When model cars just don't cut it.
From little kids toys, to big kids toys, what is it like to own a US cop car in the UK?
I've wanted this iconic car for a very long time, who hasn't watched an episode of COPS and heard that roar of the 4.6 V8 gunning after the criminal? The Ford Crown Victoria has been heavily used across the big screen and to me, it is THE cop car and I had to have one. So what's my story, and why did I decide to purchase one? Gather round as I take you through the build and what it's like owning one of these...
We all start of just browsing and rarely do we ever pull the trigger - there are so many things to factor in, space/storage, expense, parts availability, most importantly; what will the Mrs say!? Well she knew that I had a bit of a crush on this car and had spoken to various dealers stateside who would happily supply me one. Life got in the way and two kids and a mortgage later I thought I'd never get it and it would always be a pipe dream. Until I had a few cans of dutch courage, access to eBay and the funds...
A 2004 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. The vehicle arrived into the UK in May 2018, I acquired it July 2018 after a boozy eBay moment finally got me my dream car. My first yank, my first LHD - Located in North London, it was a case of meeting a friend in Oxford who drove me the rest of the way. Driving back from North London was great fun heading back to sunny Devon.
In Cornwall, Route 38's annual event.
After I got her home, I sat on the steps admiring this American machine parked outside, I finally got one, I mean it didn't look like a cop car but it certainly was a P71 (The chassis number for a cop car spec Crown Victoria). The history the seller gave me was vague but from what was explained it was a detectives car from Wicomico, Maryland. I needed to make it a cop car, I wanted it black and white...
I gave it a good polish and found that every panel, near on, was a different shade of black and I knew this wasn’t going to be a simple task. After two days of polishing, I gave up and decided to get it sprayed. I was going to car the car sprayed black again and then vinyl wrap the doors white. After getting some silly quotes to do so, I just had it sprayed black and white. I took it to it’s first show at Mount Edgcumbe, in Cornwall, and it got some attention - I said it would be back in 12 months time as a black and white cop car.
The car spent a few months in the bodyshop as I told him to ‘take your time’, in which he did. Big mistake. I started to ramp up the pressure on him in the new year and finally got my car back, I wasn’t fully impressed with the job done on the car but I understood I got it cheap so I’d thought i’d work on it.
During this time, I had acquired a Touchmaster Delta siren and had it installed promptly, along with tail lamp strobes and deck lights. I was still on the hunt for a lightbar with the full intention of doing an LAPD replica. A discussion with another US cop car owner made me think about that LAPD choice, I looked closer to home and thought about Plymouth Police, Massachusetts. Since Plymouth, Devon and Plymouth, MA are twinned - and the whole thing with the Pilgrims and Mayflower - it would make great sense to do that livery. Thankfully, Plymouth Police have black and white crown vic’s - winner! I eventually tracked down the graphics company in Massachusetts who, ever a few email exchanges, offered to supply the graphics for free, Municiple Graphics were amazing and shipped them over to me very quickly.
Nothing ever goes to plan
Two weeks after it came out the bodyshop, on my way to Royal Mail to collect my graphics, disaster struck. I happened to be driving past an area in Plymouth City Centre where a utility company was digging and they struck a water main just as I drove past - showing the car in rocks, stones and other debris. The car was damaged, every panel bar the passenger side of the car. I was NOT happy. My freshly resprayed car - did I just apply the vinyl over the damage and hope for the best? No, I've gone this far, I want this fixed.
The press happened to be at the scene just after it happened.
I now had a fight on my hands to get them to pay out, I didn’t want to go through insurance as it wasn’t my fault. I was finished with this car, I wanted to get rid of it. I was so down and fed up but thankfully, they paid up for another respray. I'm not sure why I felt deflated but I think it was purely down to the fight the utility company put up. I came this far, I wasn't willing to back down.
Due to various reasons, this time, it went to another bodyshop who undertook the project and were really excited to work on it, they told me it would take them about a month to complete. I was happy as I trusted these guys no end. Sadly, the car was broken into over Bank Holiday weekend resulting in a smashed passenger rear window - nothing stolen thankfully. A replacement was found in Germany and then promptly fitted. I was feeling down again, second time this car has been damaged and I was finished with it. I was moments away from selling it and getting something else, clearly it wasn’t mean to be. I had my eyes on a Ford F-150 but a good friend put me on the right path and I cracked on.
I get a phone call, the car is finished, they did an amazing job on the car and the moment it was back in my hands, I took it straight to the graphics company to get them to apply the livery. I had to get this done as I was still feeling down about the whole journey with the car. In only a few hours, I now had a Plymouth Police Crown Victoria. My outlook on this car had changed, I was over the moon - like a big kid. But it still wasn’t finished…
During the time the car was in the bodyshop, I searched for little bit's I needed but the main thing I needed was the lightbar, I didn't want a 'slicktop' (slicktop cop cars tend not to have a lightbar and have sun visor lights instead) as what is the point in that? You can't have a Mr Kipplings Cherry Bakewell without the cherry. I managed to source a UK spec lightbar, a Whelen Liberty. This was mainly in all blue set up but I wanted red and blue (Plymouth Police and majority of Massachusetts run all blue lightbars) as it was more 'American' to us Brits. Problem was the lightbar was slightly too small so I had to acquire a larger frame for the lightbar from America.
