I'm sure many have noticed that a lot of the highway patrol cars are the newer Dodge Chargers. These Chargers seem to be very popular with law enforcement. However, this is not a recent phenomenon as MOPARS (cars produced by Chrysler Corp. Divisions) have been used as police cars for many years.
Plymouth has been in the police car business longer than most people realize. The Washington State Patrol used Plymouth coupes in 1932. While early Fords had a reputation for speed and power desired by police departments, Plymouths were a popular choice for police work even in the early years. The Greely, Colo. police department pitted the 1935 Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth against each other before deciding on which model to buy for their police work. The three cars were paced over a level one mile pavement course. The Plymouth clipped through the mile in just 60 seconds, reaching a top speed of 90 miles per hour and doing much better than the Chevy or Ford.
It wasn't until the 1950s, however, that the term "police package" (referring to a specially equipped automobile designed solely for police work) would come into common usage. Most of these cars were equipped with the largest possible engines plus a special handling package not available to the general public. In later years these cars were true "muscle cars" in every sense of the word, except that the muscle package was hidden in a "mom-and-pop" four door sedan rather than the more noticeable convertible or hard top coupe.
In 1956, Chrysler's first official police package was offered on Dodge Coronets and, a year later, Dodge offered the 325 HEMI engine, with a variety of performance packages and a top power rating of 310 hp.
1957 was a big year for Plymouth in the police car market, which it dominated for many years. Keeping its eye on Dodge, Plymouth had come up with a "Police Pursuit" package on its own for the 1957 models. Plymouth, however, had put together a series of packages which appealed to a cross section of police work. Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Plymouth and Dodge brands were very popular with police departments. This changed in the 1990s as the Jeep Cherokee was the only official Chrysler police car from 1996 to 2001 - there were no Plymouth or Dodge police cars. Dodge began to recapture part of the police car market starting in the 2000s offering police packages for the Intrepid, Magnum and Charger. Today, the Dodge Charger seems to be one of the dominate brands with the police as we see lots of them around.
Ken McNally is a car enthusiast from Hernando who belongs to several car clubs and owns four show cars. His columns appear occasionally in the Hernando Today.