Police cars mean different things to different folks. To the people who have been saved or helped by the police, they represent the strength of justice and equality. To the nefarious section of the society, they are the vehicles that strike fear into the heart of those who do wrong. To the people who suddenly see them, sirens ablaze, in their rear or side view mirrors, they are a sudden knock to the heart.
And to the car aficionados, they are a mystery and something car lovers would love to see from the inside out. Why? Because while not all police cars are alike, most of them are awesome in more ways than one. These are not just your normal run-of-the-mill vehicles that have been painted in PD colors and have a siren plopped on top.
These cars are different and way more advanced when it comes to the insides, be it their technology or the engine itself. In fact, many police cars have added specialties that come in handy whilst the men and women in uniform do their heroic duties. There are many ways in which the police cars differ from even the most amped versions of the cars we drive, and it all comes in handy to help the police do their jobs to their very best of their abilities. Here are 26 secrets that we didn’t know about police cars and the way they are built...
26 The Shadowy Unmarked Car
Most of us, hopefully, and fingers crossed, will not be stopped by an unmarked police car. While being stopped by the normal police is a bit nerve-racking, even for the innocent, unmarked cars look even more looming because it’s tough to figure if the cops inside are real or fake. However, if you are unsure, you have the right to call 911 and confirm if the car behind you is an actual cop car or not, according to The Sun. Also, see if you can spot LED lights on the grill, or that spotlight on the door that looks like a second side-view mirror.
25 Doors As Shields? Only In Movies
To begin with, police cars were not bulletproof, and many still aren't, either. Bulletproofing a car means adding a lot to the curb weight, which will ultimately slow down the speed and performance of the car. There is only so much suspension work you can do in one car without affecting its maneuverability and speed. So when they show cops standing behind an open cop car door for protection on TV, it's akin to using an umbrella to protect yourself against hail.
24 The Sirens Do Sound Different
If you thought that the sirens you heard sounded different in different situations, it’s because they do. There’s a classic wail that the cops use when traveling on open roads at high speeds—this “wail” is sharp enough to be heard by all, especially if the car is approaching an intersection. Then there is the whoop or the yelp used by cops on busy roads to tell the people in front to move out of their way. If you do not move fast enough, you will get an earful of the air horn, and that does the trick, for sure.
23 The Latest In Sirens? The Rumbler
In the past few years, more and more PDs are adopting a siren called the Rumbler. This siren is just as loud and long as all other sirens have been since time immemorial. However, this is also a siren you will “feel” because its low-frequency vibrations can get into the most closed-up vehicles on the noisiest of highways with ease. Sometimes, sound alone isn’t enough, especially when the police car in question is involved in a high-speed chase.
22 Not So Easy To Steal
Fancy taking a police car for a joyride? We suggest you don’t. The car may look like it’s been left with the engine running, but it has been deliberately left so to keep the radio and the lights on. However, this system is called a runlock and is used so the lights and the radio are not draining the battery, and it will keep the car running minus the keys in the ignition. But if you try to press the pedals, the car will shut down, leaving you inside for the cops to come and lock you in jail.
21 Mileage Doesn’t Matter Much
Cops don’t always have their wheels running, even if the engine remains on all the time, according to Motor1. This makes a mechanic’s job tough, because how are they to figure out the mileage on a car that has its engine running even in park or neutral? Police cars come fitted with hour meters, instead, for mechanics to figure out how long the car had been running and calculate the wear on it. This makes maintenance and later, resale, a breeze.
20 Cop Cars Have Special Tires
Let’s face it, cop cars need to do cop things. So sure, you will see a cop car parked in the sun somewhere with its uniformed driver digging into doughnuts or coffee. But you must have also seen these very cars take off with screaming tires to go aid someone or be in a smoking hot pursuit that involves high speeds and tight turns. So accordingly, cop cars need special tires, like the Firestone Firehawk GT Pursuit, to be able to rise up to the occasion.
19 And The LEDs Are Secretive Too
Once upon a time, cop cars looked like cop cars and had visible beacons and sirens on them. Then the cops decided to have a few not-so-cop-like cars to do some stealth work, and so the unmarked cop car was born. Earlier, they would just plunk the siren on top and that was that. According to Jalopnik, nowadays, flashing lights are hidden in the grill and on the windscreen. So if you suddenly see a dark car in rear view come alive with flashing lights, you now know you have a cop car on your tail.
