A last look at a soon to be classic beast of burden.
01-31-09: Most of us get a glint of fear when we see a patrol car in our rear view mirror even when we know we are doing nothing wrong. People on the freeway hit the brakes and slow even when they aren't speeding. It's a reaction that seems to be embedded into our psyche, to recoil at the sight of automotive authority. If you're a gear head that likes to put the pedal to the metal you have the visual signature of each kind of police cruiser that exists stored in your mind's eye.
The most prominent car of choice for Johnny Law has been the ubiquitous Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Times are a changing though. In the past couple of years, a lot of law enforcement agencies have started using alternatives like the new Dodge Charger which offers a robust standard V6 that matches Ford's 4.6 2v V8, but also offers the fire-breathing 5.7 Hemi V8 just to rub salt in the wound.
Other lawmen have taken to driving Ford Expeditions and Chevrolet Tahoes, and even Ford Explorers. Fact is that when you work on the streets every day on that thin blue line, nothing beats a big body and frame vehicle that is strong, safe and powerful. The problem is that these kind of cars are a dying breed. The production line in Canada that manufactures the Crown Victoria, Mercury Marquis, and Lincoln TownCar is slated to be shut down soon. Word out last fall was that a replacement rear-wheel drive platform has been shelved for now and Ford has announced that the new 2010 Ford Taurus will be the large car flagship for Ford.
That means the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor we have all come to know and loathe is much forlorn and soon likely to exit the stage. Out of honor and respect we shall take one last look at the last traditional body-on-frame rear wheel drive American police car.
For 2009 the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor comes pretty loaded up with standard features to make life easier on our best in blue. Standard power adjustable pedals and AC keep the cabin comfortable. Front seats are upholstered with a heavy duty fabric for daily use while the rear bench seat is vinyl for easy cleaning. You know what we mean right? Floor covering is rubber and there is a power point in the trunk to power special equipment.
Mechanically, the Police Interceptor has a up rated 250hp version of the 4.6 2v V8, which has dual exhaust. Standard wheels are 17" stamped steel with 235/55/17 high performance rubber. A heavy duty suspension and frame along with oil coolers for the engine, power steering and transmission help keep the car in working order for long days of abuse. A full size spare tire is included as well. A 200 amp alternator and heavy duty wiring backbone provide extra voltage for all the accessory equipment.
There are a variety of police prep packages to choose from on the Police Interceptor depending on what type of duty the car will provide. Of the notable optional equipment available are operable rear inner door handles, a trunk-organizer and a street appearance package for the unmarked look. New this year are a set of ballistic door panels for $2400. The factory installed ballistic panels allow officers the ability to use their doors as a shield from incoming projectiles. The ballistic door panels are covert (not visible from the outside), lightweight and don’t interfere with interior space or door/window mechanisms.
A pretty expensive fire suppression option is available that helps to dowse fires caused by high rear impact collisions. Unfortunately the Crown Victoria has earned a reputation for being a fire bomb when rear ended, killing or maiming many police officers in duty in the past decade. This optional system deploys chemical retardant to suppress or reduce the spread of fire when the fuel tank ruptures.
In the event of a very high speed, high-energy rear impact, a system of crash sensors and high speed electronic processors determines that the system needs to deploy. The system delays deployment until the ABS wheel sensors indicate the wheels have slowed and the vehicle is coming to rest.
If the vehicle speed sensors have been so damaged in the accident that they are unable to command deployment, a back-up timer will deploy the system six seconds after impact. High energy nozzles spray chemical material down onto the ground and up into the body of the car where gasoline and fire would spread.
While the Crown Victoria has become a dinosaur of sorts in our modern times both mechanically and in style, law enforcement agencies will miss many of its finer qualities. It is large inside with lots of room for computers, radio equipment and firearms. They are mechanically proven and relatively inexpensive to maintain for fleets, with little changed in over a decade for parts stocks.
When the last one rolls off the line, police departments and government agencies will have one less choice. Dodge will still offer the rear-wheel drive Charger as long as they are in business. Agencies will have to choose to spend more money on larger truck based SUV's or make due with smaller unit-body constructed cars with front wheel drive. Ford has not made any announcements as to whether the new 2010 Taurus will be offered in a police package, and there are no more Mustang Police Interceptors.