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There’s something uniquely badass about seeing vintage cop cars in their natural habitat

There’s something uniquely badass about seeing vintage cop cars in their natural habitat

I don’t know what it is, but I have a serious thing for vintage photos of cop cars in action. I get some special thrill seeing cars you normally see in car shows going about their daily business in their professional livery. Maybe it’s because I had so many of them in the rear view mirror over the years, I never got a good look at them in the daylight. Whatever the reason, it’s awesome to see how police cars changed over the years, from just a black sedan with a star on the door to purpose-built machines with some of the best equipment money could buy:


Ford_Model_B_Police_Cars Packard St. Louis

Apparently, in 1923 or 1924, the city of St. Louis, Missouri must’ve had a few extra bucks in the municipal fund and managed to swing a Packard 2-43 Seven Passenger Touring. That’s like the Chicago PD going out to buy a Bentley today.  Equipment included a red light, a spot lamp and a giant bell that looks like it came off a steam ship.



These Ford Model B Police Cars were from Dagenham, England, and were apparently amongst the last Model Bs to roll off the line.


1946 Ford Boston PD

This 1946 Ford cruiser is obviously from the city of Boston. You get a good idea of the kind of specialized equipment police departments had in the 1940s, which mostly consisted of a bucket of white paint and a guy that could hand-letter words on the side of the car.

Tracy Police Station 1950

This photo comes from Tracy, California, a city in San Joaquin County near Stockton. It shows the Hall of Justice in about 1950, with a 1950 Ford, a 1947-ish Dodge, and two motor patrol officers and their Indian steeds. At the time, Indian was churning out way more municipal motorcycles than Harley-Davidson was, and the Chief was the preferred model for law enforcement.


Ohio State Patrol

This 1957 Chevrolet 150 two-door sedan was in use by the Ohio State Patrol, and looks awesome in jet black with poverty caps. There’s something in place of the hood bird on this one. It looks almost like the “hailer” that the Michigan State Police cars are required to display, but maybe someone either from Ohio or with better eyes can figure that out.

Ptl. Arthur Rousseau with new police car 4-20-1959

Love the look of this brand-new 1959 Chevy Biscayne highway interceptor, too, chasing down speeders in Freeport, New York.


Brighton NY Ford

Check out this 1960 Ford Galaxie out of Brighton, New York. The 1960 and 1961 Galaxie bodystyle was the coolest. You occasionally see these in sedan form like this one, and rarely in the two-door hardtop version used as pursuit cars.

Hudson Village Wagon

The police station wagon is something you just don’t see anymore. You didn’t see them much in the 1960s and 1970s, either, and you certainly didn’t see them like this Pontiac Laurentian — analogous to our Bonneville — used in by the Hudson Village Police Department in Quebec.


Noval Police

Things got weird in the mid-1970s, when police departments started downsizing to Darts and Novas. Also worth noting that this officer was afraid he was going to get his head bashed in by the troublemaker in the baseball cap. It’s also when you started to see bubblegum machine emergency beacons give way to enormous light bars.

Nova Police Duluth

As goofy as they look, we’ve heard that these Nova 9C1 cars were actually pretty prized by a lot of cops who drove them. They featured a relatively unrestricted 350 with a four-barrel, a 3.08 axle, F41 suspension, a padded Camaro-style steering wheel, a rear anti-roll bar, a 120mph speedo and heavy duty brakes with semi-metallic linings. This example was on duty in Duluth, Minnesota.

Bluesmobile Brochure

Then, of course, there was everyone’s favorite 1970s cop car, the 1974 Plymouth Fury. We’ll let you look for Bluesmobile photos and use this awesome brochure cover instead, showing what these cars looked like before hitting the Mount Prospect Police Auction.


St Regis Brochure

For the most part, the 1980s were when the 9C1 Caprices and P71 Crown Vics became the ubiquitous police cars in the United States, but there were a few exceptions. The major one was the R-Body Dodge St. Regis, which is still one of the coolest cop cars ever.

St Regis CHP

We’ve seen 1981 St. Regii cop cars with the headlight covers and without. We’re pretty sure the St. Regis was the last car available with glass headlight covers.



