 79, Chevy again in 87 and highway in 89. After the demise of the Gran Fury (M body) in 89, Chevy was used from 90-96, Then Ford for 97- present, with Chevies too from 00- present as well as Hybrids including Nissan Altimas, Ford Escapes and GMC Yukons. I can go on and on but there is only so much time. If in NYC be sure to visit the Police Museam. You can also go to the NYC website and click on Fleet Services Division for more info.

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  • 1 month later...

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority used Catalinas in the late 1970's. The color scheme for marked cars was light blue body with a white roof. They also had unmarked Catalinas. I bought one directly from them around 1980. It was a '77 with a police package (rode like a truck!). The car had a 400/ 4bbl and was a real sleeper. Some kid with a Monte Carlo tried racing me from a stoplight one day. I hit the gas and the Catalina took off like a rocket. The kid was real surprised when he lost!

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NJT always had some neat cars, and it seemed that they were often from the mid-price range... I remember seeing some Chryslers and Oldsmobiles over the years...

I drive a 2001 Impala 9C1 that I was lucky enough to get new, and it has ruined me, I don't think I'd own anything but a police-package car now! I'd love to build up an older one... had an '84 Caprice civilian car that was really good and always wished I'd been able to find a nice 9C1 of that era... but to have a mid-priced police car would be even better - especially a wagon!

Chevy dealer here has some police Tahoes in stock and I could probably get one, as I know a guy who works there, but I think they are all 2WD... plus they're about $40,000...

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Nowadays the Turnpike uses Crown Victorias. They're decent cars, but have been severely 'de-contented' in recent years. In the 1970's-early 90's, you got heavy-duty mechanicals but the car was fairly normal-looking otherwise. Lately the interiors are very spartan and the exteriors are very plain. I bought quite a few retired cruisers over the years and have seen them steadily decline in the cosmetics.

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I think I remember seeing some Mercurys (Mercuries?) too, at some point... funny that Ford will now only sell the CV to fleets... I would think that if they could sell just one to a civilian, that would be one more sale... I'll never understand that.

(Hijacking thread!) :)

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Guys, thanks for the additional postings on this. It seems Mercury did do some limited promotion of their cars in the early 1970s, I seem to have seen they were used by the CHP in 1970 and have found some photos of mid 1970s Mercs from the Missouri Highway Patrol. Todd C

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  • 1 year later...

As someone else said, Pontiac offered a type of Police Pursuit Vehicle package back in the 50s and 60s off and on. In 1975 (if I remember correctly), they introduced the new LeMans Pursuit Vehicle with a (correct me if I am wrong someone) 455hp engine or a 350 engine. They had beefed up suspension and sway bars. They were hot little cars and every officer wanted one. By 1978, they switched the police package to another model (possibly Catalina), and that basically ended Pontiac's participation in the Police Pursuit Vehicle market. They stopped offering any police options after 78 or 79 as far as I know. Several of the LeMans cars were used in the movie Smokie and the Bandit starring Jackie Gleason. And that about wraps up my limited knowledge on this subject.

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going back to 1960,our township on the outskirts of pittsburgh,pa got a 60 pontiac wagon with 389 tripower.was said to do 100 mph in a city block. car was totaled on a wet road one night.the cop survived but was laid up for a log time(broken back). 4 bufords from ct

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I recently read (and forgot where) that in 1977 the LeMans was GMs most popular police car(!). As hap says, it seems in 1978 (when LeMans were downsized) the Catalina became the primary Pontiac police car and did reasonably well, but in 1979 or 1980 word came down that from that point forward Impala/Caprice would be the only GM police car to be offered. Todd

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  • 7 months later...

Along about 1976-77, it seemed that PMD was wanting more visibility for their police packages. In the DFW, TX area, MANY municipalities bought police LeMans sedans, usually with the 400 cid V-8. It seemed that Pontiac price-supported these cars heavily in order to get bids which Ford or Chrysler would have normally gotten back then. Down here, though, it was a "flash in the pan", so to speak. After that batch was sold, things went back to normal, so to speak.

In the middle 1980s, we had sold some 9C1 Impalas to the local Sheriff's office. I got to drive one to check it out, out on the Interstate for about 10 miles total. At that time, only "approved law enforcement customers" could get the 350 V-8, with the citizenry being limited to 305s. Although this was a police car without any fancy trim interior, as soon as I got it up to highway speed, I noticed the improved solidity of the chassis, which went farther than just the police version of the F41 suspension. It was solid, it was quiet, and solid white. It certainly had a more solid feel than any other F41 Caprice I'd driven back then, so when I got the chance, I got into the parts book to verify the "Heavy Duty Frame" listed on the window sticker.

What I found was the same part number frame as in the non-police section of the catalog. That made me wonder MORE what caused that more solid feel. UNLESS, all replacement frames were the HD/police part.

Please be aware that there is a national police car club. Seems like there are some websites which list which cars various law enforcement entities used over the years, too?

