Oh, it's not a police car, just another taxi...
July 17, 2006 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I have noticed that there are a lot of taxis that are Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors. Are they actually old police cars or are they purchased new?

It is obvious that a yellow taxi is not a police car, but I have often slowed down (not that I was speeding...) near a "police car" only to find out it is actually a taxi. It even says "Police Interceptor" on the back and has the same sort of markings (white with some sort of dark stripe) and black grille protector. I imagine that taxi companies can't just buy these cars new, and from doing a little research all I can find is that taxi companies like them because they are "heavy-duty".
posted by nekton to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Except for the options, the Interceptor seems to be pretty much the same things as these.
posted by bigmusic at 12:06 PM on July 17, 2006

One reason they are so popular is because the police units are designed with heavy duty oil and engine cooling systems that allow them to idle or do start and stop running for long periods of times without engine and transmission damage.
posted by Raybun at 12:20 PM on July 17, 2006

Response by poster: I know that taxis are generally also Crown Vics, but when they say "Police Interceptor" on the back they must have been police cars originally.
posted by nekton at 12:20 PM on July 17, 2006

The vast majority are old police cars. Special service vehicles are generally only sold to law enforcement agencies (because of special support issues) and then sold at auction when the are perceived as not being reliable enough or too expensive to fix. Taxi companies have been snapping these cars up since the 30s because they are cheap[1] and there is a good deal of overlap between the needs of cops and taxis (Power for radios and computers, durable interiors, roominess, good A/C during extended idling, steel wheels sized for a tire size that is cheap). They are often on propane from the factory which is also desirable.

[1] With the exception of the blues brothers most people place ex-cruiser on the same desirability level as ex-rental car which depresses resale value.
posted by Mitheral at 12:21 PM on July 17, 2006

Are you guys sure about that? I've talked to a cabbie and he claimed that his particular company buys crown vics new. The reason is basically that they put > 1,000,000 km on them in 3 years and then ditch them because they start falling apart. I'd imagine a retired police cruiser would be in a similar sort of shape.
posted by aeighty at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2006

Yes, police departments sell their cars at auction after they're done with them, usually on a set schedule determined by the municipality's amortization tables. Cab companies that are cheap buy the cars and

However, bigger cab companies that can afford to buy cars new will buy them from Ford Fleet. THey won't have the "Police Interceptor" tag on them -- which is a Specific Fleet car with upgraded electronics and a few other toys.

But as Elwood said... "It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks."
posted by SpecialK at 12:27 PM on July 17, 2006

Until recently (sometime between 1995 and 1997 -- the period when I lived in NYC), only models that were approved for use as police cars could be used as taxis in NYC. (I don't know when this started, as it obviously wasn't always the case, e.g. Checker cabs). The first non-police-car model approved was the Honda Odyssey. IIRC, it seemed like it was a pretty long process to get approval.
posted by winston at 12:32 PM on July 17, 2006

aeighty writes "I've talked to a cabbie and he claimed that his particular company buys crown vics new."

It's true cabs often roll over a million miles but they usually start somewhere between 100-200K when the cops put them out to auction. Most cabs don't accumulate mileage at the 330K/year rate. That would be 9+ hours everyday at highway speeds or 18 hours at city speed with no stops.

I've done lots of A/C work on cabs, rarely was a brand new car purchased unless there was a special need. (Handicap. airport, status car). The depreciation is too high and they would burn through the warranty in less than a year. Plus a well cared for car with 200K on it is nicely broken in with all the bugs worked out, why pay for a brand new car? The only exception I can think of personally is when a new company started back in the 70s and they went out and bought 30 Furys for their fleet.

My experience is with a 100K residents city, maybe things are different in a 1M+ market.
posted by Mitheral at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2006

Mitheral: Special service vehicles are generally only sold to law enforcement agencies (because of special support issues)...

I remember reading in Car and Driver way back when (we're talking '70s here) that it was fairly easy for John Q. Public to purchase a police-spec car through the fleet manager of a dealer. Do you know that this is this no longer possible?
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:26 PM on July 17, 2006

Ford only sells such special service vehicles to law enforcement entities...NOT cab companies.

