What’s black and blue, weighs 4,000lbs, and gives other drivers mini heart attacks?
-A retired Police P71 Interceptor.
If you’ve spent any time in America, you know the fear associated with seeing one of these authoritative land yachts floating down the road, and that’s because the Vic is the most commonly used police vehicle in the US. Chances are, you’ve been pulled over by one, whether it was for speeding or because your “foot slipped.” Regardless, you can’t deny the fact that the Vic is an American icon in its own way. It’s pretty common knowledge that once these squad cars hit retirement, they get publicly auctioned off at liquidation prices. After that, their life continues on as anything from a taxi cab to a daily driver to a race car. They’re versatile, well-maintained, and, above all else, they’re a workhorse.
I didn’t come across my retired Interceptor at an auction, but rather in a private party sale. My reason for buying? I needed something cheap, reliable, and relatively easy to work on after my 300zx broke down yet again. I bought the car for the whopping sum of $900, and I was on my way, cruising down the highway that taxpayers paid for in my car that taxpayers mostly paid off.
For my money, I got a 4.6 2v V8 (as found in the 99-04 Mustang GT), a 4 speed automatic 4R70W transmission, and a posi Ford 8.8 rear end. I even got the ’01 which was the first year of the Vic to feature PI (Performance Improved) heads and intake, which puts the car at around 235 horsepower and 275 ft lbs of torque. Fast? Not particularly, but who can argue with a rear wheel drive V8 car for sub $1k?
Simply put, the Crown Victoria is a boat. This car is one of the last body-on-frame American sedans to be produced, which makes it incredibly heavy, and the body roll is severe enough to knock the noggin off of your in-car bobble head. The motor is torquey, fun, and responsive up to about 2000 rpm, although I have to admit that’s mostly an estimate because the car doesn’t have a tach. The transmission has to be one of the slowest shifting mechanisms on the face of the earth, but it works perfectly under full throttle. The P71 Interceptor, while not being necessarily fast, is no slouch.
The biggest hurdle of P71 ownership is not learning to drive with the behemoth of a car, but rather learning to live with the fact that everyone thinks you might be a cop (and that they will drive accordingly).
If you hate people hitting their brakes in front of you, the Vic is not for you.
If you rage at people going 5 under the limit around you, the Vic is not for you.
If you can’t take the dirty glances when people realize you’re not a cop,
the Vic. is not. for you.
Until driving the P71, I have never seen so much caution immediately followed by so much fury while driving. It’s hard to believe some people want these cars so they’re perceived as police officers. If anything, it’s a curse.
On the plus side, it’s rare you’ll get cut off or tailgated in the car due to its indimidating nature, and it’s hard not to feel somewhat like a badass when you’re driving 2 tons of steel with a giant push bar out front. It’s extremely reassuring knowing you could destroy most rear bumpers on the road if you saw fit.
Despite the expected physical imperfections that occur after 150k miles of a life spent fighting crime, one thing you find out quickly after purchasing this inexpensive power barge is that everything else becomes ruined by the P71’s bang-for-the-buck factor. The Vic becomes your new currency benchmark for all major purchases because it’s impossible not to compare everything to its price. You’ll see a very reasonably priced car and think to yourself “That costs 3 Crown Vics, what a ripoff.”
One thing to understand about this vehicle is that it’s a fleet car. This means the extras could be described as minimal. For creature comforts in the #squadcar, there are heater controls, a radio, and not much else. The one thing that this car does amazingly well, however, is hold cups. It has not two, not four, but an astonishing six cup holders, which doesn’t make much sense considering the car only seats 5. As mentioned earlier, there is no tachometer, but other than that, it’s pretty standard for a sedan.
If you’re looking for trunk space, look no further. It seems the Vic’s trunk could accommodate plenty of luggage, a small family, and a Smart Car. You could probably live in it. Seriously. It’s like a small truck bed.
Overall, the P71 Interceptor is a tank with character. Taking on the ownership of one of these ex-chariots of justice has its ups and downs, but in the end, you’re getting a rear wheel drive V8 with a decent potential for power and a whole lot of presence… and you can’t beat the price.