Some information on SSP Mustangs

 

- What is an SSP Mustang?

    Mustangs were introduced for Law Enforcement service in 1982, when 406 units were ordered the California Highway Patrol. Camaros had been tried previously for pursuit vehicles, but because of power train problems (remember those early 80's 305 V8's and their self dissolving camshafts?) agencies looked towards other outlets for vehicles to fill the niche between full size sedans and smaller vehicles; they found it in the SSP Mustang. SSP stands for Special Service Package, and was a DSO (Domestic Special Order) available from Ford (for more info on DSO data see the Technical page).

     Mustangs were not only 10-15% cheaper than the full size sedans, they got up to speed a heck of lot faster; 0-60 in under 6 seconds with the 5 speed! Handling was excellent, mileage respectable. Ask any cop who got stuck driving one of the 4.3L sedans and then got his hands on the leather wrapped steering wheel of an SSP...it's a tribute to the solidness of the car they held up as well as they did under the 'gentle' treatment they received! Speaking from personal experience, the only police package car I've driven that's come close in terms of performance was an LT1 equipped Caprice or an LT1 B4C Camaro, and that was for acceleration only. This does not include post-1997 cars like the LS1 B4C Camaro, which is an apples-to oranges comparison...but I digress....

     Reputedly, over 15,000 Mustangs were produced with the SSP option. All SSP cars, except for 5 1982 hatchback vehicles produced for CHP, were coupe or 'notchback' style cars; no GT or convertibles body style for regular production on these. Agencies could pick and choose many of the items they wanted, and some additional non-standard items like roll bars were installed by states such as Georgia and Oregon to meet their own needs. New York, for example, required a rear window defroster, power windows, and power door locks on all their cars. Other options like door molding delete (to ease decal application), and inoperative courtesy light switches (for officers' safety) were available, along with many of the standard SS options.

     The SSP included a list of options regular LX sedans didn't have, and the general public just simply couldn't get. Typically, these cars were not sold to the public unless there was a problem with the order. For example, one individual living in New York happened to notice several new blue 1991 Notchback sedans on the front lot of a Ford dealer in Latham, NY. He stopped to look at the cars, and upon closer inspection, he discovered the cars had been destined for the NYSP barracks at Troop C in Sydney, NY but were refused because of the lack of power windows and locks, a requirement for NYSP cars. He was fortunate enough to purchase the vehicle from the dealer with only 40 miles on it, and all the other cars sold in the same day!

     Here's a sample list for available options for 1993 from the Ford SSP brochure. Note that while some of these were a standard part of the SSP package, many such as silicone hoses, were optional. This is for 1993 only, depending on year the options could have differed-please refer to the DSO Data section for information by year.

  • Engine, 5.0 HO V8 with Sequential Multi Port Injection
  • Forged pistons, roller cam (Hypereutectic pistons 1993)
  • Engine oil cooler
  • Aircraft-type Silicone radiator hoses and clamps
  • 5 speed manual or 4 speed AOD transmission
  • Auto transmission fluid cooler
  • Brakes, power disc front/drum rear with rotor shields
  • Stainless steel factory headers
  • Dual exhaust system w/stainless tips
  • Fuel tank capacity - 15.4 Gallons
  • Heavy duty stabilizer bars, front and rear
  • Full instrumentation with in-dash tachometer
  • 130 Amp heavy duty alternator
  • 2 Piece VASCAR speedometer cable
  • Certified calibrated Police speedometer 0-160 MPH
  • Non operational courtesy lights (safety feature)
  • Steering wheel, leather wrapped
  • Relocated rear deck release from glovebox
  • Single key locking doors/trunk
  • Reinforced floor pans
  • Full size spare tire
  • 15" X 8" Cast Aluminum Wheels
  • Anti RFI Bonding straps

     Some of the most desirable features of the SSP options stem from their intended police usage. The 135 externally regulated and later 130 amp internally regulated alternator, for example, was required for the draw of strobes, radios, siren, etc. Silicone hoses were added to help withstand pressure under use (although there is debate over their effectiveness), and reinforced floor pans for body rigidity, since breaking seats was a problem. 'Gatorback' directional tires were added for performance handling and oil and transmission coolers were common. The performance locking rear axle, 5.0 HO roller motor, and often a 5 speed tranny made these a natural for race car conversions. As such, it is much more common to see them purchased for this use rather than a police car restoration effort.

     SSP Mustangs were available in all production colors such as red, green, blue, or black, and many states used a combination of marked and unmarked units. Florida for example used their traditional 2 tone black/cream paint for the marked units and unmarked units came in a variety of colors; I know personally of green, black, gray, dark blue, light green, and red unmarked FHP vehicles. The marked units generally had 5.0/T5 drivetrains, and the unmarked units, which went to Sergeants and higher, had the AOD transmission. For more info the FHP Mustangs, see the FHP section below.

