Home Cars Bad Boys: Remembering The Best Police Cruisers From Every Decade

Bad Boys: Remembering The Best Police Cruisers From Every Decade

Cameron Eittreim February 15, 2024

Police cars have long been some of the most recognizable cars on the road. The police car is something that we encounter nearly every day of our lives on city streets. The police car is something that is used in high-impact situations such as chases, school functions, and day-to-day patrols. A police car has to be comfortable, perform well, and above all else, be very reliable. The most common police car ever is the Ford Crown Victoria.

The big sedan was once loved by police departments and was among the most reliable cars on the road. Throughout the decades, many other police cars that were more exciting hit the roads as well. So we looked back at the police cruisers from each decade as well as the future models. There’s nothing quite like a classic, high-performance police car, and some of these rides are beyond cool. There are few more noticeable or iconic rides than a police car. Put your hands up and remain silent as we look at the most iconic police cruisers from each decade.

1926 Ford Model T Dr S Coupe
Photo Credit: Barn Finds

Model T Ford Police Truck

The Model T was the car that put America on wheels and is forever a legend in the auto world. So once it became a mainstream vehicle, local police departments began to use it as well. The Model T was a great car with an awesome design. As an early police car, it was quite nimble and versatile. The Model T laid the groundwork for the future of police cars and in a way laid the groundwork for decades of future Ford dominance in the police interceptor segment (via Blue Springs Ford).

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Photo Credit: Barn Finds

By the 1920s, the Model T had become a common sight in police departments across the United States. Because the Model T wasn’t designed to be a police car, most departments around the country customized the car to fit their needs. All in all, the Model T was a trendsetter for the world of police cars and it remains the most iconic automobile of all time.

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Photo Credit: Mecum

1932 Ford V-8 B Model

The 1930s were a great time for the auto industry and a time police cars started to change. Now, the Ford V-8 B was the model of choice for police departments around the country. The car was much bigger and had a V8 engine under the hood that gave it more power. The added cargo ability allowed the police officers to carry around a good deal of gear, as well as haul more than one perp to the slammer. This was the first affordable V8-powered model that came to market (via Concept Carz).

V8 B
Photo Credit: Mecum

The 1932 Ford V-8 B Model was one of the earliest police cars and one of the most popular production cars of the era. This was one of the first Fords able to achieve a high rate of speed, which meant that police departments could respond to emergencies much quicker. This is the car that birthed the start of the modern automotive era and firmly cemented the automobile as the future mode of transportation.

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Photo Credit: My Classic Car

1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe

The 1940s were a unique time for the automotive industry as everyone wanted to have the hot new design. Of course, Ford was at the forefront of the industry because, after all, they invented it. The Ford Deluxe Coupe was larger and more refined than any vehicle before it. Cars were becoming more comfortable and reliable and the 40s were a time of constant improvement. As far as a police car went the Ford Deluxe Coupe did a great job of pioneering the segment with a more modern and efficient ride (via Motor Trend).

1940 Ford Deluxe Convertible Coupe 1940 Ford 13 Scaled
Photo Credit: My Classic Car

The Ford Deluxe coupe helped to modernize the police car and get it on its way. Police officers were also happy to have a car like this back in the day as well. Maintenance was easier than ever on the Deluxe Coupe which is another reason why police liked the car. Remember, back in the day cars weren’t as reliable as they are now, so having something that required the minimal amount of work possible was quite important.

Photo Credit: Wall Paper Up

1950 Ford Custom Deluxe Tudor Sedan

The birth of the real police cruise came when the Ford Custom Deluxe Tudor hit the market. The car was well-rounded and more modern than anything that came prior. The Tudor had a lot of power under the hood and the car was bigger than ever. The 1950 model year was the first time Ford offered their new automatic transmission, the Ford-O-Matic, as an option. This was a significant technological advancement for the automotive industry as a whole (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Wall Paper Up

The 1950 Ford Custom Deluxe was available with a choice of two engines, a 226-cubic inch (3.7-liter) inline-six or a more powerful 239-cubic inch (3.9-liter) flathead V8, the latter of which police departments chose to work with. The car was ultimately a hit both with the law enforcement industry and the automotive industry as a whole as many drivers enjoyed this car.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1961 Dodge Polara

By the 1960s, Dodge was in the police car business as well and had a unique offering. The Polara was a large sedan with a relatively comfortable interior and a lot of power under the hood. Obviously, this car was created during the spaceship era so there were styling cues like the “rocketship” tail lights and the jet-inspired front end. Overall the Polara was a much more intuitive police car and gave us a glimpse of the modern police cruiser era that we have today (via Classics).

