Jason Ponic works in the exciting world of Hollywood film and television by day and writes by night.
The Police Car
The police car, the urban legend of the road. For many, including myself, owning a police car is like a childhood dream come true. The power, the aura, everything came with the car, except for the lights and sirens of course.
Working in the film industry, you often find yourself driving to remote locations all over the state, on dirt roads and out of cell service. In 2014 alone, I logged more than 14,000 work related miles on my personal vehicle. I realized I needed something that was built for that kind of abuse.
The Crown Victoria was the perfect choice for such a profession. It's cheap to maintain, built to withstand just about anything, and had a reputation for 150,000 + miles before serious mechanical problems.
The one thing I didn't expect when I purchased my P71 is the amount of attention I get each and every time I drive down the road. The most common question asked is, "Where can I get one?"
The fast and easy answer is "At the police auction." The problem with that is unless you know what to look for, you will buy nothing but a load of problems. But with some key tips in mind, you can avoid the junk cars and instead purchase a powerful, reliable and cheap set of wheels.
This guide only gives buying tips for the Ford Crown Victoria P71 or P7E. The Dodge Charger, Chevy Caprice, and Ford Taurus are different designs and therefore may not follow the same wear pattern or reliability as the P71.
Why the Crown Victoria?
To answer this question, let's look at the history of the car. From 1992 to 2011, the Ford Crown Victoria dominated the police and taxi industries. The canceling of the old Chevy Caprice in 1996 left the Vic without a running mate and a near monopoly. For twelve years, the Crown Victoria's physical design did not change. The end of its production marks the extinction of the old V8-powered, rear-wheel drive, steel-on-frame design. The end of an age in American car design.
Ford had its reasons for discontinuing the Vic. Declining sales and simple fuel economics were the bigger ones. Modern police work also requires a faster, more agile and efficient cruiser. The Crown Vic's gas-guzzling V8, while greatly improved in later generations, simply could not compete with the more fuel-efficient Dodge Charger and even Ford's own Taurus. The Vic was more durable and rugged but at the cost of speed and maneuverability.
Researching Your Car
Be careful when looking to buy a used Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. The natural tendency is to lean towards the cheap side; however that will guarantee you a worthless money pit. Bottom line, you are buying a used fleet car that has been retired from service due to wear and tear. Here are a couple of things to consider upfront.
- How rough a cruiser was used during service.
- Driving conditions and environments the cruiser was exposed to.
- Pre-existing problems.
- Guaranteed maintenance history.
- Retirement based on mileage.
- Reputation and reliability of the model.
The key to finding the best used cruisers is to look at the department or agency from which it is being retired from. Each retires their cruisers using different criteria. Some retire based on the age of the car, others by mileage/idle time. The resulting ready-for-purchase vehicles are in various stages of wear from excellent to poor.
|Agency||Average Mileage||Average Idle Hours||Average Condition||Notes|
Retired at 100,000 miles regardless of age.
Usually retired 3-5 years regardless of mileage.
Run hard. Well Maintained.
After a cruiser is retired and stripped of its police equipment, into a yard for storage, it goes. Here it will sit...and sit... easily up to one year before it goes to auction. It is during this mothballed phase where the most damage can occur either by vandalism or the elements. Here are common problems that occur after a car has been sitting for months on end:
Fuel Gum: Cars are parked with whatever fuel is left in the tank without treatment or drainage. Fuel gum can cause the fuel pump float to stick, rendering the gas gauge unreliable. It can also oxidize the fuel lines causing higher than normal emissions for at least the first 100 miles after restart and premature clogging of the fuel filter.
Yellowing/ Fading Plastic Parts: Being parked in the same position for months or years will expose the car to repetitive, identical strafes of sunlight. This will cause accelerated UV damage to the headlights and other plastic parts such as the mirrors, molding, dash and seat tops.
Peeling Paint: Perhaps the most infamous problem of the Ford Crown Victoria. A known manufacturing defect, the paint loses its bond with the primer coat due to UV exposure after just 3-4 years. The paint will effortlessly peel clean off the car in large chunks. Sitting idle in the sun will only accelerate this.
Holes in the Dash/Interior: Most police cars are completely stripped of their police equipment when they hit the auction house. The center console has either been partially or completely removed. Holes in the dash and stray wires are everywhere. Some of the OEM equipment such as the power outlets may have also been removed in the gut out process.
Worthless Wipers: Also damaged by UV exposure, the windshield wipers will be stiff, useless pieces of rubber that will smear rather than wipe water from the windshield.
Worn Out Tires: By the time a cruiser is retired, its tires are usually worn out or close to it. Since good tires are still an asset, they are sometimes swapped for worn out ones just prior to retirement. This varies from department to department.
If you can, it is always best to test drive a Police Interceptor before purchasing. Of course, it is not possible on the auction lot but if you are purchasing from a resale dealer, take a test drive. Some questions you'll want to ask yourself:
- Does the engine sound funny when you accelerate or idle?
- Do the brakes feel rough?
- Is there smoke in the exhaust?
- Do the gears shift slowly?
- Are the tires bald or dry rotted?
- Does the suspension creak?
Chances are the car will be maintenance if you answer yes to any of these. How much maintenance is unknown.
