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Restoration of a 1949 police car for the Cleveland Police Museum

Hey, all. Welcome to this installment of Police Car Collecting.

It’s sad to see another season winding down again. I hope you have your off season projects lined up to keep you busy until we’re off again in the spring. Many of the events that were held this year are going to be scheduled again for ’09 so keep tuned for info when it becomes available.

Do I have anything scheduled for this winter with my cars? Well, yes, I’m preparing to do a conversion of my ’76 Ford to represent an actual unit used by the Baltimore City PD. When I restored the ’76, I had difficulty finding an actual agency that used the car, as few used Mavericks as patrol vehicles. It was marketed to police agencies as a low cost urban policing alternative. Unfortunately for Ford, it failed to catch on. I like to call it the Edsel of copcars.

Thanks to Greg Reynolds of the Chicago PD, and fellow collector, he discovered a picture of a car like mine that served with the BCPD in the mid ‘70s. I contacted Bill Hackley of the Baltimore Police Historical Society and was given the green light to do a conversion of my car to the one that the BCPD used.  It’ll just be a matter of time now, and with some help that is being arranged, and then the tribute to the courageous officers of the BCPD will be a reality. I’ll keep you all appraised on progress once we get started.

On to other things. While we are speaking of restorations, a few of our readers suggested highlighting some specific restorations. While I did one a while back on a PSP Malibu that is now nearing completion., and there will be more in coming weeks, there is one that I do want to talk about now because it is important for several reasons.

This one is the 1949 Ford being restored for the Cleveland Police Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. The car is nearly done as we speak and will be a permanent part of this growing law enforcement historical society.

What makes this copcar doubly special is how it is being restored. It is not the common place labor of volunteers belonging to a particular historical group. It is, instead, being done by a group of dedicated students and one very dedicated instructor at the Ohio technical College in Cleveland.  This copcar restoration has sparked the drive of the automotive students at the vo-tech and Ken Kellogg, senior instructor, and even though this car isn’t their first police car, it is likely not going to be their last by a long shot.

How did this project get started? For that, we spoke to copcar collector and member of the CPD Historical Society, Greg Savernik.

copcar restoration

“A person that wished to stay anonymous for his donation had a fire truck and a police car that he wished to donate to the fire museum. Fire museum guys said - "Hey the Police museum guys would be interested in that car more than we would".... so it was, we had to get an appraisal of the car for the guy's tax records and our president, Tom Armelli (Cleveland Homicide Detective) picked up the car in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum now had its own car.”

From this stroke of good fortune, the project began in earnest.

“Within 5 minutes of when the President told me about the car, I had put together archive photos and ideas for the car to be restored. Board members of the museum didn't anticipate that the idea would move quite this fast and had their heads spinning when the "Chairman of Vehicle Collections" (me) had everything ready to go information wise at our board meeting the day after we got the car....

A fellow officer in third district has an early version 49 Ford too but we wanted it more accurate as he put it together with virtually no money and had limited resources for finding out the information that he needed to get the car done. We wanted to differentiate ours using a later '49 model car (1952-3 was the last of that logo configuration and more to it than what was in the earlier cars as seen attached).

Now to find someone to get this done!...

“Faced with the dilemma of putting the car together, we were looking for help. At one point in time, the Ohio Technical College in Cleveland Ohio had helped us out on "Mother" our old SWAT unit vehicle. Things didn't move too well in making contact at first and I kept following it up for about 2 months after we got the car donated. I ended up making a somewhat self introduction and met with Mark Brenner, the owner of the college. I was assigned to the body shop director Terry Axline to get going with this and soon to be other projects. Terry was a former police officer and held positions up to and including chief of police in a small department in Ohio. Terry was very excited to get this done and wanted to make sure that these projects would get their full attention.

The projects were decided and we got the 1949 and the 1978 Fords on the chart to be done by the time Chicagoland show was going to happen.

The '49 was brought down by Tom Armelli and me to get this going. The '78 was towed in and the parts car was brought in too.