18 They Can Still Track You
So if you think you can outsmart or outdrive or even outmaneuver a police car just because it looks slow, well, it can still track you with ease. You may leave it biting the dust, but it will have the last laugh. Some police cars have a special pursuit reduction technology from StarChase which fires a mini GPS tracker from a compressed-air cannon mounted on the grill. If this GPS sticks to your car, the officer can leisurely follow you and still get you in the end.
17 You Can Buy An Old Car With Trimmings
When a police car gets really old, has lived out its life, and needs to be retired or decommissioned, it can be sold off. The only thing is that, legally, a dealer has to strip off all those PD decals and any other thing that can point at it being a police car. Sometimes though, not all dealers are all that law-abiding and neither are the citizens. So just sometimes, police cars are sold off as is with all the PD decals in full view—but beware, impersonating a police officer is a criminal offense.
16 The NYPD Also Drives Smart
Ok, maybe not. But they certainly drive the Smart Fortwo, at least 250 of them, in a bid to beat the crush of the force that is the New York traffic. However, at a 96 mph top speed, this nifty little car may not be able to do much bad guy catching—you have to have good top speed for a high-speed police pursuit, right? And when an officer of the law pulls up behind you in a rather comic car, it’s a bit hard to keep a straight face, right?
15 Four Wheels? Nope, Miami Has Three!
And finally, the biggest reveal of them all. According to Fox News, not all PD cars have four wheels. In fact, one of the coolest rides over at Miami PD has only three wheels and technically isn’t a car at all. This one is a three-wheel Polaris Slingshot donated by Polaris to the Miami PD for use as a friendly vehicle for community outreach programs. The idea is to influence the kids—if they find the car interesting, they go talk to the cops. And then the cops try to instill some good sense into the next generation.
14 The Bugatti Veyron Is A Cop Car
No, we kid you not. If the UK Lambo or the German Mercedes-Benz Brabus came as a surprise to you, the Dubai police fleet will give you a shock. The Bugatti Veyron, a much-fabled hypercar, is one of the top cop cars in the Dubai police fleet’s garage. At 267 miles per hour, just about nothing can outrun it. However, this isn’t a car they use to chase down mobsters—this is more of a parade car they show off as a sign of wealth and power to the world.
13 They Aren’t All Run Down
In Germany, the auto capital of the world, supercars aren’t just for the rich and the famous. They are also for the police. So if you are breaking the speed limit in Germany, which would be an impressive feat to accomplish considering the autobahn allows up to and beyond 200mph, you will be chased. And you will probably be caught by the cop driving the Mercedes Benz Brabus Rocket CLS, according to Auto Evolution. Why? Because its heart is a 6.3-liter V12 Biturbo engine cranking out a top speed of 228 mph!
12 More Than Just Another Car
Honestly, we cannot emphasize how different a police car is from its civilian counterpart. You and the cop behind you may be in the same badged car, but the police car is superior to your car in every way that matters, and more. Every system is enhanced, and we mean from the wiring to the brakes. This enhancement adds weight, so the suspension and tires are amped up as well. And the electrical system needs to handle all that load, so it too is way beefier than what a normal car has. In other words, don’t make a cop car chase you, period.
11 That Much Revered Crown Vic
For a long, long time, the Ford Crown Victoria was the quintessential cop car. In fact, it was more surprising to see a Crown Vic minus the police badging on it than to see one with all the cop paraphernalia on it. The reason wasn’t just cost alone. So sure, the Crown Vic was an easy-peasy to maintain a car and lasted years to come. But the rear wheel drive was awesome for tactical maneuvers and the V8 engines gave it the needed firepower to chase down the crooks and nab them, hook, line, and sinker.
10 England Boasts A Lambo Cop Car
Of course, the Crown Vic went off the market in 2011 and since then, police back home have been rocking the Ford Taurus Interceptor with panache. But the police in the UK are no less stylish considering they have a Lambo to boast of and catch the bad guys in. The cop version of the Lamborghini Murcielago is menacing to look at. And when it roars after you at a speed of 199 mph thanks to 550 horsepower, outrunning it is simply no longer an option.
