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Buick/Olds/Pontiac Police Cars


poci1957
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A photo of a 1976 NYPD Pontiac Catalina was posted in the Pontiac section and got me wondering about the use of medium priced cars as police cars. An article from Pontiac historian John Sawruk appeared a few years ago and also fed my interest in this, he said that after about 1978 it was agreed at GM that only Chevy would market police cars and BOP divisions would do no further development.

Can anyone add to the topic of what jurisdictions used Buick/Olds/Pontiac police cars from the 1950s thru the 1970s? Or Mercurys (hello Jack Lord)? If these cars were ordered might it have been due to an influential dealer in the community? Obviously a BOP model (or Mercury) would cost more than a Chevy or Ford.

It sounds as if the NYPD had some Pontiac connection in the 1970s, and it sounds as if they put a little push on around 1977, possibly resulting in the corporate edict. Remember, Jackie Gleason even had a 1977 Pontiac police car in Smokey and the Bandit.

The California Highway Patrol seems to have used:

1955 Buick

1956 Olds/Pontiac?

1957 Pontiac?

1967 Olds

1970 Mercury

I think the Pontiac MI police always used Pontiacs when available, as did Lansing with Olds? Any input is welcome, thanks, Todd C

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I can remember back in LA in the early 60`3that the CHP had 63-64 Olds 88`s and Catalina`s equiped with roll bars and beefed motors for the early hotrodders chase cars. A friend with a XKE cpe found out doing 140+ and the Olds pulled up by him and pointed him to pull over. :mad:Ticket for 140 in a 60 zone.

I also owned a 62 Merc 2dr post Monterey with a 406V8 with 3 speed over dr.on column. It came out of Oregon all factory equipped with rubber mats for carpets no ps or pb or radio and hd suspension, would wind 110mph in 2nd gear.

The Wa state patrol had some of the early 67-68 Shelby fastbacks Mustangs in dark blue for chase cars. I seen them at headquarters in Olympia and on the freeway with WSP markings

Gary

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It sounds as if the NYPD had some Pontiac connection in the 1970s, and it sounds as if they put a little push on around 1977, possibly resulting in the corporate edict. Remember, Jackie Gleason even had a 1977 Pontiac police car in Smokey and the Bandit.

1977 was about it for dedicated police packages from Pontiac, with the Smokey & the Bandit car being one of the very last. See: Pontiac Police Cars And Taxis - High Performance Pontiac .

However that didn't stop some jurisdictions from thinking they could save money by buying standard service cars and converting them. Pittsburgh had an entire fleet of fwd Bonneville police cars throughout the late 1980s. My uncle was a police sergeant with them at the time, and according to him they all HATED those cars. Apparently any given car was lucky to last 6 months or 20K miles before the transmission would give out, and it was very common for cops to report for their shift and not have any wheels to patrol with.

But it looked like they were keeping taxes low, and that's all that mattered.:rolleyes:

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Thanks Gary, I had not heard of the Pontiacs, but a few years ago I read an article that in the early 60s the LAPD had their own Freeway Patrol division that used it's own batch of hot Oldsmobiles, I bet that is what you saw.

Dave, that article is the one that I read too and very good. And your comments are spot on about using regular production cars in police use, it is a very bad idea. In fact this idea was prominent in the Pontiac article.

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I can remember back in LA in the early 60`3that the CHP had 63-64 Olds 88`s

Yes. Let's not forget that the Olds 442 started out as the B09 police package. There were actually nine (or 11, depending on the source) four door 442s built in 1964. A friend of mine in the SoCal chapter of the OCA worked in the L.A. police motor pool in the 1960s and distinctly remembers at least one 1966 Olds F85 police car with the L69 Tri-Carb package.

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Back around 1966, the New Jersey State Police used Chrysler New Yorkers. I don't know how stock they were, but they did have New Yorker badging.

In the late seventies, NJ State Police used Olds 88's.

And of course, there are the famous California Highway Patrol 1955 Buicks, which I believe were a special model made only for the CHP.

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In 1957 The New Jersey State Police used the big Chrysler New Yorkers with the 392 ci HEMI. These cars would FLY on the then-relatively-new NJ Turnpike (there was very little traffic in those days).

Since your speed could supposedly be timed by your entry/exit time-stamp, some folks (NOT ME, ha-ha) would see how fast their car could go, and then sit in the rest-area for awhile to burn-off time to not arouse suspicion - KIDS !!