Cab companies are quick to buy up used "Police Interceptor" Crown Vics at auction, due to their enhanced cooling system for the engine and oil.

I would be surprised if Ford did not offer a cab-specific C-Vic model.

You can always purchase badges and other items for your Ford vehicle, so it may be the case that cabbies purchase "Police Interceptor" badges to spice up their cars. For example, I have the higher grade, Ford made police duty silicone cooling hoses in my '93 Mustang 5.0 instead of standard rubber hoses.
posted by criticman at 1:29 PM on July 17, 2006

Steve in Maine: it's come up several times in magazines. You cannot, per se, purchase a Crown Vic from the factory with the entire P71 police cruiser accessories package, unless you are an accredited law enforcement agency -- as was noted, I think some of it has to do with liability issues.

You can buy *most* of the items in the package (though not all) as separate options.

Or, you can just buy a used cruiser, if you enjoy having people get the hell out of your way on the interstate. I don't *think* the "Police Interceptor" badge is sufficient to get you arrested for impersonating an officer, unless you *really* piss a cop off bad.

As for cab companies: yeah, some of them buy used cruisers, and some buy new fleet-package Crown Vics.
posted by baylink at 1:36 PM on July 17, 2006

Ditto Aeighty re NYC cabs, but there's also a NYTLC regulation that they be retired at a mileage/age threshhold. I asked a cabbie what happens--he was with one of the biggest fleets in NY--he said that they get reconditioned at a shop owned by the leasing company and sent to, e.g., Chicago for use there.

[One fleet, one opinion, one cabbie source.]
posted by Phred182 at 1:42 PM on July 17, 2006

Dodge also only sells SSV stuff to police/goverments. Not that it is really a huge deal anymore, unlike back in the 60s-70s when you got really special engines and suspensions (EG: The 1969 Polara Pursuit, with its 375 bhp 440, sleek new "fuselage" bodystyle, and standard 3.23 axle, could do 0-60 in 6.3 seconds, the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds (at over 99 mph), and run out to a top speed of (or, by some accounts, above) 147 mph!. [via Allpar].)

Now you get stuff like certified speedometer*, column shifter, inoperable rear door locks and rear windows, emergency rear door lock override, heavy-duty alternator*, heavy-duty battery*, heavy-duty brakes*, and special police electrical wiring (Prewired for radios and beacons)*, daytime running lamps*, dual spot lamp*, police-type heavy-duty front seats and full-size spare tire*

[*] Available after market.

posted by Mitheral at 1:55 PM on July 17, 2006

And yes, criticman, that Ford Fleet site lists the non-cop Crown Vic as well, which has all the other stuff that makes them nice fleet cars, but skips the cop-specific stuff.

Including the ability for the driver to lock the passengers in the back. :-)
posted by baylink at 2:08 PM on July 17, 2006

According to this site, there
Are four distinct trim levels of 1992+ crown victorias. There's
Civilian Base Model (P73)
Civilian LX Model (P74)
Police Model (P71)
Taxicab package (P72)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:03 PM on July 17, 2006

seconding sightings of 'police inerceptor' crown vics, in seattle, with apparently factory yellow-cab paint. Why keep the badge if repainted?
posted by mwhybark at 9:30 PM on July 17, 2006

The badge may be attached to holes in the car. If it is, you'd have to do some bodywork to fill the holes if you took it off. Easier to leave the badge on.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:17 AM on July 18, 2006

In NYC Yellow taxi cabs cannot be police surplus, they must be purchased new.

Also, the wear and tear on police cars especially is less than you would initially think. Most police cars (here in NYC anyway) never really shut off. They patrol, then idle, then patrol and spend most of the time on and running. This means they experience vastly fewer 'cold' starts and are properly lubricated more often. Also, cop maintenance can't be beat.

Probably the most important difference in a police-issues car is the cooling system and hoses. Cop packages have bigger cooling systems as a whole and silicone hoses so they can run hotter for longer (read: high speed chases).

Also, be very wary. Not all police surplus cars have the police package. Detective's cars and others are often bone stock crown vics with some fancy electronics added. These get the same abuse without the beefing up.
posted by Skorgu at 8:30 AM on July 18, 2006

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