Experiences with Mopar Squads

Christopher J. Fairfield, service mechanic

Standard Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge squad equipment

Police cars always came with certified (more accurate) speedometers, aftermarket oil pressure gauges, and engine oil coolers as well as the wide steel wheels with the cooling slots for improved braking. The dog dish wheel covers also had cooling holes in them. I think the wheels and covers were never available to the public, although,I have both on my Ramcharger (working for a dealer has some advantages!) Brake rotors also had cooling holes.

Dodge police car experiences

The very first police car I ever worked on was a '75 Coronet with a 440/4bbl and Lean Burn computer. Lean Burn was actually introduced to the public in the '76 model year but CC used police/taxi/fleet cars as guinea pigs. If the new idea worked out it was available to the general public the following year. This particular car also had a label under the hood stating "This car is specially equipped for high speed handling. It has high performance springs,shocks,extra anti-sway bars as well as heavy duty engine and transmission and braking systems."

The dealer I worked for back in the '80s did a lot of police car work,mostly for a nearby Trooper barrack. I did the engine and electrical work,another guy did the trannys and a third did the rears. I was driving to work on morning and saw a trooper stuck in the mud trying his best to free the bogged Diplomat. He had tried to cross the meridian and didn't make it. The thoroughly mud soaked Dip arrived at the dealership 2 hours later on the back of a flatbed. The engine and transmission were completely destroyed and had be replaced.

About the same time another trooper car was towed in with a severe overheating problem. It had blown a head gasket whereupon antifreeze was spraying into the engine oil creating a liquid that ate up the engine bearings and the poor 360 was knocking and wheezing badly. The upper radiator hose also checked out under the intense heat,thereafter all the trooper cars were ordered with the special blue silicone radiator,heater and bypass hoses. Anyway the service coordinator and I thought we could save the old engine without pulling it from the car so I removed the heads and dropped the oil pan to pop out the pistons. We found melted pistons,both heads were cracked and severe crankshaft damage. The engine had to come out anyway for a complete overhaul. Now,to drop the oil pan on a V-8 Dip you need to remove part of the steering linkage for clearance,then I loosely reattached the linkage spinning the nuts down a turn or two(remember that sentence). From there,the whole job went downhill fast.

It took almost two months to get all the needed parts to reassemble the engine. Meanwhile,the Dip sat in corner of the shop collecting dust. One day another tech had the valve stick on an air powered grease gun while the nozzle was pointed at the open window of the Dip and you guessed it, the grease was all over the steering wheel, dash and front seat. The car was over 50 feet away, too. Talk about good aim! Fortunately, the interior was all vinyl and cleaned up easily (unlike the time somebody started the engine in a fancy conversion van with the engine cover off and the oil pressure switch removed). About two months went by while the Dip happily hibernated in the corner. Finally all the parts came in, including one nondescript piston from a parts store (I won't tell you what I did to make that sucker fit into the engine, remember that when some one wants to stuff aftermarket parts into your Mopar).

I finally got the engine together, and took the car out for a road test and.....it had a severe hesitation and no power. A quick diagnosis revealed the carburetor metering rods were stuck fast. They were freed up and a second road test showed the Dip to be running perfectly. With a huge sigh of relief we watched the car drive away to be put back into service.......except that when I came back from lunch the next day,I was immediately summoned to the Service Manager's office where I was informed that someone had forgotten to tighten the steering linkage nuts. I was fearing the worst but the barrack mechanic saw the loose nuts before releasing the car for service and tightened them. Tragedy averted,thank God.

There was the time when I was talking to the maintenance supervisor about the repairs needed for another severely hurt car. The supervisor angrily told me that this was the second car this trooper had burned up and would be paying for the repairs on this job. Chrysler police cars did not have the warranty that regular cars did. I believe it was only 12/12.

Like I said before, the best part was always the road test. You would go to pull out of the dealership parking lot onto the highway and all traffic would stop to give you room to enter even though they already had the right of way. About a mile from the dealership was the local BOCES and if you timed it right you could get behind the kids as they were leaving and watch all the brake lights come on and the heads swivel between the road and the rear view mirrors.

