What’s the best-ever police cruiser?


1994-96 Chevrolet Caprice 9C-1 police cars. Bought a 95 white/blue detective car for a ride home from dealer car auction and kept it for 2 years. When the CHP was replacing the Chevys with Ford Crown Vics, the CHP’s with the most pull fought over the remaining Caprices; the Crown Vics electronically shut down at just a bit over 100 mph while the Caprices would do 145. 5.7 steel block LT-1, a little less horsepowered steel Corvette motor, 3.08 posi disc brake rear end, and a “law enforcement only” ECM. With some tweaks (cat-back exhaust, K&N intake, premium fuel) made this car pull 350hp and handled like a four door Corvette.The Impala SS borrowed only some of the cop cars features. Plus, nobody usually drove past you!


Not sure who told you the Crown Vic’s “shut down” after 100 mph but I can personally assure you they did not. We also had Caprices. They were reliable and spacious, and probably did have slightly better top speed than the 4.6 CV…which was around 125. But they were dimensionally bigger and heavy. They wallowed and plowed corners terribly and brakes faded much quicker. Command staff usually took them. We called them the ‘bath tubs’, and not many of us wanted drive them in anger.


Having a lot of friends in law enforcement, most preferred the Crown Vic because of its handling and braking capabilities, and a lot of them still miss them. The Crown Vic first generation (94-97) was what I was referring to because of comparing them to 94-96 Caprices before the end of their production. Second generation Crown Vics became vastly superior to their predecessors. I was in the car business for 38 years and purchased a lot of ex-government vehicles, the last Crown Vic police pkg I purchased was a 2011, and I was very impressed. The first generation Crown Vics had a horsepower rating of under 200 while the Caprices were rated at 260. Generation 1 Crown Vics had electronic cutoffs at 128 or 135 depending on their differential gear ratios, but the L.A. County Sheriffs Department in their independent testing back then couldn’t get them to barely break 120, so my “little over 100” was a little light. After reading your email, I phoned my two friends who are both retired law enforcement; one retired San Diego PD and one retired CHP. They both had experience with both cars back in the day and they both agreed that the Crown Vic was the preferred choice for local law enforcement and the Caprice was preferred by the CHP for high speed pursuit. My CHP friend confirmed my belief that most CHP officers especially the ones who patrolled the desert areas vastly preferred the Caprice and all confirmed they could push 150 mph with them. In fact, when his Caprice was due to be retired he tried to convince them to refurbish it instead of replace it but was denied. On a side note though, I don’t know if you are active or retired, but I would like to know your experience or knowledge with the Ford Explorer police package, seemingly being the newest vehicle of choice. I talked to two different CHP’s and they like them but would rather have the Crown Vics back in a high speed pursuit, not because of lack of power, but they felt safer in the sedan vs. the suv.


Well it sounds like we’re not too far apart with what your friends remember. I’m a retired city cop 1979-2015 and EVO instructor. Generally speed capability beyond ~ 80 mph in town was academic…but there were a few exceptions that I recall over the years. What we really needed was handling, braking and acceleration. IIRC the Caprices of that era, despite being over 500 lbs heavier did accelerate better than the CVs. But the weight really handicapped them after that.
SUVs were just coming on line in numbers when I left. I had assigned (take-home) CV that I preferred. I drove them only sparingly but my guys who had them were assigned were mostly positive.
Trivia now probably, but in the early 80’s my opinions of Caprice vs. CV…they were called LTD’s then, were reversed. Though a LTD probably saved my life. But that’s a story for another time.


Thanks for the commentary Jim. My friend Alan who retired as one of the watch commanders for SDPD said his favorite police vehicle was the 77-78 Chevrolet Nova because of its agility that you mentioned was mostly needed for city cops. He said the worst by far were 6 cylinder Ford Fairmonts which barely were transportation vehicles. My CHP buddy said the most fun but most dangerous were the 5.0 Mustangs with 5-speed manual transmissions and after they wrecked a high percentage, they were retired early.