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Running down the runners

New breed of cop cars upgraded to out-speed scofflaws

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Elwood Blues may have been onto something when he picked up his brother, Jake, from prison in a battered old Mopar police cruiser

"It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters, so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say? Is it the new Bluesmobile or what?"

Turns out the lighter didn't work and crazy Jake tossed it out the window, but hey, they jumped a drawbridge in that 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan. Ultimately, the Blues Brothers wheeled that beast through arguably the greatest car chase in movie history. That former Mount Pleasant squad car was as tough as nails.

It had to be.

Since the first time a bad guy tried to outrun a good guy, the quest for more power, durability and speed has raged on.

Back in the Dirty '30s, squad cars were little more than everyday vehicles with some added lighting and markings to distinguish them from civilian rides, but as time and crime advanced, so did police cars. By the early 1970s, the boys in blue were tooling around in high-performance machines that were purpose-built to withstand the rigours of daily police work and the occasional high-speed chase.

Fast Fords, muscular Mopars, even the odd heavy Chevy roamed the highways in search of speeders and scofflaws who were typically no match for these mean machines.

But over the years, if you ask me, police cars got watered down. Yes, there was the 5.0 Mustang and a speedy Camaro model decked out for duty in the '80s and '90s. But for the better part of the last two decades, the Chevrolet Caprice and Impala models and the Ford Crown Victoria cop cars that have dominated law enforcement have been boring sedans with about as much personality as a taxi.

This may be bad news for the bad guys, but in recent times, the cop-car market has really heated up.

When the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor ceased production in late 2011, a hopped-up version of the sixth-generation Taurus was offered to police forces in early 2012 as a 2013 model. Rather than calling it a Taurus, Ford simply calls the new police car the Police Interceptor Sedan. It looks mean, real mean. It is available with engines found in civilian versions of the Taurus, either the 3.5-litre Cyclone V-6 producing 263 horsepower, or the potent 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 from the SHO that makes a whopping 365 ponies and features all-wheel drive.

Not to be outdone, Dodge unveiled the all-new 2012 Charger Pursuit last year. Two engines are available -- the 3.6-litre, 292-horsepower Pentastar V-6 or the legendary 5.7-litre HEMI V-8, which pumps out a neck-snapping 370 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.

Then Chevy joined the mix with a reborn Caprice that is currently available to law enforcement only. It's an Australian-built Holden with a Chevy badge. It shares the same platform as the Camaro, so like the Charger, it's rear-wheel drive. The Caprice is available with either a 301-horsepower, 3.6-litre V-6 or a tire-spinning 6.0-litre V-8 that makes 355 horsepower.

According to the Michigan State Police, who annually test police cruisers, the Caprice was the quickest of the bunch in tests in October, with a top speed of 250 km/h. The Dodge runs flat out at 243 km/h and the Ford Interceptor can hit 241 km/h.

The Winnipeg Police Service currently uses the old Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor cruisers, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Explorer and Ford Expedition SUVs, as well as Chevrolet Impala sedans. With the fleet aging by the minute, it's a sure bet we will begin to see these new hopped-up models on city streets in the very near future.

Who knows? Someday, if it ever makes it to production, we may even see an ultra-futuristic Carbon Motors E7 police cruiser.

Designed by a former police officer, the E7 will run a BMW straight-six turbo-diesel engine, it will feature rear-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission and numerous safety features for officer safety, including rear-impact crash capability in excess of 120 km/h and optional ballistic protection panels.

Even the front seats of the E7 have the officers in mind -- they are designed to be more comfortable while wearing a duty belt. The rear doors will open outward like a limousine, making it easier to stuff bad guys in the back.

No chance of the Blues Brothers ever getting their hands on an E7, though. According to Wikipedia, Carbon Motors has stated that in order to keep their vehicles out of private ownership, when an agency wishes to dispose of an E7, it must either be sold to another law-enforcement agency or returned to the factory to be parted out.

Sorry, Elwood.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 F6

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