Police Interceptors on the Big Screen
Hollywood has created a lot of law enforcement vehicles that spur on the mystique that police cars are stronger, faster, and more capable than their civilian counterparts. To an extend that many of us often want to buy a retired police car. (Including me)
Below, I have written down some of the coolest, fastest, and most capable, police cars that have appeared in film and television. In order to make the list the vehicle had to be sporting law enforcement livery and/or been used for fighting crime at some point in its life. Special upgrades or performance abilities were also taken into consideration.
This not a top 10 list, because it’s impossible to rank these cars in numerical order. Plus, I wouldn’t dare insult your intelligence by writing a hack clickbait “article”.
Mad Max (1979), the Last V8 Interceptor – 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT
Max Rockatansky is a Main Force Patrol officer in a pre-apocalyptic Australia. After a gang of psychotic bikers murder his wife and child Max is driven mad by a vengeful rage for justice.
Armed with a saw-off shotgun Max steals a pursuit special from the motor pool to run down every last biker. A 1973 Ford Falcon XB turned police interceptor and deputized with “600 horses of fuel injected vengeance”. Running on nitro fuel, it is only known as The Last V8 Interceptor. I dare you to find a cooler name for a police car.
This car has such a large cult following considering it doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the franchise.
The first film Mad Max introduces the car, but then we have to wait through the entire film before actually seeing it on the streets. Mad Max 2 shows the V8 Interceptor in a short chase before again having to wait until midway into the film only to see it be destroyed. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome doesn’t show it at all.
The Last V8 Interceptor does make an appearance at the start of Mad Max Fury Road, for about a minute before being destroyed, again. However, it is rebuilt and made more powerful… and then gets destroyed AGAIN within two minutes of a chase at the climax of the film.
Even with limited screen time people love this pursuit speical. It’s an Aussie muscle car with zoomie pipes, a blower, black out wheels, and it’s named “the Last V8 Interceptor”. Pursuit specials don’t get much cooler than this. Just wish it had more screen time.
Honorable mentions: Police Interceptors from Mad Max (1979).
Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry (1974), The Special - 1972 Dodge Polara
B-movie gold and a favorite among 10 top lists for movie car chase scenes. Why? Because it stars a 1966 blue Chevy Impala 396 big block, limegreen 1969 (and ’68) Dodge Charger 440 R/T, a helicopter, and a hemi powered 1972 Dodge Polara pursuit special.
The plot is simple. A broke stock-car racer Larry (Peter Fonda) and his ex-alcoholic mechanic Deke (Adam Roarke) knock over a grocery store for $150,000 by kidnapping the manger’s family. They do this to bankroll their NASCAR dreams. Mary (Susan George), is a one night stand turned Bonnie to Larry’s Clyde as she hitches a ride with them during their getaway.
After shaking off several patrol cars Captain Franklin (Vic Morrow) orders an officer to pick up "the special" at the motor pool garage, a high-performance Dodge Polara. They don’t say what engine it is but being the 70’s, and Mopar, its save to say it’s got a Hemi. The officer asks the mechanic, “What’s my top end on this thing?” The mechanic slams the hood down and delivers the best line, “Unlimited..."
The chase ends with the Polara getting T-boned by a passing station wagon. Making way for the climax of the chase where the Charger squares off against a helicopter.
The Blues Brothers (1980), the Bluesmoblie – 1974 Dodge Monaco
Two jail bird blues musician brothers are on a mission from God to make $5,000 dollars in order to save their childhood orphanage from closing. Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) and Jake Blues (John Belushi) have 11 days to get the band back together, save the orphanage, while avoiding State police, Chicago PD, pissed of country singers, and Illinois Nazis.
Dan Aykroyd wrote the film and it was his idea to for Elwood’s car to be a decommissioned 1974 Dodge Monaco police car. His thoughts being that Elwood is a genius driver and needed a machine that could outrun or at least keep pace with whatever Chicago’s finest could throw at him. If any film has helped create the mystique that police cars have stronger, almost magical abilities, it’s this one.
