The California Highway Patrol and Mopar Squads, 1957-1980
by Rex Sagle, professional pursuit / defensive driving instructor
The key bid requirements for early California Highway Patrol class A patrol vehicles (which I remember well from the time that I spent with Sgt. Bob Phillips
, who was in charge of the E.V.O.C training until the 1970s were:
- The vehicle had to reach 115 mph at the end of one mile, 125 mph at the end of two miles, and 130 mph at the end of three miles, from a standing start.
- Multiple carburation was permissible.
- The vehicle was to be operated from an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level to in excess of 200 feet below sea level with temperatures ranging from in excess of 120°F to below zero.
- The vehicle must be able to operated safely with snow chains at a speed of at least 30 mph
- The vehicle must have a minimum wheelbase of 122 inches and have four doors
- The bidder must deliver all the vehicles to the training facility in Sacramento, California.
From 1957 to 1980, Dodge was the car of choice, except for two years when competitive testing was not performed (the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 with a 425 cubic engine, and the 1970 Mercury Monterrey with a 428 cubic engine were purchased on a "low bid" basis), and in 1962, when neither Dodge nor Plymouth had a car with a long enough wheelbase.
Thus, the CHP switched to the Chrysler Enforcer in 1962, because it had a wheelbase of "at least 122 inches."
The CHP used B.F. Goodrich 6-ply bias tires, 855x15. This tire was extremely strong.
Chrysler was cooperative with the California Highway Patrol; they had to alter the wheelbase for the Dodge Polara, but did so if 1,250 vehicles were ordered, and the testing was won. The California Highway Patrol also wanted a hotter camshaft with 268° on the exhaust side, which later was used in the 440 Magnums that started in production in 1967.
In 1966, the Dodge Polaras were all equipped with the 426 cubic inch "Street Wedge" that started production in 1964 but was due to be phased out in 1967, due to the fact that the 440 Magnum would be taking its place; Dodge let the CHP have the 426 Street Wedge, which was 365 horsepower, for their Dodge Polara class A vehicles.
I personally think that Chrysler got a lot of fine research and testing from the CHP and was smart enough to take advantage of that department's research.
The 1969 Dodge Polara, a favorite of most CHP officers of that era, was the fastest four-door police car ever clocked officially, until the 2006 Dodge Charger. The 1969 Dodge Polara was clocked at 147 mph, and the 2006 Dodge Charger was officially clocked by the Michigan State Police at 150 mph.
In 1972, compression was dropped and horsepower was rated "net" rather than gross (with accessories such as the alternator on the engine), and bid requirements changed, the main difference being the fact that the vehicle must reach 125 mph and maintain that speed for 50 miles. That started to be a problem. The 1973 Dodge Polara, which was basically the same as the 1972 with a 280 SAE net horsepower rating, reached 128 mph at the end of two miles and maintained it for fifty miles without overheating. Other manufacturers could not match this; those which did reach close to that speed overheated.
When the Dodge came in from the 50 mile run, the heat gauge was still normal. Everybody commented on how unusual that was.
Sgt. Bob Phillips
' dedication to the CHP the E.V.O.C. training program and the quest for much better patrol vehicles can be felt in this information. Sgt. Phillips' undying dedication to the saving of lives of police officers still has an impact today.
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