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Inside Chrysler: the 1962 police and fleet cars

I cannot make any claim to accuracy for the materials that I have used to make these articles. In some cases, the journals go back 50 years. - Curtis Redgap

by Curtis Redgap

Dodge shied away from fleet sales in 1962, except for the police packages; still, Plymouth managed to outsell Dodge in the police fleet again in 1962, even though they were exactly the same chassis.

We all expected that Chevrolet would easily win the contest for the State Police units. The 1962 had a 409 4 barrel package that was exceptionally good at 380 horses. The Troopers could also order the twin four-barrel 409 that put out the now famous 409 horses. Chevy also had a pair of good 327 cubic inch V-8s with 250 and 300 horses. Ford's Police Interceptor was the 330 horsepower 390 with Cruise-O-Matic and a positive lock 3.50 ratio rear end.

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Dad shuddered when he thought about what he had to send off for the Troopers to evaluate. The biggest engine available in either the Plymouth or Dodge 116 inch wheelbase models was the 361 cubic inch single 4 barrel V-8.

After a week had gone by in the State Police evaluation process, the word came down. The Troops were staying with Plymouth! We couldn't believe it.

The test results were astonishing. The 1962 Savoy with the 361 4 barrel V-8, Torqueflite, positive traction 3.21 rear gears, full load of fuel, and two officers on board, leapt out to 60 miles an hour in 7.2 seconds, consistently! It poured through the quarter mile at 92 miles an hour in 15.9 seconds. Top speed was 122 miles an hour.

Chevrolet had sent a 380 horse 409 Biscayne model. It was much quicker to 60 (6.6 seconds), but it lost out in the quarter mile due to the two speed Powerglide transmission, taking 15.7 seconds at 89 miles an hour. Top speed was 124 miles an hour.

The Chevrolet was truly bad on the braking tests, despite non-organic linings. The Chevrolet bid was also some $550 more in price. The 1962 Ford Interceptor was disqualified from entering bids due to deficient brakes!

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California Highway Patrol settled for over 1,000 Chrysler Newport-based "Enforcers." Several other states also bought into the Newport Enforcer. It would be its heyday.

After the state bid, the County Sheriff submitted his request. After his bad experiences with the 1961 Fords, he returned to Plymouth, copying the State Police bid. Each one went over the curb at $1,982 bid price.

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Then came my Uncle with his process for the city. However, by now, Dodge which was smarting from its lack of police car business made a special pitch to the dealers. Whatever Plymouth bid, they would take that price less 10%! It was another sneak attack on the Plymouth brand, but it worked. The city took the Dodge offer.

In State Bid specs, the city got 100 Dodge Pursuits at $1,784 per unit. It was the first Dodge cars the city ever had. Their experiences were as good as with the Plymouth. The cop cars were tough, reliable, fast, and economical for the times. Just seems a shame that we had two divisions of the same company creating their own competition. It was not good for either of them.

I recall full well the amount of sarcasm that greeted the city cops with their Dodges. The Sheriff and the Troopers had Plymouths, and style wise, the Plymouth was definitely better than the Dodge. Of course, once inside, they both looked the same!

One area worth mentioning for 1962 were the fleet cars for Plymouth and Dodge. Most of the taxi specials were made by Plymouth. They were rugged, reliable, economical, and comfortable. In an economy effort, the Valiant/Lancer sized 170 cubic inch six was offered across the board, including police units, for the last time. The torsion bar suspension was unbeatable in any application. Dodge and Plymouth both had fleet specials for the taxi market. Plymouth was still far and away the best seller, with its $70 reduction per every five cars purchased. They still had the $70 reduction per unit if you bought 5 or more. Dodge had not quite figured that part out yet.

Personal notes

Summer time arrived and Dad began a flurry of trips to coincide with the pending arrivals of the 1963 models. He had planned on spending a week over in St. Louis, which always seemed to be the hot spot for selling Plymouths. He left on a Sunday evening. It was late Tuesday evening when he called my Mom and asked her to pick him up at the airport. We were all puzzled. When he arrived home, he was grim. He couldn't explain it, except that he felt something was wrong. He was right.

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On June 15, 1962, my grandpa drove over to his brother in law's house in Tampa. Great Uncle Frank was sort of a relief valve when grandpa couldn't take too much more of grandma. The two talked awhile, then Uncle Frank went out to make some coffee for the both of them. It was 9:30 in the morning. Uncle Frank heard grandpa make a big sigh. It was grandpa's last sound.

When Uncle Frank went back to his living room, grandpa was dead. He was 75 years old, and in good health. Since it was an unattended death, an autopsy had to be performed. He had experienced a brain aneurysm. No pain. He just left us.

As you can imagine, it was hectic and chaotic. Grandma, not very good to begin with, was just lost. She determined to stay with her brother in Florida; secretly, we were all relieved. She was not a nice person. My dad said later that grandpa died in self defense.

Dad was not the same after losing his father. I never realized how much of a partner they had been to one another. I missed Grandpa a great deal; he was the sort of buffer between my Dad and I. Grandpa was the sort of guy that would have shrugged his shoulders if I dented a fender on a car. His comment would have been, "At least it was my grandson's doing, he admitted it and I got to see that." My Dad would have just been upset, because he thought I should be perfect, and it should never have happened to his son.

After we got back, Dad withdrew from quite a few activities. Even though Dad had run the dealership since mid-1947 with no interference from grandpa, he was there and Dad could reach out for him. Now that bastion of strength was gone. Dad assigned many of his jobs to the General Manager and stopped going all over the country for meetings, letting the manager go in his stead, and even began to turn away phone calls from some of the big shots at Chrysler.

Grandpa's last will contained no surprises. Grandma was set for the rest of her life with annuities. Dad got the dealership. The other siblings were well looked after. He left me his 1960 DeSoto, big, bad, blue, and beautiful. I couldn't take it. I just couldn't do it. Finally, I made a deal with my Uncle Chet in Ormond Beach. It would make a great museum piece, with about 5,000 miles on it. I don't know what happened to that car after Uncle Chet got it. He never said, and I never asked.

Other parts of this series

More by Curtis Redgap:

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