The Police Package

A Police Package vehicle is a vehicle built especially for law enforcement use.

The two primary types of Police Package vehicles in North America are:
1) Police Pursuit Vehicles (PPV)
2) Special Service Vehicles (SSV) / Special Service Package (SSP)

Police Package vehicles are generally only available for sale as new vehicles to law enforcement and emergency service agencies. Fire, EMS and other public safety agencies will often use these vehicles. The vehicles come from the manufacturer usually without items such as push bars, radios, light bars, 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.

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

Dodge Charger Pursuit
Police Pursuit Vehicles (PPV) are what most people think of when someone mentions a police car. These vehicles specifically 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 engine components, 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".

Ford Expedition Special Service Package

Special Service Vehicle (SSV) also may be called Special Service Package (SSP) vehicles, are equipped for non-pursuit support operations or specialized duty. These can be a pickup truck, crossover utility, SUV,  four door sedan, or sports car. The vehicles are not recommended by the manufacturer for pursuit or heavy duty use, but have heavier duty and specialized equipment for police use. These vehicles are often used as K-9 units, traffic units, supervisor/command units, off road patrol, 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. 

The History of the Police Car and the Police Package

From the early days of the motorized vehicles in the United States , police and law enforcement agencies that previously used horse drawn carts/buggies, bicycles, or foot patrols began to  use cars, trucks, and motorcycles, sparingly at first. According to historical records, the first recorded police car in the United States was in Akron, Ohio in 1899(1). It was an electric wagon custom built by the Collins Buggy Company of Akron, Ohio that featured a stretcher, a cell for prisoners, seating for 12 people electric headlights, and a warning gong (1)(2). 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 fans in police work. Most police departments bought the best car they could afford. This usually meant a standard car from the lower priced three automakers: Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth, black in color, with simple "Police" or "PD" markings. Some police departments used convertible or open top roadsters for patrol, to increase officer visibility. As vehicles advanced in technology, electronics began to be used in police vehicles. Emergency lights, sirens, and radios began to be used on police vehicles. Automobile manufacturers realized police departments needed vehicles that were slightly upgraded from what was offered to the general public. Vehicles that had heavier duty components (wheels, shocks, body welds, cooling systems, engine mounts, connectors, etc), extra holes and  higher capacity electronic components for wires hooking up radios, lights, sirens and other equipment, and other assorted vehicle upgrades. Many of these options and components had been available as "police items" that were ordered individually. With the 1950 model, Ford made available the series of commonly ordered, heavy duty, factory options and components into one ordering package, calling it a "Police Package"(3) . In 1951 Ford first used the name "Interceptor" for the optional 110 hp flathead V8 engine in it's Police Package car.(3) .Chevrolet followed in 1955 with their Police Package on the all new 1955 Chevrolets with an also new small block V8. Initially available for 1955 with a long lead time, it was much more readily available the next model year 1956. General Motors family member Buick also made police package vehicles starting in 1955,  with the Model 68 Century. Buick built 270 of these two-door sedans especially for the California Highway Patrol, 135 with manual transmissions and 135 with automatics. The body was from the lightweight Special, the lowest cost Buick, but  the engine was the 322-cubic inch V8 from the more upscale Century model rated at 236 horsepower, with brakes from the top of the line Roadmaster (6)(7).
 Dodge offered it's first Police Package on the 1956 Dodge Coronet. (5). Studebaker followed with the 1956 Studebaker Champion, available with a Police Package. (5). For 1956, Dodge had the most success, and the best performance of the 3 Police Package cars available that year. Plymouth, who had a history of making fleet cars for taxi use, entered into the Police Package market in 1957. Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Mercury were also in the Police Package market, in lesser quantities than the big 4 low cost leaders: Chevrolet, Dodge, Plymouth, and Ford.

1969 Dodge Polora

1977 Chevrolet Nova 9C1

1982 Ford Mustang SSP

In the 1960's even a greater variety of models were available, from mid-sized to full-sized cars. 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. 1978 would be the last year for Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile police cars. General Motors, in an effort to same money, and keep divisions from competing for the same market share, GM made Chevrolet the only division to market police package cars after 1978. 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 speeders. 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 Chevrolet Nova, Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Aspen, Plymouth Volare, and Ford Fairmont became the choice for some departments looking for something with a bit of performance and decent gas mileage. Another result of the reduced performance of the larger police cars, was the introduction of the Special Service Ford Mustang for police work. In the late 1970's the California Highway Patrol noticed that the high performance, big-block Dodge police cars were no longer going to be available after 1978. So they started a study of alternative vehicles for enforcement duties. The 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 was one of the tested vehicles. While the Camaros that were tested had mechanical issues, testing showed that a 2 door sports cars could be used successfully as traffic enforcement units.  It led the way for Ford to introduce the Mustang Special Service Package in 1982, with the CHP ordering 400 in 1982. Many other highway patrol and police agencies followed the CHP's lead through the 1980's, using Mustang SSPs for traffic enforcement and other duties. Chevrolet would not offer a Special Service Package on it's Camaro until 1991.  In the 80's front drive cars were beginning to be the norm, and Chevrolet and Chrysler made police special service packages for some front drive models. Chrysler had the K-car police models from 1982-1987, and Chevrolet 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 and heavy duty components, 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, such as 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 lawsuits from police departments and others about the gas tank on Police Package Crown Victoria in the late 90's (10), causing some police departments to choose the font drive, V-6 Impala over the rear drive V-8 Ford (11). The Police Package Crown Victoria had most of the market share of the police sales throughout the first decade of the 2000's, as it became the defacto standard for American police cars.

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 Chevrolet 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 Chevrolet 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. 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 were the most advanced police cars at the time, 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 Australian made Holden Caprice, this full sized, rear drive, V-8 or V-6 sedan was built by GM's Australian division Holden. GM did not offer a civilian version of the Caprice in North America, but did offer the related, but shorter wheelbase Chevrolet SS to retail consumers. The Caprice PPV was in production from model years 2011 to 2017. The Ford Crown Victoria 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 shared many components. Both Fords were available with front or all wheel drive and V-6 engines. These continued in production into the 2019 model year. As the Ford Taurus was discontinued, the Police Interceptor Sedan it was based on was also discontinued. The replacement is the Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan, based on the Ford Fusion Hybrid. It is the first pursuit rated hybrid police car.(8). Ford introduced a new Ford Explorer, and associated Police Interceptor Utility for model year 2020, on a new platform, with all wheel drive and hybrid powerplant, the first-ever pursuit-rated hybrid police SUV  (9).  In the early 2000's, a company called Carbon Motors began development of what they called the world's first purpose built police car (12). It was to be a car built from the ground up for police use, and not based on any existing production vehicle. While there was initial interest from police agencies and investors, as well as a deal with BMW for purchase of six-cylinder diesel engines for use in the vehicles, the company never made any production vehicles, only a prototype revealed in 2008.  Carbon Motors shut down in 2013 (13).


(4)Sanow, Edwin J. "Chevrolet Police Cars." Krause Publications. 1997.
(5) Sanow, Edwin J. Encyclopeida of American Police Cars, MBI Publishing, 1999