The Police Package
Police Car History

The Police Package

1950 Ford Police Car
1950 Ford Police Package
2001 Ford Police Car
2001 Ford Police Interceptor

A Police Package vehicle is a vehicle built especially for law enforcement use. It is a term used generally in United States and Canada. In most cases, the vehicles are based on a civilian version of the vehicle, with additional or upgraded components and parts.

There are two main types of these vehicles:
  1- Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV)  often referred to as a "full police package"
  2- Special Service Vehicle (SSV)

What is the difference between
Police Pursuit Vehicle and Special Service Vehicle?

Police Pursuit Vehicles (PPV) are what most people think of when someone mentions a police car. These vehicles are rated by the manufacturer  for high speed pursuit and/or heavy duty use. Usually a four door sedan, crossover utility, or SUV, these vehicles are equipped with upgraded engines, heavy duty suspension, breaks, cooling systems, electrical systems, and other special items. Most of the upgrades to these vehicles are to increase durability, not performance. The manufacturer may give a special name to the vehicle such as "Police Interceptor" , "Enforcer" or  "Pursuit".

Special Service Vehicle (SSV) are vehicles equipped for light support operations or specialized duty These are often SUVs or sports cars. The vehicles are not recommended by the manufacturer for pursuit or heavy duty use. These vehicles are often used as K-9 units, traffic units, supervisor/command units, and various other support functions. Special Service vehicles are often similar to fleet only vehicles/packages that manufacturers offer to organizations who buy large number of vehicles of similar vehicles. 

Police Package vehicles are generally only available for sale as new vehicles to law enforcement and emergency service agencies. Fire, EMS and other agencies will often use these vehicles. The vehicles come from the manufacturer usually without items such as radios, lightbars, and graphics. It most cases, these items are added later by another company, referred to as an up-fitter. Police markings may be added by a graphics company. A larger police agency may have it's own fleet service department who installs the equipment and graphics.

The first police package became available in 1950, made by Ford. Chevy made their first Police Package in 1955, Dodge in 1956, and Plymouth in 1957. Before then police departments used regular retail cars, buying the best vehicle within their budget. (See the Police Car History below for more details). With the 1950 model, Ford made available a series of commonly ordered, heavy duty, factory options and components into one ordering package, called the "Police Package". Many of these options and components had been previously available as "police items" that were ordered individually. The new Police Package on these 1950 Fords made the cars more durable and more reliable than a regular 1950 Ford. It did not increase the engine performance. In fact, many Police Package cars had small 6 cylinder engine. These cars were often in big cites as urban patrol cars, or by small towns. In these conditions high speed was not as important as fuel economy, durability and vehicle cost.

In Europe and Asia, many automakers offer special version of their vehicles for police forces. Ford, Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, General Motors (Vauxhal, Holden and Opel), Volkswagen, Fiat and other manufactors vehicles are used by police. In the Middle East, it is common to see police forces using vehicles imported from United States, Austrailia, Japan, and Europe.

Police Car History

1957 Pontiac

1959 Ford

1967 Plymouth Fury

1967 Plymouth

1973 Ford

1977 Dodge Royal Monaco

Dodge Dilpomat

1994 Chevrolet Caprice

2013 Ford Police Interceptor

Bicycles were the first vehicles that police used for transportation, (if you don't count horseback or the horse drawn wagons). Motorcycles began to see usage in the early 1900's. In fact by 1909, many cities and state police agencies had motorcycles long before they had cars for patrol work. Automobiles were still very expensive in the early 1900's. The first motor driven vehicles with 4 wheels were trucks with enclosed bed used for transporting police officers and criminals, also known as paddy wagons. These were much like the earlier horse drawn versions. The Ford Model T was introduced in 1909, and shortly thereafter began to become popular with police agencies, as well as the general public. The 1913 to 1927 Ford Model T's were power by a 20 hp, 177ci, flathead four cylinder engine. By the 1920's police departments all over the US were on patrol in automobiles. Most of these cars were 4 cylinder cars. Chevrolet introduced its over-head valve 6 cylinder engine in 1929, and Ford introduced its famous flathead V-8 in 1932, winning many police officer fans. Most police departments bought the best car they could afford. This usually meant a car from the lower priced three automakers: Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth.