     Although the SSP had a number of advantages including performance, reliability and cost, there were several disadvantages to the vehicles. Because of the 2 door design, there was no room to transport prisoners, a backup had to be called and the officer had to wait until it arrived, which obviously could be a problem. Additionally, the trunk and passenger compartments often fell short of space for the required police equipment. Some jurisdictions such as the Pinellas County, FL, Sheriff's Office which purchased 4 1993 Mustangs, took the front passenger seat out altogether to make room for electronics, putting the seat back in when the vehicle was sold. Additionally, Pinellas County used a custom designed cage for prisoner transport-not an easy fit! Many states designed custom mounting brackets for police electronics such as radio and siren control boxes to fit in the Mustangs' cramped interior. Also, with a 5 speed in some cars, it became difficult at times during pursuit situations to shift and handle electronics simultaneously.

     All SSP cars came with the same standard Mustang suspension and front disc/rear drum brakes and 4 lug wheels and the handling proved adequate with this suspension; special control arms were added near the end of the SSP program to help improve stability. The real complaint came with the power and light rear causing handling problems in wet and snowy weather, which is why these cars received more widespread service in the southern states; Troopers in some states with winter weather actually refused to drive them in inclement conditions! In Michigan, for example, the cars' mileage stayed much lower than comparable Texas or CHP units...no surprise. Nevertheless, the cars were used in colder climates, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Wyoming, and New York.

     Other items such as seats seemed to take a beating, and perhaps the combination of police gear and constant use wore them out. It's not uncommon to see patrol Mustangs with a gaping hole in the drivers seat on one side from an Officer's gun belt;agencies such as Delaware complained that the seats actually broke under the weight of some larger-than-average personnel! Ford answered this by offering a reinforced seat back.

     As the Mustangs use grew, Ford got a chance to correct some deficiencies that surfaced. One was a rear end failure associated with the 7.5 inch rear used through 1985. This was changed to a 8.8 size rear in 1986 which helped prevent rear end failures from the 5.0's torque. Another was the switch to a true special purpose wheel for 1985-1986 only, and then to the 10 hole rim found in many Mustangs from 1987-1993. One oddity was the painting of the wheel black for several years sometime through 1990, seemingly to distinguish it from a 'civilian' component.

    Despite the abuse these cars received, they performed as advertised. The durability of the 5.0 engine is actually quite remarkable considering the type of activity these cars performed. Many restored and otherwise driven examples have well over 100K, and in some cases, 200K miles on the original engines-the same ones used for 70-90K of sometimes hard pursuit driving while in service! It's interesting to note that the 1993 Ford SSP Brochure states clearly "The Special Service Package does not meet Ford Motor Company durability requirements for police packages, and recommended use is for high-speed highway traffic law enforcement service". Regardless, this disclaimer did not defer agencies from relying on the cars for a good deal of use in all aspects of law enforcement.

      For an excellent article on the SSP Mustang, check out Jim Dingell's piece at http://www.evooa.org/mssr/mssr.htm.

 

 - Where were they used?

     State, local and the Federal govt. all made use of the Mustangs. Both marked and unmarked versions were used, manual as well as automatic. The CHP alone purchased over 2500 units through 1993. The following states have all purchased Mustangs for patrol use:

Alabama Arizona California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia
Idaho Indiana Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Nebraska Nevada
New Mexico New York North Carolina Oklahoma
Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina
Tennessee(1) Texas Utah Washington
Wisconsin Wyoming    

For some nice photographic examples, check out our photo gallery or click on the link above for a specific state.

 

 - What do people buy them for?

     The SSP cars generally get purchased for a couple of reasons: Either racing, restoration, or as a unique daily driver. Because of things like heavy duty suspension, stiffened floor pans, etc, racers like the features the car has. The light weight and low cost made, coupled with the durable 5.0 motor and plethora of aftermarket racing parts made for a desirable racing car start. With the supply from the usual sources dwindling and prices rising, the cars are not as frequently converted to racers as they once were.

     Many people are interested in restoring Police cars as a hobby. The laws vary by state as to what's allowed; for instance in Florida it is prohibited to operate a vehicle on a public way displaying the same two tone black/cream paint scheme as the Florida Highway Patrol, regardless of whether it contains any lettering or not; California has similar statutes. Other states allow you to run the same colors but without markings. The best bet is to check with your state on legalities that may apply before you drive a recently purchased vehicle.

    If you're interested in restoring a vehicle, some states will actually assist in the process. Usually, you can start by contacting the head of the State Police or Highway Patrol of your state in writing with your intentions; if they can assist, they will provide you with guidelines and information, and sometimes even access to key personnel.

