How to Guides

The History of NYC Police Cars

Timberly Dinglas posted this on Apr 13, 2015

The New York City Police Department, also known as the NYPD or NYCPD, was formally founded in 1845. NYPD is considered one of the oldest and largest police departments in the United States. NYPD’s extensive law enforcement services covers all five boroughs of New York City.

The history of the NYPD police cars began in the late 19th Century. The very first vehicle used to maneuver police forces from one location to another were horse-drawn wagons. It wasn’t until the early 20th century when they began employing motorized police cars.

Here are some of the classic police units operated by the NYPD throughout history:

The first motorized police car employed by the NYPD during the 1920s was the 1917 Ford Model T, a cargo van used to carry the police forces. They also used radio motor patrol vehicles to aid with the law enforcement.

In the 1930s, the NYPD introduced the Ford Plymouth two-door radio cars. This was the standard vehicle for the NYPD officers up until the 1940s. It was also during this period when Ford introduced the Ford Flathead V-8 engine that was mass marketed towards the police car industry.  

The Mack Truck Emergency Service Unit was patrolling during the 1930s as well. It started out as a riot control and rescue unit and eventually evolved over time to cover an extensive list of responsibilities and situations that includes hostage situations, terrorism threat, bomb handling, and more.  

1930 Mack Truck

1930 Mack Truck

The NYPD rolled out its first Ford Custom 300 in 1958. Also known as the “Four Door” 58 Fords, this model uses the Factory 292 Cu. ln. V8 engine and a transmission of 3 Speed Automatic. The accessories includes the Federal Signal Model 17 Light, the Federal Signal Model 28 Siren, the Stewart Warner Police Special Speedometer, and the Motorola Twin V Police Radio.


1958 Ford Custom 300

In 1973, the Plymouth Fury I Highway Patrol Unit made its debut to the public.This was the first year the NYPD began operating marked car units. This model was the first car to adopt the signature “blue and white” paint scheme with the intention to increase visibility.

The Plymouth Fury I has a Factory 400 Cu. ln. V8 engine and a 3 Speed Automatic transmission. Its accessories include Motorola T-Power radio, Signal VI Siren and Control Center, Signal Stat Light Bar, and Stewart Warner “Police Special” Speedometer.


1973 Plymouth Fury I Highway Patrol Unit

The Plymouth Satellite Custom was subsequently introduced in 1974. The NYPD decided to switch from the Plymouth Fury I to the Plymouth Satellite Custom because of the 1973 oil crisis. The oil crisis caused the price of oil per barrel to rise from $3 to $12. The Plymouth Satellite Custom is smaller than the Plymouth Fury I which made it cost efficient with regards to the consumption of gasoline.

The Plymouth Satellite Custom used the Factory 318 Cu. ln. V8 engine and the 3 Speed Automatic transmission. Much like the Plymouth Fury I, specs include Signal Stat Light Bar, Signal VI Siren and Control Center, Stewart Warner “Police Speedometer, and Motorola T-Power Radio.


1974 Plymouth Satellite Custom

In 1989, the NYPD introduced the Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 Package. This classic car uses a Factory 350 Cu. ln. V8 engine and a 3 Speed Automatic. Specs include a Federal Signal Aerodynic lens and a Federal Signal PA-300.


 1989Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 Package

Most of the police unit models used today are manufactured by Ford and Chevrolet. Some of the most common models you can spot patrolling the streets of New York include the Ford Crown Victoria, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, and the Nissan Altima.  

Categories: Autowiki Auto History