From reading many police car sales brochures over the years, the following would be some key things in the factory "police interceptor" package:

-- the highest-output generator/alternator, or a larger Leece-Neville or Motorola unit

-- heavy duty calibration automatic transmission with "Low Gear blockout" (meaning that when you slam it from Park into Drive, the shift lever stops at "D" and not at "L")

-- heavy duty steel wheels, usually slightly wider than stock in many cases, with appropriate hub caps

-- heavy duty calibration suspension (springs, shocks, sway bars)

-- higher-speed capable tires

-- Calibrated speedometer . . . KEY THING for a real police package vehicle!!! . . . with the word "Calibrated" in the lower center of the speedometer face plate.

-- higher-performance engine appropriate for the territory being covered

The manufacturers usually had vehicles which could be ordered as police cars, but were not "4-door muscle cars in disguise". "City" duty or light patrol functions, even like the "67 Fairlane which Joe Friday drove in later "Dragnet" shows. From those small V-8 or 6 cylinder models, things went up to what each municipality thought they needed, engine/power-wise.

Before the "Pontiac Push", there were the AMC Matador sedans, usually with 360 V-8s in them.

It's great to see these parts of Pontiac history!

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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  • 2 weeks later...

The last year Pontiac had an official "Police Package" was 1978. It was that year that they out sold Chevrolet in police cars and General Motors said that would never happen again. And the General in 1979 cut out Pontiac's Police package so if a department did want to get a car, they either had to pay a lot more or get a Chevrolet.

The 1978 Pontiac Catalina Police Package was one of the best squad cars that was made at the time. Every police office including myself that drove one loved them.

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  • 3 months later...

My dad worked at MacIntyre Motors in Billings Montana for about 25 years selling Pontiacs and Cadillacs. In the spring of 1976, a small town near Billings ordered a tan/beige '76 LeMans sedan Police package. This one had the 455 in it (last year for that engine btw). When the car came in to be delivered, the town informed him their levy didn't pass and they couldn't buy it! His demonstrator had just been sold so he decided to drive this as his demo for a while. What a blast! Dog dish caps on 15" rims, rubber floor mats and seemingly rubber seats (they were vinyl). It didn't have dual pipes but it did have what appeared to be a 3" exhaust through the single cat. My dad loved this thing- the ultimate sleeper! The 455 would just dust anything off! The irony is that he sold it to an elderly man who lived a few blocks from our house! I would see "grampa" toddling along in the '76 Cop Car LeMans for years! I moved to Minnesota in the late 80's but the old man still had that LeMans! I wonder what ever became of it! I also remember the "Certified Speedometer" label on the dash for police to "pace" speeders. No built-in speedo error on these cars!

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  • 8 years later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Sheriff J. D. Stewart of Catoosa County, Georgia and his Trans Am police cars are legendary.

 

 http://transamcountry.com/site/the-other-side-of-the-law

 

 

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The trans Am police cars were covered in several magazine articles at the time and there was even a die cast model made of them. In fact, a rendering of a Trans Am patrol car is the centerpiece of Sheriff Stewart's tombstone. But Sheriff Stewart was using Pontiacs a long time before the Trans Am came along. Legend was in the late 1950's he bought the highest performance model he could get from Chevy, Ford, Chrysler and Pontiac and pitted them against each other. The Pontiac won, and from then on he had Pontiacs.  Sheriff Stewart developed ties with NASCAR and with the performance division of Pontiac and had access to parts the ordinary person didn't know existed. It was said (and who knows what the truth is) that each was modified by a NASCAR garage before delivery.

 

What I do know is that the 1960 Pontiacs were brutes. My buddy bought a 1960 model when it was replaced by a 1961.  It was the Sheriff's personal car, a white Ventura hardtop,  not the Catalina post sedan you would expect. It had around 116k miles during the year it served. I went along to drive my friend's other car back home -- he never let me drive the Poncho. Before we left, the Sheriff took us to an unopened section of I-75 and clocked it through the radar at 145 mph.  

 

This Pontiac had a highly modified 389 tri-power engine with a lope that attracted a crowd every time we stopped at a service station or convenience store. It had a 3-speed on the column and a clutch that required a strong leg to operate. No power steering,  brakes or AC. The suspension was brutal but the car felt solid at three digit speeds unlike the factory supercars of the day; it would out-corner any factory car. I'm sure someone will challenge me on that, but my buddy was a "poor rich kid" who owned  409 and 427 Chevies, 406 and 427 Fords, including a black 1963 Custom 300 427  2-door sedan with all the factory performance options. None could come close to J.D.Stewart's Pontiacs.

 

After the GTO came out he switched to GTO's and then the legendary Trans Ams. It was said that the later cars were ordered without engines and the sheriff, in conjunction with the NASCAR garage kept a stock of "built" 455' s that were installed in the patrol cars. I can't speak to the accuracy of that.  

 

What a prize it would be to discover one of the Catoosa County patrol cars hiding in a barn somewhere.

 

Don

 

 

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