 

 - How can I get one?

     State auctions were a good source for these vehicles for many years. As recently as 7/2005, I saw several listed from counties and towns at various auctions around the U.S. Most of the vehicles are now out of service, so there won't be many more coming along through these channels.

     eBay seems to have at least one per month appear in various years, shapes, and trim options(see the pricing page). I've seen some fair deals, some great deals, and some not so great deals; it all depends on what you want. Auto trader on-line also seems to have several listed at any given time, although I've observed prices slightly higher than other venues here.

     There's also the dealer community of course; you won't find any bargains but you may get a warranty which never hurts when buying a used police car.

 

 - The Saleen/SSP connection:

In 1988, the Oregon State Police had 34 coupes ordered through Damerow Ford in Beaverton, OR. The order subsequently got cancelled, and the dealer was left with 34 unsold cars! As you can imagine, this is not a good situation for any auto dealer, and they scrambled to find a solution.

     Saleen Autosports, noted producer of high performance Mustangs, came to the rescue. 17 of the coupes were sent to Saleen for the full treatment, including vehicle ID, rear spoiler, ground effects, interior upgrades, and of course the legendary performance treatment. Quite unusual, Saleen only produced 77 coupes. These cars may have started life to catch those exceeding the 55 MPH limit, but ironically the opposite probably became true!

     For a look at a bucktag, door stickers and photos for one of these rare cars, check our Bucktags, Door Stickers and Photo Gallery pages.

 

The Inside Story on options!

This information was gathered with the help of Bruce Howard, Don Brink.

While attending the Ford 100th in June, 2003, we got the chance to speak with several employees who worked on Mustang production for many years. One of these was Emil Loeffler, involved with the SSP program for the first 10 years. Here's some very interesting pieces of information gathered from our interviews:

1. No spotlights were installed on the line, (confirmed by several workers).

2. Two-tone paint jobs were completed in the body shop at the plant, and the finish was baked on, just like parts on the line.

3. No more than 20 SSP's per day were built, and no two came down the line back to back. This was a special order car, and the extra modifications would cause a slow down in the line, so they were spaced out over the day to account for the speed of the line.

4. Even though the cars were ordered and assigned consecutive serial numbers, they did not get built at the same time, maybe not even on the same day. The four known remaining 92 Michigan SSP's are all within ten digits on the serial numbers, I have been working on this since I got mine.(Bruce).

This information provided by Dave Colvin:

Joe Horvath and I had an opportunity to meet with Emil and his partner in the SSP Project, Gerry, at the Michigan State Police Tests(2003). Emil was more of the Sales/promoter and Gerry was the technical set up guy for the cars.

They had some great stories. It was interesting we even met up with a guy that worked for one of the Big 3 competitors. He was giving Emil and Gerry a bad time because Ford sold the first 300 SSP Mustangs to California for only $6,800 each. Emil said this was done to get California to make up their mind to go with the Ponies long-term.

Emil and Gerry also laughed about the first set of cars that went to Georgia. Apparently the first one that was made for the Georgia Patrol was being inspected by the Georgia State Patrol Fleet manager. He was looking the car over and was digging around under the hood. Gerry was sitting in the car looking it over and the Georgia guy yelled for Gerry to turn the A/C on. Gerry reached to do so and discovered that there was no A/C on it! Somebody forgot to check the box for A/C on the build sheet. It is a good thing that they caught it on this one car. They were able to catch the others on the line in time for A/C to be put on as a factory part. Otherwise they would have had to make it an "add-on" Ford part and it would have made the instrument cluster look a bit different. The one car that was painted up for Georgia and did not have A/C, according to Emil, was sold to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or somewhere when A/C was not required. Now that would be a Collectors Car to get a hold of. A marked RCMP car with GEORGIA buck tags!

And so it goes! Thanks for the tidbits guys...All the info we can get helps!

 

- Mustang Diary: On duty with the CHP:

     The California Highway Patrol was one of the driving forces behind the success of the Mustang. Starting in 1982, the CHP purchased 400 units with the 5.0/4 speed drivetrain and put them through the paces of patrol throughout the state. The units worked so well that the agency continued to order them through the 1993 model run. The distinctive 2 tone black/white markings and smooth slicktop design made the CHP car a favorite of restorers. The CHP also used gray/white, all white paint schemes for different types of law enforcement use, such as commercial vehicle enforcement. All CHP cars were manual equipped cars, making them a favorite come auction time-one reason why a lot of them aren't around anymore, given the numbers they were used in!

     Because California used so many Mustangs, there are some excellent photographic examples around. See our Photo Gallery for a few.

