Trash Can Gems: 2003 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

Ford replaced the squared-off Crown Victoria LTD with a new, more aerodynamic Crown Victoria for the 1992 model year. The chassis under that flowing body line remains a late 1970s vintage Panther, but a nice old body-on-frame design with coil springs all around and large suspension components turned out to be just the ticket for law enforcement use (especially when combined with the money-saving benefits of low aerodynamic drag, weight-reduction tricks, and modern V8 overhead-cams. Sure, some civilians bought the 1992-2011 Crown Victoria, but the fleet sales of the P72 (taxi) and P71 (police) versions were what made the car a two-decade sales success.Here’s the (relatively speaking) low-key second-generation P71, found in a supermarket yard south of Denver.

Other siblings of this car are the Mercury Grand Marquis and the Lincoln Town Car; Production of the Grand Marquis continued until Mercury’s death in the 2011 model year, while the Town Car got the ax the same year. Allegedly, some Crown Victorians were built in late 2011 for the 2012 model year and exported to Saudi Arabia; the last model year for North American sales of the Crown Victoria was 2011.

I had a former 1997 police intercept cop as my daily driver for the second half of the 2000s. It was a parole officer’s car in California’s Central Valley and wasn’t used for many arrests, so it had plenty of low-pressure highway miles, no urine smell (though have done come with lots of unused urine test kits in the trunk), and non-black-and-white paint. I really liked the car, with its super cool air conditioning, 25 mpg highway fuel economy, and flat handling.

Many police P71s have factory back seats removed and replaced with anti-pee fiberglass units, with the original seats swapped back when it comes time to auction the car. The good condition of the seats suggests that’s the case, although this car may have been a private security patrol vehicle, in which some of the leakers were handcuffed and stuffed.

A very a useful feature of the P71 is the thick rubber carpet, which forms a sort of waterproof tub inside the car. If any unpleasant substance ends up on the carpet, you can simply flush it.

This one has an extra fancy CD player on the dash, something most police departments won’t want to pay extra for. Maybe someone traded this radio after the car was auctioned off by its original fleet owner.

I hear that these cars are often found with intergalactic level odometer readings, but most of the ones I find in car graves have the 150,000-250,000 range as their last mile count. Taxis usually have higher readings, especially those starting a life in the law enforcement business, but so far my personal junkyard record holder has just 412,013 miles. I think the excess of the ex-cop P71 means that taxi companies find it cheaper to buy a more 150k mile P71 at auction than to repair it with a worn suspension, bad rust and/or a shattered interior.

With all the talk of special police gear on ex-cop cars, the P71 is never too fast in a straight line. In 2003, the 4.6 Modular V8 with dual exhaust produced 239 horsepower; Police Interceptors generally get this machine, which is also available as an option on civilian Crown Vics. Police Interceptor Suspension have done offers a huge performance boost over its civilian counterpart, with stiffer springs and fatter sway bars (the first time I rented a civilian Crown Vic after buying my P71, its marine-style suspension almost made me put it on its roof on the first freeway offram) . The driveshaft on the Police Interceptor is a specially balanced aluminum component, so the car won’t be shaken to pieces on a long-distance highway chase with the pedals glued to the floor, and every possible heavy-duty liquid cooler is included in the PI package.

It looks like no one is buying this spotlight at this point. When I was a teenage criminal who haunted junkyards in the early 1980s, I was excited to get a lot of the original cop spotlight for my 1958 Beetle.

One of the places where the P71 still plays a major role is low-budget street racing. During my years as an honored and respected official with the 24 Hour Lemon series, I have seen at least a hundred P71s compete in weekend endurance races. They have proven to be extremely reliable, with predictable handling and respectable lap times. In fact, if I had to bet on the Acura Integra or the BMW 3-Series versus the P71 to get the most spins, I’d put my money on the P71 (unless the Integra or 3-Series have done enough races to work out the worst bugs).

If you’re looking for a fun project car to build into something faster and more luxurious, I’d recommend the 2000s P71 without a doubt. Just upgrade to a Mustang six-speed manual, add a bolt-on supercharger kit, and then swap the full Town Car interior (which more or less goes straight into the Crown Victoria).

The most advanced police car ever to wear the Blue Oval Badge.

Ford didn’t bother doing a lot of television commercials for the post-1992 Crown Victoria, which makes sense for a vehicle that’s mostly bought by government agencies.

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