9 The “Bonnie” Flathead V8
This was the classic quintessential police car, and yet equally favored by the public enemies of the time. Think John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde. For the 1930s, this was as advanced a car as a car could be. The Flathead V8 Ford boasted impressive speed and performance and was the police car of the times. And since no other car could beat it, it became the preferred ride for the baddies too. Except they forgot, a cop car isn’t just another car, so the even match became uneven pretty quick.
8 K-9 Cars Have Extra Bite
So now you know that even a standard cop car from a not-so-rich state or precinct is way above that swanky ride in your garage. Imagine a K-9 cop car, though, the kind that holds man’s best friend who does not care about all the illegal paraphernalia that is someone’s bag, dog lover or not. The K-9 police cars have to have plenty of A/C system upgrades because cops sometimes do have to leave their canine partners in the car in the sweltering heat. And then there are the temperature sensors and those hefty but comfortable cages to contend with, as well.
7 The First Cop Car That Ever Rode Squad
Once upon a time, first there were the policemen on horses, and then wagons. When do you think the first car or motorized vehicle came about? Apparently, it debuted in Akron, Ohio way back in 1899. This “police car” could be ridden by the entire PD, and also brought about the term “squad car”. It ran on battery power and did a top speed of 16mph, for 30 miles on one charge. The first “action” it saw was picking up an inebriated citizen.
6 And Met A Rather Watery End
Despite the basicness of this first squad car, it weighed a whopping 2.5 tons. That said, when an angry crowd confronted the police in 1900 over a prisoner they wanted to serve mob justice to, the police refused and decided to uphold the law. This very crowd let loose on the cop car, as well as the police HQ, in Ohio, and the military had to be sent to restore law and order. The vehicle, though, was dumped into the canal and had to be unceremoniously decommissioned.
5 The Fantasy Is All Too Real Now
That said, that was the early days and sometimes life copies TV and not vice versa. According to Car Throttle, after 2006, every Crown Vic cop car came with Kevlar lining on the doors. So post 2006, if the real-life cops wanted to look and sound more like the onscreen cops, they could stand behind the cop car doors in dramatic fashion as they tried to bring down the baddies in their own inimitable and legal style. And when the Crown Vic retired, the Ford Taurus Interceptor took up the bulletproof mantle.
4 Cuba’s Funny Cop Car
When the governments of the world, and particularly the USA, decided to put a trade embargo against Cuba, it created the quaintness that still is Cuba today. Since US cars were out of the question, Cuba decided to go for the Russia-made Lada Riva for its cop car fleet. Seeing this rather compact car with a huge, oversized siren on top did make for a funny picture, and still does. This one still patrols the streets of Havana with its comical siren, its 80-horsepower engine, and a top speed of 95 mph.
3 The Car Is Always Working
The cop may be indulging in doughnuts or a much-needed coffee to avoid a snoozefest, but a cop car works round the clock. According to The Vice, almost all domestic police fleet cars can run constant surveillance by clicking pics of license plates and running them against the DMV. The photos so clicked are also tagged with location and time with the date in place. So the policeman may be taking in a little shuteye, but the car never does. This is why these cars are so good at what they do.
2 The First Ever Pony Cop Car
In the 70s, the Alabama Highway Patrol was on the lookout for a fast and nifty car for its fleet. With government, cost is always a top consideration, and so Alabama, too, wanted the best cars at the lowest price. AMC was trying to promote the Javelin at the time, so they donated a top-of-the-line AMC Javelin for testing. Needless to say, for the next nine years, the AMC Javelin remained the car for Alabama's state troopers, paving the way for the other pony cars like the Mustang to come into the PDs’ consideration too.
1 And Then There's This!
We are back to the UK police. If the Lamborghini Murcielago wasn’t enough of a rub-your-nose-in-the-dirt snub, how about this beauty? According to Top Speed, the Caparo T1 isn’t a patrol car, but it isn’t a show car like Dubai’s Bugatti Veyron. This is a high-speed pursuit vehicle, so designed to strike fear in the hearts of those who love the gas pedal a little too much. And then it looks amazing too. With a top speed of 200 mph, resistance is futile. Oh, and it was designed by the brains behind McLaren F1.
Sources: Auto Evolution, The Sun, Car Throttle, and Motor1.