A company in England has started selling genuine American police Crown Victoria P71 ‘Interceptors’ to the public, enabling them to experience this iconic cop car for themselves.
The second-hand Interceptors have the same 250bhp, 4.6 litre V8 petrol engine that is fitted to the Ford Mustang and retain all of the equipment that makes them the most popular police vehicle in the world, with over 38,000 in use in North America alone.
The emergency vehicles still have the heavy-duty suspension that Ford’s engineers fitted to enable them to pursue fleeing felons across all terrains. Retaining their original specification Goodyear ‘Pursuit’ tyres, vehicle-mounted adjustable spotlight, roof-mounted lights, PA system, stab-resistant front seats and vinyl-covered rears, the vehicles are full of character. They can even be fitted with a wide range of authentic law enforcement livery. In short, they are the real McCoy.
USA Cop Cars Ltd., based in Maidstone, Kent, England, is the brainchild of Managing Director Lindsay Groves. As a regular visitor to the United States he was familiar with the Interceptors that many US law enforcement agencies use and wondered what happened to them when they were pensioned off. He was told that they cannot be sold in the USA but, after long and tortuous research, discovered how he could import them and make them fully road legal for sale in Great Britain and the rest of Europe.
The cars that he offers for sale are no more than three years old and have fewer than 75,000 miles on the odometer. Groves purchases, refurbishes and retails the Interceptors for an on-the-road price of between £23-28,000 ($37-45,000, €26-31,000) depending on the exact specification that the customer asks for. “We can fit any colour scheme or markings that the customer asks for,” he says, “although we won’t fit anything that isn’t legal.” That means that you can’t have the word ‘Police’ on it anywhere, or flashing blue lights. That still leaves plenty to chose from, though.
Lindsay says that he has had a lot of interest from companies wanted to use the cars as a promotional tool as well as those wanting to offer an alternative to a limousine for a night out. “But,” he adds, “they make great everyday cars too.” So I asked him if I could live with one for a while to see for myself and I can report that yes, they are remarkably easy to live with as an everyday commuting, shopping and touring car.
The first, and biggest obstacle, for many will be the fact that the Interceptor is only available in left-hand drive. However, after taking the cop car out for a spin in the city, I didn’t find that it was a problem at all; in fact, it was a boon sometimes as I had sightlines that others didn’t and when I pulled up to the kerb I could slip out of the car safely – straight onto the pavement. Drivers do need to use caution on more major roads, especially when overtaking, but will soon learn to compensate.
The big front seats are comfortable and there are four cup-holders up front providing plenty of storage space for an early morning coffee boost. The rear seat (vinyl, remember, so they are easy to keep clean) is easily wide enough to fit three full-size child seats on it via ISO-fix connectors and it has three full seat belts and huge rear leg room for them as they get older and taller too.
The boot is huge and swallows a week’s shopping or luggage for a two-week holiday. It’s also home to a full-size spare wheel and tyre rather than a small ‘space-saver’, which is a real benefit should you be unlucky enough to have a puncture.
It’s a safe car too, fitted with three-point seatbelts all round (the front ones are fitted with pre-tensioners), dual-stage airbags, a driver’s seat position sensor, and restraint control module. These features, combined with the car’s general solidity, make it the only car in the world to pass the federal American 75-mph rear-end crash test without a fuel tank puncture. It also earned NHTSA’s 5* crash test safety rating – the highest achievable – for the driver and front passenger for 13 years in a row.
On the road the big lazy V8 engine and automatic gearbox made town driving a doddle, although my fuel consumption did slip to 20mpg (14.1 lts/100kms) overall. Wherever I went I got the thumbs-up from other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike which made city driving a joy rather than a chore. One nice feature is that other road users were very positive about the big Crown Vic, often letting me out of side junctions with a smile. That level of civility is priceless.
The Interceptor is 114.6 inches (2910mm) long and similarly wide so you’d expect parking to be difficult, and whilst multi-storey car parks do need caution, in practice I simply chose the car parks with care.
Motorways and major roads are dispatched with aplomb, the big Crown Vic’s soft suspension and torquey engine making it an effortless mile-munching cruiser. The wide seats and spacious interior are reminiscent of travelling in an SUV – and the view out over the long, long bonnet is wonderful…
So how does the Ford Crown Victoria P71 Interceptor stack up as an everyday family car? Well, it’s safe, spacious, comfortable and reliable. Its performance is strong and it handles well. Children will love its looks and the gadgets that it has fitted.
Running costs should be broadly in line with similarly sized UK cars such as the Ford Mondeo, and the simplicity and familiarity of the mechanicals parts mean that any competent mechanic would be able to service and repair it. For extra piece of mind you get a free 15 month warranty when you buy one and USA Cop Cars keep many of the Interceptor-specific parts that you might need in stock so that you can be confident that you won’t be stranded for want of spares if anything does break or get damaged.
If you can live with the fuel consumption – and there is plenty of space in the boot for an LPG-conversion, which would give the equivalent of 30mpg – and are in the market for something a bit different, then the Interceptor has an awful lot going for it as an iconic family saloon. If you are shy you could order a plain vanilla or dark blue version, but given the positive reactions of everyone around when they see it, why not go the whole hog and treat yourself to an NYPD or State Trooper-liveried original?
USA Cop Cars sell and rent out genuine police Interceptors from the USA. Enquiries should be directed to +44 7708 095833.