By the 1950's, automakers made the police packages available on several of their models. In the 1960's even a greater variety of models were available. In the mid 1970's, smaller cars were being used as police cars. The first compact to have wide spread use, was the 1975-1978 Chevrolet Nova Police Package. Up till then, most car cars were full sized or mid sized cars. The late 70's was also the end of the big block engined police cars. As the cars and their engines got smaller, the performance went way down. By 1979 the big engines were gone, and police departments that wanted a car that could keep up with the bad guys,  the full sized police cars of the time would not due. Large cars like the Dodge St Regis, Chevrolet Impala, and Ford LTD didn't have the power that the cars they replaced. Smaller police cars like the Chevy Malibu, Dodge Aspen, Plymouth Volare, and Ford Fairmont became the choice for some departments looking for something with a bit of performance. In the 80's front drive cars were beginning to show up, and Chevy and Chrysler made police special service packages for some models. Chrysler had the K-car police models from 1982-1987, and Chevy had the Celebrity police special service package from 1984-1986. These were made for light duty police work only. The first "real" police package front drive car was the 1990 Ford Taurus Police Package.  While it had very good performance, many departments had problems with these Fords. It did get police officers ready to accept the front drive police cars that would come after it, the 1995-1999 Chevrolet Lumina and 2000 and after Chevrolet Impala. The Lumina first was available with a police special service package in 1992. For 1993 Chevy made a both a police special service package and a full Police Package for the Lumina. The Lumina didn't gain much usage with police departments until it was redesigned in 1995. After 1996, Ford was the only automaker that made full sized, rear drive, V-8 police car. The 2000 and later Chevy Impala is seeing much wider use than any front drive police car has ever had. Ford has had a few complaints from police departments about the gas tank on Police Package Crown Victoria in the late 90's, causing some police departments to choose the font drive, V-6 Impala over the rear drive V-8 Ford.

The 1980's and 1990's saw the number different police package cars available shrink drastically. While back in the 1970's, police departments would have dozens of police package cars to choose from, by the mid to late 80's the choice was down to the Dodge Diplomat (and identical Plymouth Gran Fury) , Chevrolet Caprice, and Ford LTD Crown Victoria. 1989 was the last year for the Dodge and Plymouth police cars, leaving just Ford and Chevy. The Ford Taurus Police Package did come out in 1990 and Chevy Lumina Police Package in 1993, but most departments were not ready for a front drive, V-6 police car yet. Chevrolet stopped making the rear drive Caprice in 1996, leaving only Ford with a rear drive car. Chevy did come out with a new rear drive, V-8 Police Package in 1997, with the Tahoe Police Package. But that was a truck, and not what most police departments were looking for at the time. The Chevy Tahoe Police Package was made from 1997-1999, a was a true police car with all the heavy duty and performance components. It was only available in 2wd, and was an inch lower, had a different grill, and was much faster than a regular Tahoe. While many Police Package Tahoes did see use, most departments went with Ford Crown Victorias for patrol cars. For 2000 Chevrolet replaced the Lumina with the all new Impala. DaimlerChrysler introduced a police package for its front drive Dodge Intrepid for 2002. Several departments have been using non-police package Intrepid for years, and most were satisfied with them. Police officers now seem ready for front drive police cars, now that the performance of cars like the police Impala and Intrepid closely match that of the full sized, rear drive Ford.

In 2004 Dodge stopped making the Intrepid, leaving just the Ford Crowns Victoria, Chevrolet Impala, and Chevrolet Tahoe as the only choices for police departments. For 2006 Dodge returned to the police car market, with exactly what police departments were asking for, rear-drive cars. The Dodge Magnum station wagon and Dodge Charger sedan were made available with police packages. Both cars are rear drive, with either a high performance HEMI V-8 or a good performing, good fuel economy V-6. The Charger and Magnum are the most advanced police cars ever, with the latest high performance HEMI V-8 from Chrysler, stability control, ABS, and modern but aggressive styling. Ford continued to make the Crown Victoria, with no major body changes from 1998 to 2011. In 2005 Chevrolet brought back the 2 wheel drive police package for the Tahoe, calling it the Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle or Tahoe PPV for short. Chevrolet had made a special service package of the 4 wheel drive Tahoe since 2001.

General Motors introduced a new vehicle to the American police car market for the 2011 model year with the Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 PPV. Based on the Holden Caprice, this full sized, rear drive, V-8 or V-6 sedan is built by GM's Australian division Holden. GM does not offer a civilian version of the Caprice in North America.

The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor continued to be the most used vehicle by police departments up until its end of production for the 2011 model year. Ford introduced two new vehicles for the police car market in 2012, as early 2013 models. The Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, based on the Ford Taurus, and the Ford Police Interceptor Utility, based on the Ford Explorer. The new modern Ford police vehicles ride on the same platform, and share many components. Both Fords are available with front or all wheel drive and V-6 engines.

See FAQ section for more police car info.