Those Chrysler Hemi Trooper Cars on the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway would really MOVE!!!

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In the 1970's I lived in a small town in North Alabama. A civic-minded elderly lady regularly donated the police cars to the city. The mayor, a good friend of hers, just "happened" to own the Buick dealership. Thus we had Buick police cars, and naturally the mayor selected top-of-the-line models. Many people were surprised to be pulled over by officers in a powder blue Electra 225 Limited 4-door hardtop with a white vinyl top, loaded with power windows, leather and the works. The dog catcher had an AMC Pacer -- the mayor also owned the AMC franchise.

As a courtesy the mayor had police officers drive the lady to her doctor appointments. When someone complained about that special treatment the lady was outraged and the free police cars came to an abrupt end.

Such is small-town life.

Don

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My understanding is the famous CHP Buicks were a special order just for the CHP, with a mix of Special and Century items, I am sure Buick fans can confirm.

Ahh, yes...... I have some of those Highway Patrol videos with B. Crawford. They were the Century model 68. I believe Buick only built 270 of them in '55, exclusively for the California Highway Patrol.

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Well, if you believe what you see (saw) on television, Broderick Crawford drove a mid-50's Olds cop car on "Highway Patrol.

OK, here's the run down on Highway Patrol..........

they used:

1954/55 Oldsmobiles

1955 Buicks/Mercurys/Fords

1956 Oldsmobiles/Mercurys......possibly Buick (I'm not sure)

1957 Buick/Mercurys/Dodges

1958 Dodges/Buicks

1959 Dodges

I believe 1959 was the end of the series.

Edited by Skyking
found 2 more (see edit history)
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I was a police officer from 1968 to 2001. I was with the Chesapeake, VA (Norfolk metro area) Police dept and we used some B-O-P cars in the late 70's and 1980. We had a batch of six 1978 Catalina patrol cars. They were excellent cars. We then had sixteen 1979 LeMans patrol cars which did not hold up well at all. We then had twenty two Buick Lawman patrol cars. They were good cars. We had a test batch of five 1980 Oldsmobile 88 cars with diesel engines. They rode nice but had a top speed of 65 MPH. Because they were so slow they were given to staff people until they wore out and were surplussed out of the fleet. We also used some 78 Lemans and 80 Pheonix cars for Detectives. I don't think they were any kind of "police option" cars, just different colored cars off a dealers lot to use for unmarked and undercover work.

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Guest my3buicks

here are a couple shots - I know there is a shot out there of a couple 72 LeSabre police cars when new, can't put my finger on them.

post-30591-143138840361_thumb.jpg

post-30591-143138840364_thumb.jpg

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1977 was about it for dedicated police packages from Pontiac, with the Smokey & the Bandit car being one of the very last. See: Pontiac Police Cars And Taxis - High Performance Pontiac .

However that didn't stop some jurisdictions from thinking they could save money by buying standard service cars and converting them. Pittsburgh had an entire fleet of fwd Bonneville police cars throughout the late 1980s. My uncle was a police sergeant with them at the time, and according to him they all HATED those cars. Apparently any given car was lucky to last 6 months or 20K miles before the transmission would give out, and it was very common for cops to report for their shift and not have any wheels to patrol with.

But it looked like they were keeping taxes low, and that's all that mattered.:rolleyes:

I'm glad this thread came back up. I was recently reading a thread ( Olds and Pontiac Police Cars found during a google search) on the GM Inside News site. I was reminded that at this time the Pittsburgh Police also used Oldsmobile 88s as police cars, to the same effect. An internet search for a picture of either one was fruitless. They are conspicuously absent.

It was during this time (1988-1992) that I was the hazardous waste inspector for the PA Dept. of Environmental Resources for the City of Pittsburgh area, and twice inspected the City Maintenance Garage for these cars. It was amazing to see these things practically stacked around like cord wood waiting for parts.