I've attached the photo of my '78 as it came out of the shop the afternoon before heading out to Chicagoland with the campus building behind it for reference. (The green Ford in a picture above is Greg’s CPD 1978 Ford. – Ed.) As a point of reference, the school operates the largest working body shop in the country - over a football field in length and about as wide as a football field too. The main campus is over 4 city blocks in size and has another facility that is about as large that deals strictly in small motors (motorcycles, Polaris snowmobiles and such) and powered equipment. The name of that campus is "PSI" or Power Sport Institute.

Then the work started on it. It wandered for a little bit. The cars from the museum were then assigned to instructor Ken Kellogg of the school and he took three different classes of students to get going and get the cars (three of them now) to get them completed. I wasn't able to get photos of the white color being done on it unfortunately. A young lady in the class was the person that was the primary painter on the car.

The car was near completion for Chicagoland and we ended up not being able to get the transportation so we nixed the '49 and continued on with the '78 that you saw eventually at the show. Also, the instructor was not happy with the way the black was on the '49... “

The ’49 is now (October 1, 2008) nearly complete and awaiting lettering. I am personally looking forward to seeing it up close very soon.

What has made this so very special is the students at the OTC. Instructor Kellogg is being picky to which students he allows on the “squad” to do the police car restorations. I have seen the quality of their work when Greg accompanied me to Chicagoland with the green ’78. Both Mr. Kellogg and the students involved deserve more recognition than I can give them here. Anyone would be proud to own a vehicle that has been restored by these fine students and one devoted instructor.

What makes the OTC itself so different is that they embrace all of the aspects of automotive work including specialty vehicles, not just every day mechanical or body work. They have worked on race vehicles and many other categories of cars and trucks. The well rounded education these students get here will make them very desirable newcomers to the job market after they graduate.

When the ’49 rolls out of the bay for the last time, it will be the second police car to be completed this year.

There is one more in progress which is privately owned and then the next addition to the CPD Historical Society that the OTC students will be tackling is a 1959 Harley Davidson Servicar.  This will be exciting to see completed.

I’m also looking forward to touring the OTC in the foreseeable future. The facilities are supposed to without equal including a fabrication shop.

It’s time to close another column for now. Rest assured, I’ll be back soon with another notable restoration for your viewing and reading pleasure.

Until then, enjoy the last warm days we are having in this part of the country. Soon, we’ll be tucking our copcars to bed for the long winter’s hibernation, but they’ll be back strong in the spring. Are you looking forward to next year as much as I am? There’s going to be a lot of great meets to attend.

Until later, stay safe and keep saving those copcars!!

Police car shows coming up

Westmont Police Department Cruisin' Night Squad Car Night will be held on Thursday Night June 23rd, 6 to 9 p.m., in Westmont, Illinois at Burlington and Cass Ave. in Westmont, Illinois. Vintage squads are invited.

We do not have dates for these shows yet:

  • The Verona, New Jersey Cops and Rodders Classic Car Show, featuring classic police cars and hot rods, is held in June, hosted by the Verona PBA. For more info, see the Verona PBA.
  • The NYC Police Museum Show is scheduled for June. For more info and host hotel reservation info, contact Glenn Sokolofsky.
  • The Chicagoland Emergency Vehicle Show will be back and looks to be as great as ever. Dates are usually late July/early August. I post more as it comes available, but you can also go to emergencyvehicleshow.com. We covered the 2008 Chicagoland show.

If know of any emergency-vehicle related meets coming up this year, please get it to me and I’ll pass the info along here and on the forum.

Other columns

Introduction | The basics of police car collecting | Who are collectors? Why do we collect?

Emergency lighting | Sirens | Where to find retired police cars | Emergency vehicle shows | Investing in police cars

Restorations: Rules and regs for restorers | Chevy Malibu | 1949 Ford | Do-it-yourself bodywork | Do-it-yourself mechanical work

Shows: Chicagoland Emergency Vehicles Show | Aquidneck Island National Police Car Parade (2008 | 2009)

Also see the EVOOA home page and Squad Car Collecting forum thread

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