Driving a Crown Victoria
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Jason Ponic
Azhiaziam on September 11, 2019:
In august my car took a dump. So i went looking at dealer selections. Everything junk plaatic and overpriced. I went on marketplace. I was going to get a grand prix. But my stepmom wanted me to look at the cop car 2010 crown victoria. With my prior experiences of riding in the rear i knew they wete a smootg ride. Bare minimum i always wanted to drive a cop car. Beforehand i looked everything up about the p71 and headed over. Big bad paint job no spare tire. Wires were all over it. Aftermarket radio flickered in and out. I was sure i wasnt gonna buy it. But my test drive was all i wanted. First things checked all fluids and etc. Started right up. A growl like a tiger or lion came from the engine. Wasnt used to rear wheel drive and it jerked ahead. I quickly tamed the beast and set forth to run its paces through the gears slowly accelerating the shift into secong gear was unnoticable. However what i read was 2nd gear goes out in them. So i slowly accelerated to 25 26 27 28 it smoothly shifted into third. I was relieved. I slowed down to a stop brakes worked. It was time for pursuit mode. I stomped down the gas. Boy i could have lost a race to a child on a bigwheel. Its very slow from the gate. It had plastic floor vinyl rear seat and cloth fronts. I thought my kids cant trash my car as easily as others ive had over the years. The price was high i thought 1800. And it wasnt pretty. I thought no way. But had to call the wife for her thoughts. When i told her i was testing a crown vic. My r didnt come through clearly. She said whats a convic. That was it i had to have the xar. It was meant to be. My cars name is FEAR the ConVic. It came with 2 spotlights that light up the dark corners. Everyone i know thats seen it has given me the red blinkie lights to have on my dash. My daughter gave the car its name Fear. Because when we come behind another car she yells dont pass daddy they will get scared and pull over. 7 times out of ten they do. I had to fix some wiring etc. But i love this car. More than my 300 the jag i had or even the mercedes 420. It is a jet when its moving. Be at 40 and stomp it. Itll reach 100 in 3 To 5 seconds. Its got rivet filled in on The roof. It has the largest trunk ive ever seen. Yeah the doors need to be repainted the black sprayin covering sheriff is peeling. It does hellofa donut cops like donuts so of course it does too. Lol. I joke with people about now i got a police interceptor those kops cant get away no more. The guy wanted 18 i offered 9 ended up getting it for 12. I thi k its a great car for that price.very dependable and its a protector it will get us home. I am happy i found it. I want to find an auction and possibly buy another. I love the upgrade electrical. 80 amp power point. I got 2 inverters going. I spotlight any and all things. The short in the electrical was a loose wire behind the radio. All fixed. My only issue is i will not get in the back. The rearwheel drive is a little rough on the dirt roads i live on at least first off. But ive gotten that under control. I would sell if anyone interested. 2010 fear convic black paid 12 will sell for left arm and first born. Im thinking painting it gold fleck with black radiating through. Also bullet hole decals would make it pop. If anyone know of any police auctions up around the 805 slo let me know. Itd be appreciated.
Johnny Bankston on June 26, 2019:
I got a 2006 Crown and found one thing was wrong with it. The transmission was bad and had it redone and had no more trouble with it.
Jason Ponic (author) from Albuquerque on June 26, 2019:
Depends on the location. In the Southwest region: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, dry rot and temperature damage is extremely common.
Titans1854 on June 26, 2019:
The real damage is from sitting their idling for thousands of hours not sitting in the sun for a few months
My09CV on June 13, 2019:
I just picked up a 2009 Crown Vic.Its black, and very well cared for.It was a detectives car from PA, so the car isn’t gutted and is still in great shape.And very fast with a set of Flow masters and a few other items.I Love this car.And yes, most folks just simply move out of my way of the car.I Also blackened everything out.The car looks sinister.
Craig F on June 13, 2019:
Yea I own an 09 black CV.It was a PA detectives car so it was well cared for and not all gutted out.Love this car.And it flys,as soon as you hit that gas....Boom u gone.
Justin K. on May 30, 2019:
I know a guy in OH that sells cvpis that were detective cars, transport cars, etc. that haven't been beat on, low idle hrs. in very good condition. He's in Cortland, Ohio, Maysan Auto sales.
David Paulus on May 01, 2019:
Benjamin Boisrond, try Ken Porter Auctions in Riverside County CA.
Jason Ponic (author) from Albuquerque on April 02, 2019:
The P71 doesn't have a 5.7, it has the 4.6.
Scott Thompson on March 30, 2019:
I disagree on one point: Dirty oil tells you nothing. Modern oils have detergents and, when doing it's job well, the oil picks up and holds grime and dirt. That's a good thing. It may have been true 40 years ago, that's not all issue now. In fact, I would be suspicious of new oil absent a good explanation. New oil can hide problems.
If, however, the oil is sludge or shows any sign of water, walk away.
I've had Grand Marquis but want a P71 before they're gone. I don't know why For stopped making them. Taxi drivers and cops love them because of their durability. Hot rodders love they front suspension because it's dirt cheap and built to withstand brute Force.
A bigger engine, or at least option for one (5.7 or bigger) would have been nice.
Matt on March 29, 2019:
I guess when you buy a ex police car you think a little diffrent in the driver set .
Gary Carter on March 23, 2019:
Best Car Ever.
Gary14carter@gmail.com on March 23, 2019:
2008Best Car Ev
Steve on March 08, 2019:
Kevin look at auction sites
Benjamin Boisrond on February 17, 2019:
Does any body know the CVPI dealer "LEI industries" base at San Jacinto CA ?
I plan to buy a CVPI with them.
Kevin Peterson on December 04, 2018:
In Salt Lake City, Utah USA, I'd like to know where I can find myself one of these.
WheelScene from U.S.A. on July 14, 2017:
One of the best Auto hubs I have read in a while, you really go into detail and the aftermarket part supply is a big part of why these are so easy to keep on the road! Thanks for sharing
Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 15, 2014:
Interesting topic for a hub. I have always wondered why law enforcement officers love the Crown Vic and now I know. I learned a lot here. It is a shame that all that damage occurs while sitting there.
Up +++ tweeting and pinning