Image Source: glenn-snapshots.blogspot.com, bluesmobile.net, TheOldMotor.com, 57rustbucket.com, oldbike.eu, ny-freeport.civicplus.com, Town of Brighton, NY,

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11 thoughts on “There’s something uniquely badass about seeing vintage cop cars in their natural habitat

  1. Piston Pete

    In 1994 I became the 2nd owner of a civilian owned 1978 Nova with the cop package painted Air Force blue. I had been an assistant crew chief on B-52s from May 73 – Nov. 75 at Kincheloe AFB MI. and these were the cars the flightline officers drove. This one just happened to fall into the hands of a family of educators and intellectuals connected to Butler University here in Indy.
    I saw the ad on a Saturday morning and raced from the west side to the east side to buy this car before the Speedrome guys snapped it up. Perfect platform for the stock class at the venerable 1/5 mile and the reason there are almost no late 60s-70s Novas on the streets of Indy. Anyway, I got there and was faced with a 4-door. I was disappointed but gave it a look anyway and bought it on the spot for $600. I drove it for 2 years, sold it to a co-worker for $800 plus a hoist and engine stand, then bought it back a year later for $500. I drove it for another year, then pulled the engine and sold the roller to a guy from Muncie who said he was gonna run it at Muncie Dragway. I don’t know if that ever happened, but the engine I kept was a 4-bolt that I ended running for years in a series of G-bods. It was beyond doubt the best carburated car I ever owned (yes for a daily driver, I’m now an EFI guy all the way).

  2. Dave T.

    The headlight doors on the St. Regis were plastic. All St. Regis had the covers. Most were disconnected in the open position so that if the circuitry or motor failed they would not interfere with visibility.

  3. GuitarSlinger

    Yeah … lets face it . There’s not a modicum of ‘ badass ‘ to be found when a cop pulls up in a 2013-14 Taurus .. new Charger etc Even worse when in places like Vail CO when they appear in SAAB’s and now Volvo’s

    @ Piston Pete – Anther ex cop great bargain vehicle to be found back in the day were used Harley’s . Had an FXRP [ customized ] that to this day I kind of regret selling despite making a pretty penny on the deal and the bike .. albeit an Ex Cop Bike .. breaking down with ‘ the Motor Company’s ‘ constant regularity

    1. Piston Pete

      Hey Slinger, funny you should mention that. I ride a 2005 FLHPI Cop Road King. Yeah, ya shoulda kept the FXRP, cool scoot.

    2. Turbo Regal

      Some of our local cops now have new LS3 powered Chevy Caprice’s (think Chevy SS or Pontiac G8 only longer wheelbase). Vanilla looking cars with hot motors.

  4. 440 6Pac

    I’ve never seen a cool looking cop car. But I’ve sure seen some badass ones. Like the 63 Savoy state patrol car that was on the side of the road when I went by it at 95. He had me in less than 2 miles.

  5. Anthony

    I can remember a 71 fury NYPD car pulling up in front of our house when my moms Torino got stolen. Big bubble gum lights on the roof.

  6. Scott Liggett

    There were some interesting cop cars left off the list.

    Both Missouri and Iowa had persuit specials throughout the years. Iowa had GTX’s 67-69.
    Don’t forget the famous ’69 Dodge Polaras made famous by the CHP.
    The later half of the 80’s, the Dodge Diplomats were king. Most had 318’s, but a few got 360’s.

  7. braktrcr

    A bunch come to mind. Car 54 Where are you 61 plymouth The mid 50’s Nash were used as Cop cars quite a bit. I don’t remember seeing Rambler Cop Cars, but late 60’s early 70’s AMC Cop Cars were feared, with their 401’s I know Wisconsin used them a bunch, as they should, being their home state.

  8. Jeff Reimus

    I just bought a 71 Pontiac Catalina Freeway Enforcer that originally was the Supervisors car in Chambersburg PA. I am leaving tomarrow to pick it up. less than 35,000 original Miles. High Performance 455. Looking forward to owning it. I will be the 2nd owner after it was retired from the PD.

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