     Popular Mechanics went on a 'ride along' with a CHP officer in one of the SSP cars. For an interesting inside look, click here:

 

- Mustang Diary: Success with the Utah Highway Patrol:

     The Utah Highway Patrol was one of many western states to rely on the SSP for traffic enforcement. The narrative below describes how they were used and the experience of how well they held up.

     The Mustang Era:
     1985 - 1995

     In July 1985, the Patrol added 25 Ford Mustangs to the fleet. The 302 cubic-inch V8, four-barrel, high performance engine produced 210 horsepower. Coupled with a five speed manual transmission, the Mustang could go from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and had a top speed of 135 mph. While administration was impressed by the performance characteristics of this vehicle, economics was a large reason for testing the Mustang. The 1985 Mustangs were purchased for $9,500 each, about $1,700 less than the larger, four-door sedans the Patrol had been buying. The Mustang also proved to be more fuel efficient than the larger sedans.

     The Patrol soon realized another advantage of the Mustang. The general public knew it was fast. Many high speed pursuits were avoided or quickly terminated simply because violators believed they could not outrun the Mustang. During one high
speed pursuit, the violator continued to flee when two large sedans appeared. Finally, when a Mustang joined the chase, the violator immediately stopped.

     When asked why he decided to stop, the violator said, "I knew I could outrun those other patrol cars, but I can’t outrun a Mustang."

     Prior to receiving a Mustang, troopers were required to complete a two day emergency vehicle operation course. Troopers had to learn to shift gears, talk on the radio, operate police equipment such as radar, and drive, all at the same time. The Mustang was difficult to drive during inclement weather. Officers learned to shift to a higher gear and feather the accelerator to keep from spinning the back tires.

     One disadvantage of the Mustang was its small size. Due to officer’s safety and the large quantity of issued equipment, troopers could no longer transport passengers in the back seat. Trunk space was also limited. Many modifications in equipment were made to accommodate this reduced space. Large first aid kits issued during the 1970s were replaced with smaller units. Large traffic cones were replaced with smaller cones. Pry bars carried since the 1940s were eliminated, as was a scoop shovel which was first issued in the 1930s. Compact police radios were purchased. The Patrol experimented
with a folding shotgun stock for the Remington 870. After two years of use, on a limited number of weapons, the folding stock was discontinued. Weapons which had been converted were again fitted with the standard wood stock.

     For the next decade, the Utah Highway Patrol purchased Mustangs. By the late 1980s, the entire field fleet consisted of Mustangs. Several large troopers modified the front seat to accommodate their physique. The Patrol continued to purchase Mustangs until a new body style in 1994 increased the purchase price dramatically. The Mustang was slowly phased out of service in the 1990s.

     Copyright UHP 2000

 

- Mustang Diary: Trial and error with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol:

    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol was one of the many states which purchased Mustangs. They were used for one year only, 1985, with a grand total of 20 units purchased and used as marked patrol. I spoke with the OHP regarding their usage, and their experience was a brief one, with the Automatic transmissions not holding up. Fleet had to replace so many, the decision was made that this would be a one year only experiment. It's a shame, with the wide open spaces of Oklahoma the T5 equipped cars weren't tested, as their durability and performance would have undoubtedly provided different results.

     Thanks to Melinda Burchett, Transportation Division, Oklahoma Dept of Public Safety for her help.

 

- Mustang Diary: A short life with the Delaware State Police:

    Delaware also purchased 10 Mustangs for one year only, 1987. Several cars were used in Troop 3 as part of the test program, and the vehicles were used for only a period of several months. The cars were used in strictly unmarked fashion, in a variety of colors. The vehicles were equipped with 5.0/AOD drivetrains, and no lighting other than 57R red bulbs where the parking lights are. Additionally K55 radar, wigwags, and a siren were added as standard equipment. There were 2 complaints with the vehicles, first, that the light rear end and power of the 5.0, combining with the often inclement weather caused unstable handling, and second, some of the larger officers actually broke the seats! After this short life, the cars were used for administrative purposes or given to detectives, etc. The DSP contact I spoke with reports they were very solid mechanically, with no engine or transmission problems.   

    Thanks to Tpr. Fred Thistlewood, Transportation Division, Delaware State Police for his help.

 

- Mustang Diary: High profile pursuit with the New York State Police:

     In 1988, New York took delivery of 40 new SSP Mustangs. The units were marked 5 speeds, with low profile lightbars and radar. Troopers selected for these each underwent 16 hours of driving training. The goal of these was to enforce the 55 MPH speed limit in effect at the time, and to reduce the pursuit time during traffic stops.

     Each of the 10 NYSP troops throughout the state were assigned Mustangs. Although the 40 cars represented a small portion of the NYSP fleet of over 2000 vehicles, the cars had a big impact. The cars were purchased through 1991 and used throughout the state.

 

- Mustang Diary: New Mexico State Police and success in saving costs.