Chp Polara
Photo Credit: Jay Leno Garage

The Polara was a major part of the California police car scene in the 1960s and officers enjoyed the car significantly. It wasn’t the most reliable model on the road but it had a lot of performance and comfort. The Polara will go down in history as one of the most iconic police cars on the road.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1969 Ford Custom 500

The Ford Custom 500 was another well-known police car during the 1960s as Ford pushed to get back into the fray. The Custom 500 often flies under the radar at car shows but it’s more popular than ever nowadays. The car was powerful and it had a fair amount of comfort on the interior as well, which made it a good choice for officers. The Ford Custom 500 did a great job of cultivating a comfortable ride for the men and women who kept us safe (via Motorious).

Photo Credit: Mecum

This car hit the market at the end of the 1960s and thus you see a lot of evolution in the design of it. But it was a car that was geared toward the value-oriented buyers and police departments so it did provide a lot of value for the price.

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Photo Credit: Mecum

1975 Dodge Monaco

By the 1970s, the Dodge Monaco was on the scene and was a fairly advanced police car for the times. The performance of the car was a lot better than you’d expect for the price and the size was more in line with what a police department would look for. The Monaco came with a selection of engine options ranging from the base 318 cubic inch (5.2L) V8 to a more powerful 400 cubic inch (6.6L) V8. The 1975 Dodge Monaco is perhaps best known for its role as the “Bluesmobile” in the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers.” (via Flickr).

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Photo Credit: Mecum

The Monaco was a very popular police car that a lot of agencies enjoyed. It’s somewhat crazy that Dodge didn’t keep its foothold on the police cruiser market for a lot longer because the car wasn’t a bad choice at all for what consumers wanted.

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Photo Credit: Motorious

1982 Chevrolet Impala

By the 1980s, the Impala nameplate was back and sold as a police car. But if it looks familiar to you, that’s most likely because the Impala shared an entire design with the Caprice. The Impala was positioned as Chevrolet’s entry-level full-size sedan in 1982 which meant that it sold well. Police departments liked this car because of the small block V8 and the high level of reliability. The Impala did a great job of keeping police officers on the road and it was a lot more efficient than previous cars (via Classic).

Impala 2
Photo Credit: Motorious

The Impala was a great ride for several reasons and consumers enjoyed its cheap price tag and relative reliability. The 1982 Impala utilized a traditional body-on-frame construction with a live rear axle and coil springs, which provided a comfortable ride quality typical of full-size American sedans of the time.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1991 Chevrolet Caprice

This is the car that was made famous during the O.J. Simpson case and it continues to be one of the most iconic rides on the road. The 1991 Chevrolet Caprice was the birth of the modern police cruisers that we have today, those cars that sit idling for thousands of hours in front of the donut shop. The 1991 Caprice’s redesign was well-received in some quarters with the car being named Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year for 1991 (via Curbside Classic).

Photo Credit: Mecum

This car had a powerful V8 engine that was taken out of the Corvette, making the car a legend on the street. It also helped police keep up with the bad guys all while powering through twists and turns in comfort with this powerful beast.

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Photo Credit: Mecum

1996 Ford Crown Victoria P71

The Crown Victoria of the 1990s was the car that took over the industry. It was everything consumers wanted and nothing they didn’t. As far as the police segment, it took the entire segment over, pushing the Chevrolet Caprice into obscurity. These cars were known for extreme reliability and even idling thousands of hours ran fine, which is why most departments decided to throw the money down to order as many of these models as they could get (via Cars.com).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The P71 quickly became a staple in law enforcement fleets across the United States. With its reliability and comfort, the car is a great police car and just a great all-around car to own. There’s nothing better than opening up the throttle and seeing how it drives on the open road.

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