It all starts at the beginning of the film when Elwood picks up his brother Jake from Joliet prison. Jake is angry that his own brother decided to sell their Cadillac for a microphone while he was away and picked him up in a police car. Elwood proves the Monaco’s worthiness by jumping a drawbridge and then breaking it down the car’s resume for Jake.
"It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?"
There is a deleted scene from the movie where Elwood parks the Monaco in a shed next to a set of humming electrical transformers that run the elevated train. The idea being that the Bluesmobile would absorb the power from the transformers and gain certain abilities like: performing backflips, jump through the air, crash through buildings, and carry an entire blues band.
Fun Fact: The scene where the Bluesmobile leaps over another police car. The director wanted the stunt driver to knock over the police sirens, but the driver could only guarantee that he would clear the car. In true Hollywood fashion, the director offered him more money and the driver cleared it in one take
Honorable mentions: The Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), the sequel, stars a 1991 Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor. This Bluesmobile takes it to the next level by being able to drive underwater, perform perfect 360 donuts, and jump without taking damage.
Black Sheep (1996), 9C1 Police Cruiser – 1987 Chevy Caprice 9C1
A Chris Farley movie is one of the last places you expect to find a cool police car.
Al Donnelly is running for Governor of the state of Washington. His brother Mike (Chris Farley) is a well-meaning goofball with good intentions that bring bad results. Al orders campaign assistant Steve Dodds (David Spade) to basically babysit Mike and keep him from any negative publicity that could hurt the campaign.
Mike’s friend Robbie is a police officer with one killer squad car. A 1987 Chevy Caprice 9C1 with a souped up Hemi and a nitrous tank in the trunk. At the climax of the film, Steve and Mike find out that his brother Al lost the election to voter fraud. They need to reach the Governor’s mansion as quickly as possible so they borrow the squad car with a warning that if they get pulled over Robbie will say it was stolen.
After driving through the night to get to the capital, Mike drives over a massive piece of tarmac while driving though a highway construction zone. The impact causes the nitrous tank to start leaking gas into the interior of the car. As Mike and Steve get gassed they are stopped by a motorcycle cop for driving seven miles per hour! The officer asks Mike how fast he was going to which Mike responds:
"Well, I got a 426 Hemi in her. Three-quarter cams, nitro boosters. I can get 'er up to 155. Never do though, of course, unless I'm chasing a cute chick in a Ferrari!”
Once the car comes back as stolen Mike hits the gas and out runs the cops on his way to the Governor’s mansion.
Transformers (2007- 2016), Barricade – 2007 Saleen Mustang S281 Extreme, 2016 Saleen Mustang
I know Barricade is a villainous decepticon in the franchise but that doesn’t mean Barricade isn’t a cool police car. It’s a supercharged Saleen Mustang that turns into a giant metal robot.
I would write more about this car but there is not much to write since these movies are just product placement, wrapped in CGI, running away from an explosion.
Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), the Ram Charger – 1983 Dodge Ram Charger
Chuck Norris is Lone Wolf McQuade, a former Marine, Texas Ranger who prefers to work alone and has a pet wolf. (Do you see a pattern?) He drives a custom Dodge Ram Charger that appears to have a souped 440 big block with a supercharger that McQuade turns on by flicking a switch on the dash. (A tribute to Mad Max perhaps?)
What makes this truck cool, besides being driven by Chuck Norris, is a scene where McQuade is almost defeated. He is beaten, shot, weak and is put inside his Ram Charger which is then pushed into a grave by a bull dozer and buried alive.
McQuade carries himself into the driver seat and starts up the Ram Charger, but not before crack opening a beer. He flips the switch on the supercharger and floors it, the Ram Charger punches itself out of its grave. Bad guys charge the truck and Norris greets them with a pump action 12 gauge. Glorious!