About the Dodge police cars

The Washingtonville cars were Slant Six equipped (believe it or not). The village board thought they would save gas with a smaller engine, but they actually spent more! The Slant Six always sucked gas even more so trying to move a heavy Diplomat body and the cars ended up being a major embarassment because a 3 year old on a tricycle could have easily out run them.

Police car 360s also had a problem with the #8 exhaust camshaft lobe wearing and I replaced many of those and it was always a miserable job. Also replaced a few cracked K-frames. Then there were some good times too. I was talking with a trooper who was dropping off another Dip and I saw his partner arrive in a new Crown Vic to pick him up. I remarked about how nice the Vic looked and the trooper looked me right in my eye and stated "It's a piece of s***!. The Dodge is faster and handles much better"! His partner looked at me and nodded his head in agreement.

1983 was the last year for the Carter Thermoquad 4-bbl carb. In 1984 CC started to use Rochester Quadrajet 4-bbl instead. Also, police cars had the engine computer inside the passenger compartment next to the parking brake pedal instead of bolted to the air cleaner housing.

You have very good reason to be frightened about an SUV pursuit. Last year in Tuxedo, NY a police officer was killed when he was ejected from a Ford Explorer that rolled over while giving chase. It is said that a leaf spring broke but I've driven Explorers and their handling is absolutely dangerous.

BCI is Bureau Of Criminal Investigation, a plainclothes division of the NYSPD. BCI cars were regular passenger cars straight off the assembly line. They had only one small radio under the seat, one concealed shotgun, and a portable flashing light that the officer pulled out of the glove box and stuck to the roof when the need arose. I've worked on several BCI cars, mostly the 2.2 Turbo Caravelles that I mentioned before.

A trooper's report (mtm352)

I was a career Trooper who basically worked the road on patrol. One of my favorites all around was my 1980 St Regis. It was unmarked with a 360 4-V and that good old never breaking 727 TF Trans. Car would go both fast and handle. Since I worked a major metro area (Chicago Area) I needed both acceleration and top speed. This baby did it very well. Only had the car at 135 once. I had the St Regis taken away since one of the commanders saw it and wanted it for himself. I was rewarded with a 1980 Aspen. Still a 360 4-V but it couldn't handle the big tires and beating. Plus being lighter you felt every bump around.

Before that I had a 78 Fury 400 lean burn. Not much to speak of but new radios at the time.

My first was a 1975 Gran Fury 400 4-V HP. Dual exhaust regular gas. Its downfall was it liked going straight too much. Didn't corner as well as others. Hey when you run that good, why change direction?

Had Diplomats in 1983, 1985 and 1989. When I got a Caprice it was a welcome change.

My worst car list... All FORDS

1982 LTD Variable Venturi 0 - 60 in 371/2 seconds with a tailwind.This in a PURSUIT Vehicle HAH

1996 Crown Victoria. Rotted the frame. Vehicle never hit or had any body damage. Just a POS from the beginning.

2001 Crown Victoria. Had three transmissions in its first 100 miles. Couldn't even get back from Springfield without it being towed 3 times. Then it kept transmissions for 10k each time. Not that I drove like a maniac, but all my Chrysler Squads I never blew a transmission or engine. Brakes lasted 30-40 k before replacement and this was way before ceramic core pads.

1974 Plymouth Satellite (by Harold Thorne)

1974 Satellite pursuit vehicle

I am a retired police officer and I am sending you several pictures of my 1974 Plymouth Satellite police package car. This is an actual police unit that was bought new by the City of Lawton (Oklahoma) and later sold at auction in the early 1980s. The vehicle was of course stripped of all emergency equipment at the time of the auction. The car was later restored (late 1980s) and eventually re-equipped with all emergency equipment of the era (relating to Lawton PD).  All of the emergency equipment is in operating condition (car is fully functional). The car has a Federal "Visibar" twin beacon overhead light system, a Decatur radar with outside window mounted radar head, a Motorola "Mo-Trac" four channel radio (radio transmitter/receiver unit mounted in trunk), Federal siren/PA system, radio scanner, and of course a CB radio. This car has been pictured in a police squad car publication, but I don't remember which one. I purchased this car from another retired police officer last year, who had performed the restoration. Both he and I had actually been assigned in this vehicle during its tenure with the police department. The vehicle is now regularly driven to car shows and parades.

plymouth satellite squad car

police equipment


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