     The first NMSP Mustang was used in 1983. Because of the New Mexico's sheer size, a car was needed that was significantly faster than the full size sedans in use at the time. A single 1982 SSP was tried by several officers throughout the state who at the time seemed to prefer the larger Crown Vic, Grand Furys, and Chrysler LeBarons which were still in service. Although the Mustang's performance was far superior to these cars, the small size took some getting use to, and the car was initially unpopular with the rank and file. After sending the officers through training ranging from one to four days, the feelings changed towards the vehicles, and the Mustang became an important part of New Mexico's fleet. Ironically, some commanders actually used them as incentives for officers; a 180 degree turn from how they were first received. There were 6 1990 Mustangs used during the SSP lifetime.

     One factor which helped the car become such a success was it's superior fuel economy to the full size sedans in use at the time. The Mustangs average of 18 mpg vs. 13 mpg for the full size cars resulted in a savings of almost $200,000 for a single year! This kind of cost savings was happily greeted by agency officials who put the results to good use elsewhere.

     The NMSP used a typical SSP configuration, with 5.0/T5 drivetrains, slicktop design, full markings, and Hawk radar for traffic use. The cars were used mostly for interstate highway speed enforcement.    

     Source: New Mexico State Police Ass'n.

 

- Mustang Diary: Wisconsin State Patrol try them early on.

     "WSP first experimented with the Mustang in 1983. Our agency had purchased two 5.0 cars that year with the 5 speed. They were used primarily around the Madison area (Capitol) as they evaluated their performance. In 1987 we again made a purchase but it was a small number but this time they were the automatics. In 1988 WSP purchased about 20 of the units and I was fortunate to receive one. All of our units were marked, clean-top (no roof mounted lightbars). The vehicle was very popular in my area of patrol as no other agency had experimented with such a squad. Received much media attention and I will forward some of the articles. I even have a picture of the actor Robert Urich in my squad from a security detail I worked during the filming of one of his movies.

     Again, this unit was an automatic and I did go through a transmission the first year. I think this was associated with the overdrive operation, regardless it was replaced under warranty. I had good success with winter operation basically by using common sense. I did not want to get into a situation where I was having the unit pulled out of snowbanks all the time as it could of lead to the demise of the Mustang fleet program. Minnesota S/P eventually viewed my Mustang ( I work on the Wis-Minn border) and they subsequently ended up purchasing Mustangs in 1989. I felt fortunate to have been assigned the unit as the trend for the high performance pursuit vehicles is coming to an end. I followed up my two year stint in the Mustang with a 4 year assignment in a 1991 Camaro. So as you can see, I felt very fortunate to have experienced operating both vehicles as a highway patrol unit. The last year our agency purchased the Mustang was in 1993 I believe. We have been out of the specialty car program since that last purchase. I do recall the suspension be solid, especially during the spring months and the road are thawing and buckling; it made for some rough riding.

     My unit was equipped with radar (KR-10). The two-way radio was recessed just below the factory am-fm radio in the open slot tray; this helped for space. The remaining equipment, siren-CB-radio repeater was mounted where the fold down arm rest was between the seat. I recall the warning light control switches were again recessed in the console, possibly where the ashtray was. Our radio shop did a pretty good job with the install considering the same issued equipment for the full-size squads was mounted in the Mustang."

     Thanks to Tpr. Bill Traynor, Wisconsin State Patrol for his help.

 

- Mustang Diary: Minnesota State Patrol use a small sample.

     "There weren't that many Mustangs that were deployed in MN at the time. If I remember there were about 22 or 25 statewide. We had a blue one that was deployed in my beat (2160 - I-35 corrider south of Minneapolis/St. Paul). At the time they were the best thing going. As far as equipment, they had the standard MSP outfit without anything real special,  either MPH or Kustom Radar units. They were unmarked except for the Patch on the passenger door (all of our unmarks have this due to state law); there were no fully marked Mustangs. They were great during the summer months but were terrible in the winter. Too much power and not enough weight for the snow and ice. My partner was transferring and he wanted me to have his 'stang, I passed so one of my other partners got it. I can remember I was working a crash on the freeway that was blocking the lanes with multiple injuries. My partner was blasting down to help me and when she hit a bridge deck in the middle of a sweeping curve she lost control. All 4 corners of the stang were smashed as she looked like a pinball, bouncing off of the bridge rails. She got rid of the Mustang after that. They were built for speed with HO 5.0 litre engines."

Note: Further research indicates they were first deployed in 1989, used through 1991.

T     hanks to Cpl. Jeff Westrum, Minnesota State Patrol for his help.

 

- Mustang Diary: California Highway Patrol and the SSP prove too tough for the desert!