The California Kid (1974), Patrol Car – 1957 Plymouth Belvedere
Martin Sheen and Vic Morrow go head to head in this mystery crime drama.Set in 1958, in the small town of Clarkberg. Roy Childress (Morrow) is a Sheriff gone bad after is wife and child are killed in an accident caused by a speeding driver. Now, every speeder that tries to run for the state line is met with a deadly fate as he chases them down and bumps them off the mountain road in his high-performance Plymouth coupe.
At the start of the film Childress chases and kills two Navy sailors trying to reach the state line. One of them happens to be the younger brother of hot rodder Michael McCord (Sheen). He arrives into town in the California kid, a 1934 Ford three-window coupe capable of reaching 75 mph in 10 seconds. The film ends with a showdown between the Plymouth and the California Kid.
What makes this police car cool is its high-performance engine, massive push bars, and its ability to tackle a mountain road. Not to mention that it literally chases down speeders and shut them down, permanently.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Buford T. Justice’s squad car – 1977 Pontiac LeMans
Truckin 400 cases of Coors beer, the finest beer (at the time), from Texas to Georgia is bootlegging (at the time). Doing it in under 28 hours means you’re going to attract the law. Including the greatest lawman in Texas, Sheriff Buford T. Justice!
Everyone knows the Trans Am in the franchise but we often forget about Buford’s fiercely reliable Pontiac patrol car that never lets him down when he’s in hot pursuit of the “Sum bitch” Bandit. Buford’s 1977 Pontiac LeMans goes through hell and back trying to catch the Bandit.
While in pursuit the Pontiac gets: T-boned by a semi-truck, gets a chop top, loses a rear fender, driver side door ripped off by another semi-truck, drops a muffler, crashes several times, and at the end loses a front tire. However, just like Buford T. Justice, the car will not give up and continues its pursuit.
Honorable mentions: Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and part III (1983). Buford drives a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville and 1983 Bonneville. Both cars go through outrageous wear & tear driving to catch the black Trans Am.
Everything you can think of: being rolled over by a NFL star Joe Greene, destroying a roller coaster, falling off a drawbridge, crushed by semi-trucks, crashing through a tanker truck, fired out of a cannon, and being blown up. The Poncho 5-O’s keep on rolling.
The Gumball Rally (1976), Fake Police Car – 1971 Dodge Polara
An illegal cross country race from New York City to Los Angles. The only rule is that there are no rules, and no catalytic converters. This is a great movie that is often overshadowed by later films like The Cannonball Run, but this film is far superior in my opinion. It’s grittier and has more outrageous car stunts that the others. The cars are fantastic too.
Like the 1971 Dodge Polara patrol car that is used in the race. Fake cop car yes, but it has all the necessary paper work in the trunk. Every state official decal and livery needed to drive cross country for “officers” Kandinsky and Avila.
Vanishing Point (1997), Deputized Black Beast – 1968 Dodge Charger
Viggo Mortensen plays Kowalski, Army Ranger and ex-race car driver, who works as a car delivery driver. When in route to deliver a 1970 Hemi Dodge Challenger he gets news that his wife is due to give birth.
Unable to fly he decides to drive back which causes a chain reaction. Law enforcement don’t know why he’s running so they assume the worse and even get the FBI involved to stop Kowalski and his Challenger.
Among those who are eager to shut down the speeder is Utah State Police Sargent Chuck Preston. When he learns that Kowalski has entered Utah he sets off in his deputized black beast, a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 R/T. Why? Because as he puts it
"It takes a Mopar to catch a Mopar."
This car makes the list because come on, it’s a ‘68 black Charger with police lights and an official license to speed. Plus, it’s got a bumper sticker that reads: “My Wife Yes. My Dog Maybe. My Dodge?... NEVER!”
Cop Cars are Cool
These are ten cool cop cars, but I’m sure I missed many. If you know of one please let me know in the comments, or drop me an email. Detective cars don’t count, because that’ll another story all together.
I highly recommend putting these films on your watch list if you've never seen them.