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Oldtimer | 28.03.2014 - 17:17

From Model T to Interceptor: The Evolution of American Law Enforcement Cars

The American police car, as we know it, has undergone a lot of change to become the iconic powerhouse vehicle it is today.

Law enforcement agents typically have the newest, most powerful, best technology there is. Their vehicles are no exceptions, often made with extra features and performance-enhancing mechanisms not available on the consumer market. The police car, however, and the technology it once contained, comes from extremely humble beginnings and has undergone a lot of change to become the iconic powerhouse vehicle it is today.


First Police Squad Car

A battery-powered buggy was the initial vehicle made available to the Akron, Ohio Police Department in 1899. The rudimentary squad car came equipped with electric lights and gongs. Boasting a top speed of 16 mph, the buggy was capable of traveling a mere 30 miles before requiring recharging.


Ford Model T

A decade later, police required a vehicle that matched the now motorized cars which graced the country's roads. The Model T offered an affordable option and was designed with a 4-cylinder engine which gave it a top speed of nearly 45 mph.


Patrol Wagons

By 1919, police required a vehicle that safely and securely transported criminals. The Model T truck served this purpose. The black and white truck featured a cage-like enclosure atop the bed to act as a temporary holding cell.


Radio Cars

During the roaring 20's, wireless two-way radios entered the scene. Once installed in squad cars, the radios eliminated the need for officers to converse via street corner, telephone call boxes. The new technology also allowed officers to coordinate crime-fighting efforts by converging on a scene together.



In the 1930s, the criminals began incorporating sub-machine guns into their arsenals, which sparked a mild arms race between the criminal underworld and law enforcement. Plymouth engineered the armor-plated vehicle after the infamous Kansas City Massacre occurred and it was decided that law enforcement required extra protection.


V8 Engines

Having more than three times the power of the Model T, the Model B provided 85 horsepower. Unfortunately, the vehicles were as popular with criminals as they were with police.


Police Packages

Following the Second World War, automotive manufacturers began offering special packages to law-enforcement agencies. Ford began the project in 1950. The vehicles appeared similar to consumer counterparts, but often came equipped with a number of safety features, different paint jobs, more powerful engines and a variety of colored, flashing lights.


Diversified Vehicles

Starting in the 1990s, law-enforcement fleets continued using police cars for everyday use. However, for special situations, police departments began including SUVs and sports cars with unique service packages.


Crown Victoria and Beyond

By the late 1990s, many departments across the country turned to the Crown Victoria. The cars featured rear-wheel drive, a V8 engine and heavy-duty components. Recently, Carbon Motors in Indiana designed the E7 prototype. The super vehicles come equipped with BMW 3.0 liter turbo-diesel engines reportedly demonstrating an impressive 30 mpg fuel efficiency. The cars additionally accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds and travel at speeds of up to 155 mph.


The technology systems of police cars have also evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. Now, police vehicles come equipped with the latest in communication equipment and are monitored by advanced technology specially designed for managing fleet vehicle systems. The latest models feature everything from an array of audio/visual equipment to full service computers.






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