     "I'm a retired CHP officer and I estimate that I've driven about 350,000 miles in the department's Mustangs beginning with the '82's and finishing with the 93's. The attached photos are of a '92 I drove, pampered, detailed and practically cried over when I had to give it up at 95,000 miles. It was the best of all that I drove. It would run all day long at 120-125 mph or idle for long periods . . . with the a/c running and never overheat. And this was in some of the hottest terrain in California - the desert of Indio, CA. The only mechanical repairs were brake pads/lining, an alternator and an a/c compressor clutch. It still had the original clutch at 95K! And I drove it vigorously. Truly a bullet proof car.

     One of the reasons I was searching web sites was that I was looking for photos of SSP Mustangs of the hatchback design. We had 1 or 2 of them at my station when we first started receiving Mustangs in 1982, but nobody liked them. The hatch rattled, squeaked and allowed a lot of air noise at high speeds, plus . . . since there was no trunk, it created a problem storing all the equipment we normally carry. But I never see any photos from any other agencies that had them, so maybe we were a test area for them. The photos I sent you of unit #9170 was a '92 that I was assigned in the fall of 1992 and was turned in approximately 2 yrs later with 95,000 miles. The photos were taken on a "slow day".

     I've driven a lot of different patrol cars from the '67 Olds, '69 Dodge 440's, the old and new Camaros, Volares, even a one off 428 '70 Mercury . . . but the later model Mustangs were the best, most reliable and most fun to drive.     

    With the exception of rural resident posts, patrol vehicles are assigned to the various offices throughout the state. The local commanders, at their discretion, then assigned a specific vehicle to a senior officer, who then would pick a junior officer to share the car with, in order to keep it out on the road for at least 2 shifts. It also provided a good indicator as to which officers were thrashing their cars.

     I worked out of the Indio, CA office, usually patrolling a 50 mile stretch of Interstate 10 and averaging about 275 to 300 miles per shift. The region I worked was referred to as low desert and daytime temps from May through September "average" 107 according to the National Weather Service and it has hit a high of 127. Our area was used a lot for testing due to the temperature extremes. You can imagine what type of underhood temperatures we would experience, yet I ran the A/C continuously, even at sustained speeds of 125-135 mph for 30 miles (we disabled the compressor cut-off) and the coolant temp barely rose above normal. With the exception of lunch breaks, I rarely ever shut the engine off.

     As I mentioned before, that was a fantastic car, and it had the original clutch for the entire time. And I wasn't bashful about pulling 120mph in 4th before shifting or making 180 degree turns under power from the shoulder. When you consider that our Mustangs carried full size spares, wooden boxes with both 15 & 30 min flares, fire extinguishers, pry bars, 4-5 gallons of water, radio equipt, my 25lb E.M.T. kit, a smaller first aid kit, my briefcase . . . all in the trunk - - plus in the passenger compt. there was the radio/emerg equipt. control head, a Remington 12 ga and a Colt AR15, a camera case, 2 spotlights, a rear deck emerg light assy.- and a 230lb officer . . . This car would still run at a max 142 to 144 mph on flat level pavement! That's based on a timed 25 to 25.4 second e.t. for a measured mile and not the indicated speed, although it indicated fairly close to accurate at that speed. And that's why I nearly cried when I had to turn that car in. The '93 Mustang that replaced it was OK, but nowhere near as quick or reliable. And sadly the officer that I shared the '93 with was killed in it after being struck head-on by a drunk driver on the wrong side of the road in '96 after I retired.

     The older Mustangs seemed to show improvement through the years from the initial '82's. I'm convinced the 92's were the best. The 93 was off in power, but build quality was good. The old 82's were really troublesome with the driver's seat backrest failing on everyone of them."

     Thanks to CHP ret. Offr. Dave Johnson for his help.

- Mustang Diary: Florida Highway Patrol and the Mustang fleet

     FHP was second only to CHP in use of SSP Mustangs. Col. Bobby Burkett, head of the of the FHP from 1982-1993 (coincidentally the lifespan of the SSP program), made sure the roads of Florida had plenty of Mustangs on patrol. The lack of icy climate throughout the state, coupled with the amount of mileage FHP is responsible for patrolling (much of it rural), made the new 5.0 a natural for the Sunshine State ;given the fact there may only be 2 or 3 Troopers on duty in a given county, you need to get from points A to B in a hurry! And hurry they did-all marked units were equipped with either a 4 or 5 speed. Later on, FHP purchased some unmarked cars, in colors ranging from Dark Blue, Blue, Black, Red, Calypso Green, and Reef Blue, with the primary difference being these were all automatic cars, except for several exceptions.

