Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cop wheels

A few years ago a retired Gogebic County (Michigan) deputy sheriff who is a fan of the Steve Martinez mysteries transformed a photo of a Gogebic County Crown Victoria into a Porcupine County vehicle -- and threw in a fanciful courthouse/cop shop as well. (Click for more detail.)

Every conscientious mystery author has to keep up with the latest developments in police cars as well as weaponry, and I'm no different.

The other day I noticed a new Dodge Charger with a rooftop blue-light rack and a big police star outside the sheriff's department of Ontonagon County, prototype of my Porcupine County. This poked me into refreshing my knowledge about cop cars, which hasn't been very extensive.

In the first three novels in the Steve Martinez series, the deputies drive mostly crapped-out Ford Crown Victorias, only a couple of which are genuine Police Interceptors, the special model with a bigger engine, heavier suspension, stronger brakes and other he-man equipment. The others are used civilian Vics with new coats of paint and salvaged light bars. They're nowhere near as fast as Interceptors, but speeders don't necessarily know that, and besides there are other duties for police cars, such as carrying deputies to crime scenes or delivering summonses.

The Porcupine County sheriff's department also owns a badly corroded Chevy Blazer for off-highway use (I also noticed at the Ontonagon County department that its own Blazer is rusted through at the rear wheel wells).

In the fourth novel, now in progress, the Porky cops need new wheels. What to get them? More Chargers or more Crown Vics? Or maybe SUVs of one make or another? I consulted my favorite source, the Internet.

The best hit was at the popular Its most recent blogpost about the State of Michigan's testing of police cars was from 2007, but it is still useful.

After considering all the information, I decided to equip my Porky Patrolmen with new Crown Vic Police Interceptors rather than Chargers. Chargers do have more charge on the highway, but much less room in the trunk, and rural cops have to carry all sorts of equipment to get people out of trouble, such as chainsaws and winches and rescue tools. Besides, I suspect Fords also have the edge in durability over Chrysler products, and Porcupine County needs to stretch every buck.

What I would like to know, however, is why unmarked police cars, especially in the city, never seem to sport full wheel covers. Nothing screams "Cop car!" louder than naked wheels or little hubcaps.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to see a little history of police cars, there's an amusing website devoted to the Ten Greatest American Police Patrol Cars.


  1. Officers hate the Chargers. Evanston has been trying two of them - I am not sure they have figured out how to get two people and the computer in the front yet. They have much less room the the Fords. Michigan has Chevy (I think) SUVs as well as the Crown Vics. (Don't know whey they stay with the one "gumball" on top.....). Chrysler for a while was making a major push to replace suppliment Fords. Since Chevy has drop the Caprice, they made the Fords almost a single source.

    Nowadays, any Crown Vic screams "police" since they are only available for fleet sales. Some of the Evanston units now have the full wheel covers.

    The offer to introduce you up close and personal to a squad car and all the tricks still stands whenever you are "down here". The new LED light bars can blind you. Ev also has a "T3" Segway like vehiche and Harleys.

  2. I believe the Michigan State Police use Chevy Tahoe SUVs as well as Vics.

    Taxi companies use Vics too. "Is that a copper or a cabbie, Maw?" says Uncle Fred when a Vic hoves into view.

  3. Don't forget the Grand Marquis, the Mercury sibling of the Crown Vic.

    Or the Lincoln Town Car, which shares the same platform though not the sheet metal.

  4. And last time I was in Vail, CO, the police there were driving Saabs. Go figure.

  5. In England Jaguar has just brought out a police car. Zero to 60 in 5.9 seconds, 36 mph. But it costs $56,000.

    I hear tell that some Italian town has a Lamborghini cop cruiser but I'm not sure I believe it.

  6. I meant that Jag is spozed to get 36 mpg, not mph. Jeez.

  7. Many taxi Crown Vics are ex-police cars repainted. Not sure that cab companys ever buy new. And then there are the rental fleets.

    State police tend to be creative about fast cars to catch (up with) you. I believe IL has an unmarked Mustang with the Chicago Metro expressway system. And there are stories about exotics that are drug forfiture cars being used.