Once the new frame arrived, I had to rebuild my lightbar and after getting all I needed, it was time to fit. This was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do… there was no going back - drill bit on, hole made. I quickly wired up the lightbar and stood back with it flashing red and blue. My face was not only lit up by the bright Whelen Liberty lightbar but my grin was brighter than the takedown lights. My car was finished!!! - On the outside anyway. Now to finish the console and a few other bits.
The Whelen Liberty Lightbar
I managed to source a Havis console from Texas, and had to make it fit my equipment. I passed it to a local company who made up a few mounts and brackets that allowed me to secure the items within it and mount the console itself to the driver and passenger seats. This was a great job by the fabrication company, finally everything was falling in place. It was a case of properly wiring up the lighting and the rest of the equipment.
From top: Space for a laptop mount, Federal Signal Touchmaster Delta, ICOM VHF radio, Voltage indicator, rear fog lamp, unused switch and USB ports... two phat cup holders.
The car was near enough done (are projects really done?) and everything worked as it should of. I was in love with this car. The 7 year old me was jumping around wanting to play cops and utilise the lights and sirens. My 5 and 7 year old sons live that for me as they regularly play 'police' with daddy's cop car! Pretending to catch criminals and throw the 'criminal' in the back of the car, usually the eldest throws in the youngest who then realises the back doors don't open from the inside... DADDY, HELP!
Owning one of these, what is it really like?
Well, it's my first LHD and my first American car so I had to learn a lot very quickly but in all fairness, it's not that bad at all. The car is wider than most European cars therefore it has great road presence though there has been times, typically, where I've got slightly annoyed that I can't see at a junction but I've had that driving RHD vans. Driving along motorways can sometimes be annoying as I tend to find a blind spot on what is the passenger quarter, you get a lot of excited people that want to take photos of the car but they will sit on your quarter getting photos and videos - which I love of course, i'm just upset I never get to see them. I'm sure there is hundreds of amazing photographs and videos of the car traveling to events across the South of England. But yeah, that I would say is the worst thing about owning it, especially when you slow down to allow them to pass and they match your speed - not fun.
The other side of owning a car that has POLICE written down the side of the car also comes with some interesting conversations with the local Police. Now, I will say as of today, I've yet to have a bad experience with someone from my local Police force so everything has been positive so far from them pulling up in a 'riot' van all wanting pictures whilst I was parked at the side of the road drinking coffee to being pulled over for a chat about the car and how they are excited to see it. I'm always happy to chat about it.
I've always tried to keep a good relationship with the Police as I know the car pushes the boundaries somewhat, but I know that it wouldn't take the Police long to find me if someone reported an 'American police car, going Code 3 through traffic'. I'm sure I'd have a knock on the door very quickly so that's why my equipment is isolated so it cannot be operated during transport. I've done a few events with the Police to build that relationship with them so they know i'm not going to abuse what I have.
You get the odd remark whilst you are driving along such as "put the lights on mate!", "It's the blues brothers" (Wrong car...) but my favourite is seeing people smile and appreciating that some idiot has spent all this money on a used and abused ex American fleet Police car and they haven't so they could enjoy it for those 5 second you drove past.
Fuel wise, she's not to bad. I'd have a guess and say it's around the low 20 MPG and to the higher end of the 20's on a steady motorway run. Parts wise, I've not had a single issue finding parts for these cars and to be fair, from the websites i've been on to find parts, it doesn't matter what car you have, you'll always get what you need.
There is a a great bunch of owners of these cars across the UK and we have regularly met up when we can to have some fun, recently we had access to RAF Bentwaters where we we're able to get some fantastic shots of the cars along with chatting with owner US cop car owners from all over the UK.
It's always been my boyhood dream to own this car, just like a Ferrari F40 but this was more achievable. I've had my ups and downs with owning this but this is truly my first project car i've somewhat finished and done what I said I would do. I love the way it handles (Like a yacht), I love the way it smells, and I love the way it's just a completely stupid car not designed for British roads. Ford made a fantastic car here and it shows, the US law enforcement loved it, taxi drivers loved it, and I'm sure Ford Motor Company deep down loved it too. Sadly they stopped making the Ford Crown Victoria in 2011 but it's certainly a car that will never be forgotten. In the coming months, I'll do a video review on my car so you can see all the little details I've done over time.
Thank you for reading my journey with my car, I really appreciate it. Look out for my video review soon.