     The first year the SSP's were used in Florida would be 1983, with a total of only 40 units (of which this writer has one), continuing through 1993. The early cars were equipped with some of the typical SSP options, all 4 speeds, and used the one-year only Federal Signal Beacon-Ray rotator with blue lense. It's no wonder that a reinforced roof was ordered for these-it's no lightweight unit! It's an interesting footnote, since the unit was used on all FHP cars, not just the Mustang. You have to see one of these mounted on the vehicle to realize how out of proportion it is to the little notchback.

     The cars were used statewide, and remained a common sight on the highways up until the late 90's. The equipment varied, but Kustom K band radar was typically standard on the later units, MPH X band on the early 80's through late 80's., Jetsonic lightbar after 1983, rear deck lights on the later models, dash strobes; oddly enough wigwags were typically not standard. Motorola radio with a crude L bracket was usually mounted center of the dash-the 'signature' for any ex-FHP car is the large round hole with 3 5/16 bolt holes where the bracket would be bolted on. There is still one 1993 SSP Mustang in Troop D, Orlando, stationed at the Deland post. It's used primarily for PR related functions, but is still fully operational, so watch out!

     With the advent of Col. Knight taking command of the FHP in the late 90's, the organization has gotten much more aggressive with using special enforcement type vehicles. In 2002, 202 B4C optioned Camaro's were purchased, and in 2004, unmarked Mercury Marauders and several GT Mustangs were deployed for aggressive driver crackdown. Who knows, if Ford ever resurrects a special option Mustang again, the roads of Florida could once again be looking much like they did in the 80's and 90's-except with a new technology SSP Mustang!

Some highlights of FHP SSP Usage:

  • All marked FHP units were 4 (early '83) or 5 speeds; with rare exception, most unmarked units were AOD equipped, although several documented examples, Reef Blue, Blue and Black cars, were equipped with 5 speeds.

  • Only 3 unmarked red cars were purchased; other unmarked colors included black, reef blue, calypso green, and dark blue.

  • Unlike agencies like CHP, FHP Troops did not standardize equipment mounting, therefore variances exist when looking at cars from one troop to another. For example, radio units were sometimes mounted to the dash using an L bracket, with 3 bolts and a large hole for wires; they were also mounted to the console with the use of the bracket.

  • Not all unmarked units had radar. All marked units did.

  • Some units were equipped with CB's.

  • Shotguns were typically carried in the trunk, not mounted like CHP on the dash.

  • A separate toggle switch if often seen on the console; this controls rear strobes.

  • Most units were equipped with at least two 800 MHz antennas; up to 3 with a repeater and also a CB antenna have been observed. Again, mounting location varied; they might have one on the decklid, one on the roof, or 3 on the decklid. Mounting on top of the rear quarter was also an option, seen more commonly on the earlier cars.

  • VASCAR was used on earlier cars, although through 1993 cars were equipped with this optional 2 pc. speedometer cable.

  • Unity S6 spotlights were used on all marked units; unmarked units did not have spotlights.

  • 'Pancake' style dash lights were used on some, mirror strobes on others, and some had none! Later units had rear deck strobes.

  • Most FHP units shared a common equipment list. When looking at bucktags, the distinctive 'cream' color can be seen as WT1077. Silicone hoses, VASCAR cable of all marked and unmarked cars.

  • The Jetsonic was the only lightbar used, other than the FS Beacon Ray on 1983 cars, a holdover from earlier FHP equipment. Although Vectors were standard on Caprices and Crown Vics, they were not normally mounted on Mustangs (there are a couple of exceptions).

  • Cruise control was not ordered for FHP cars; power windows were, with the last appearance in 1991.

  • GT+4 tires were standard. VR60's were seen as replacement tires.

  • It was common for Mustangs to be retired with very low mileage; cars with 50 and 60K miles were a very common sight at auctions, especially during the 80's and early 90's. Most cars would be in the high 60's-70's when retired.

  • FHP did purchase an extended warranty covering the cars up to 100K; nice examples of these special warranty cards can be seen in the Technical section.

     Compiled and researched by Mike Riley; add'l contributions by Tprs. Mark Woodhouse, Larry Coggins, Mike Halfpenny and FHP resources from Troop C, Tampa.

 

 - Mustang Diary: Washington State Patrol and the history of the SSP Mustang

     Washington State Patrol Special Service Mustang

     The patrol purchased their first Mustangs in 1983, ordering 15 units and they came with the following items:

  •      Engine: 302, carbureted, 4 speed transmission, 3.08 rear gear ratio, 14 inch wheels, HP+4 Goodyear tires, with F-32 Goodyear winter tires. Engine came with rev limiter set at 5,200 rpm. They did not at any time order the special radiator and heater hose option.
  •      Exterior: Polar white, grille and headlamp area painted black, body side moldings deleted, badge on doors were black with the “lighting bolts” being dark blue. Jet Sonic light bar, with red and blue lens, radio antenna on the roof, CB antenna on the left rear fender top, one spot light, driver’s side, dual faced, blue on one side, white on the other.
  •      Interior: Blue cloth with console, 140 mph speedometer, AM FM radio, GE police radio mounted to the right of the shifter on a special made tree, CB radio mounted on the side of the tree. If you wanted a prisoner shield they would remove the passenger seat and the shield ran from the right front door hinge post back to the driveline tunnel, then across the back to the left door striker post pillar. The shield was made from Plexiglas and was part of the roll bar system. If you chose not to have the shield, you would handcuff your prisoner and seatbelt him in next to you.
  •      Trunk: We carried the following equipment, full sized spare, full size fire extinguisher, 3 blankets, 24 unit first aid kit, fuses for accident scenes, 3 small traffic cones, rain gear, short shovel, 4 way lug wrench, freeway jack, radiological monitoring equipment, and radio transmitter. All the equipment in the cars were installed by our people at the fleet section and every car was the same.

     The patrol took delivery of one 83 Mustang approximately 30 days before the other units arrived. The car was sent to our academy and the driving instructors ran the car on our pursuit course. When the other units arrived the Troopers assigned to a Mustang had to spend 8 hours on the driving course to get used to the cars. The course consisted of 1.7 miles of roadway with sharp curves, hill crests, curves with reverse camber, high speed braking, and lane changes. The Trooper had to get used to braking, shifting and turning the car at the same time. To be issued a Mustang you had to have at least 5 years on the patrol and a good driving record and permission from you Sergeant. When issued a car, you were the only one to drive it, until it was time to turn it back to fleet.

     1984: There were 25 units ordered and they were the same as the 1983 model, except the front was completely white and they came with the 5 speed transmission. I was issued on of the 85s and one of the 1st things I did was paint the grille and headlamp area black. It really set off the front of the car, and I also painted the wheels white, it gave the car a cleaner look.

     1985:The patrol did not order any 1985 models. The rumor was that they had been told Ford was working on a new package for the Mustang so they waited until 1986 when they ordered 35 units.

     1986: The Mustang for 1986 had several changes, with the engine being the 1st year for the port fuel injection and the cars came with the 3.08 rear gear ratio. These cars also came with the steel 15 inch wheels, VR 60 Goodyear Eagle “Gatorback” tires. These items made the car handle much better and increased the top end from 130 to 140-145 mph.

     1987: The patrol purchased 50 units in 1987 and was committed to maintain at least 100 units in the fleet. The 87s came with the alloy wheels that were painted black. I took paint stripper to my wheels and removed the paint to reveal the silver alloy wheel. My 87 was the fastest Mustang that I would drive. I was checked by the radar at 147 mph. but the fastest patrol Mustang ever checked was a 1986 at 152 mph by our airplane, however that was without a light bar, my 147 was with the light bar on. The 87 came with power mirrors.

     1988: 35 units were ordered. By this time the 1983 and 84 cars were being turned back and they took several of those units and had them painted. They then sent them back out for truck speed enforcement.

     1989: 35 more units were ordered with several of those being unmarked. They came with the body side molding and had no markings. Kojak lights were used on the dash, with lights on the rear package tray. They placed at least one unit at every district headquarters and these cars would be used by different Troopers for aggressive drivers and truck enforcement. These cars got used by a lot of guys and really got hammered, but held up well.

     1990: This was the last year the patrol purchased Mustangs. By this time they had dropped the requirements to be issued a Mustang. There were a lot of younger guys driving the cars and being involved in accidents. The patrol purchased 12 units in 1990 with six being unmarked and 6 marked units. My car was one of the marked units. I drove the car until it had 50,000 miles and then took a different job within the department. I gave the car to another Trooper and he turned the car in with 102,000 miles. The car was purchased by a local county Sheriffs office and used as a D.A.R.E car. The car went up for auction in November of 1999 with 110,000 miles. I purchased the car for $1,500 dollars, brought it home, cleaned it up and have been driving it every day. The car has 153,000 miles, and still has the original plug wires, exhaust system and drive train, with a personalized plate of RETPONY.

     The special service Mustang proved itself everyday in law enforcement for the Washington State Patrol. They were bullet proof, dependable and cost of operation was the lowest in the past 35 years. I really enjoyed getting behind the wheel everyday and going to work. The Mustang has a great history in the automotive industry and law enforcement.

- Trooper Marlin Workman retired Washington State Patrol

     Thanks to Trooper Marlin Workman retired Washington State Patrol for his help.

 

 

Mr. Jim Dingell of PPI, Oak Hill, VA for who has been a pioneer in the SSP hobby for many years, is an expert on these cars and can provide specific information if desired on SSP Mustangs. Our site is geared towards general usage information.

 

Last update 11.17.06