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As a retired Nassau Co. PD P.O. on Long Island, the fleets were replenished as needed ( not all at once) based on mileage and cost of repair. In 1969 we ordered Chevy Biscaynes. In 1970 Ford Galaxies w/ 390s. That stopped when cops were putting 'em around trees. In 1971 to 73 Fury Is. In 1974 Pontiac Lemans. For a few years Plymouth Satellites, until 1980 Dodge Diplomats( Aspen clone) then pretty much Ford Crown Vics until I left in the early 90s. Since then I see mostly Impalas. Most Police depts. avoided front wheel drive due to the cost of maintaining and repair. No choice anymore. The PD not like the Lemans'. They were very fast, but the seats deteriorated, windows had no framing and the weatherstripping fell apart. This was most anoying, because the clamshelled windows let alot of rain in, requiring officers to wear raincoats inside the car as not to get their left shoulder wet. Spark plugs had to be removed through the wheel wells with the wheels removed, time consuming. Rear compartments were smaller than the Fury or Satellites. Alot of stuff is carried back there. Basicly, the Pontiac was just not as durable as the Chrysler offering and the Department never bought any more. Nice family car, however.

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I was looking at the web that a friend of mine works at, ParkPlace Ltd in Bellevue Wa. and they have a 57 Mercury Monterray 2 dr post CHP patrol car restored by a former CHP officer with lights, siren etc for $29,950. They have pics if anyone interested at looking.

Gary:cool:

Bet he had fun with that restoration. The CHP Mercurys had highly a modified suspension, as well as a unique rear axle. Ford outsourced the modifications, which may also have included engine mods to a shop in California... may have been Bill Strope's operation since he was sponsored by Ford and developed the tri-power setup for '58 Mercury 400 hp Super Marauder Engine.

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Yes, our town used the 1960 midsized Dodge Dart as a police car.

In 1957, 58, & 59 our small town used the Ford with a police special package. In 1960 the town purchased midsized Dodge Darts with Chrysler's police package.

In 1960 I worked at the local pharmacy delivering prescriptions in their 1956 Chevy 150 2dr that had a factory 1957 283 4 barrel and manual shift. During this time there were no speed limits in Iowa and the pharmacist had a real led foot.

Each year the pharmacist raced his his Chevy against the Ford Police cars and each year they could not pass him. In 1960, they were able to pass him with the Dodge. I never knew what engine the Dodge had but it would fly.

Our town had 12 or 14 cops and the pharmacist went to school with half of them. I can assure you that the chevy would really run and no 17 year old should have ever driven it.

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Around 1965, I saw my first 'surplus auction' police car at a gas station on Long Island. It was a two-door '61 Ford ex-Nassau County squad car, dark blue on the bottom with an orange roof. I was only 11 years old at the time, but it sparked an interest in surplus auctions that is still with me today. I've had lots of former squad cars over the years!

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On the Allpar has Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, and Jeep car, minivan, and truck information website, there are some archived stories by "Curtis Redgap" on Chrysler Corp's police cars ("Squads", as they call them). His family was connected with a Chrysler dealer back then and had lots of interesting stories of how things were in the 1950s. Plus how good the Chrysler metallic "police brakes" were when they first came out. Lots of neat stuff! Good reading!

In the two book on Chrysler police cars, the last one gets into the front wheel drive era of Chrysler. No official USA-spec police cars, but that didn't mean there was not some research going on in that area. In one of the last chapters of that particular book, it talks about a "prototype" fwd Dodge Daytona fwd turbo police car. When it was delivered to the particular police dept "for evaluation", everybody kind of sneered at it. FWD??? You've got to be kidding!

But the kidding stopped when, so the story goes, the Sheriff was running radar and met a speeder on a two-lane road. He instinctively hit the lights and siren as he got turned around and, again instinctively, nailed the throttle. He didn't stop to realize just what he was in. By that time, he looked down and he was running well past 120mph with no problems and still gaining. He smiled and just kept on going. He noted that when the younger driver saw that he'd been caught AND pulled over by a "turbo twinkie Mopar", it really made an impression on him. After that, the Sheriff had to keep the keys in his pocket.

This was the same-body fwd Daytona that was raced in IROC, where the drivers found they could race "door handle to door handle" with no problems, due to the car's very good aerodynamics.

Chrysler never did any official police packages until the LX cars came out, but that didn't stop police depts which had always used Chrysler products from buying Plymouths and Dodges and outfitting them for police work.

One day I was watching a cops/robbers show on UniVision (or similar), which was shot in Mexico. ALL of the police were driving Dodge K-cars. Black and white paint, wide wheels and hubcaps. Even some Ramchargers, too! Looked kind of neat!

NTX5467

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Hey Todd, since most have strayed from BOP, I will tell you that in L.A. county beach areas all the little cities (police & Fire) started using Chevy Suburban's, and Tahoe when the RWD cars went away.

Don

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