Cohort Outtake: Mustang LX 5.0 – Florida Highway Patrol Edition

Mustang Florida state trooper

image posted by William Rubano

Is this a genuine Florida state police car used for PR purposes or such? Because it’s hard to imagine someone doing this faithful of an impersonation and getting away with it. I ask rhetorically, as a little bit of Googling answered my question. 

Turns out that there’s a number of restored FHP Mustangs out there, and here’s a web site that details all of the equipment and markings, for restoration purposes. It doesn’t say anything about issues of using a vehicle like this on the street that giver every impression of being an actual working police car, except for being out of date. I believe out here on the West Coast, the states have some pretty specific restrictions about light bars and such. And I doubt the CHP would be ok with someone driving around with CHP badging on an ex-cop car. I guess things are different down in Florida.

Mustang Florida police

The FHP bought some 1663 Special service Mustangs beginning in 1983, one of the largest users of the stealthy and fast little pursuit. These are early ones with the old fashioned bubble-top light. Doesn’t that look archaic now?

Mustang CHP

But the Mustang’s unlikely use as a police car was in California. The CHP was very unhappy with their Dodge St. Regis, which were so slow that anyone with a decently fast car could just drive away from them. The CHP first tried a few Camaros, but the 305 V8 at the time was plagued with weak camshafts, which quickly became a problem when running them at higher speeds. So in 1982, the CHP contacted Ford, since the Mustang 5.0 was an obvious alternative, and more practical than the Camaro, with its Fox-body sedan-like high beltline and seating, as well as better visibility.

The 1982 Mustang was the first year the 5.0 was back, in a big way. Although rated at a rather modest 157 hp, and with only a two-barrel carb, it was nevertheless quite brisk for the times. Already in 1983, a four barrel carb upped that to 175 hp. SSP (Special Service Package) Mustangs got a raft of special equipment, including engine oil cooler, silicone radiator hoses, transmission fluid cooler, and reinforced floor pans even, along with the usual police equipment like calibrated speedometers (140 mph 1982 – early 1989; 160 mph until its end in 1993).

Mustang CHP images (1)

I became quite familiar with one, but not too familiar. When we lived in Los Gatos, we often drove up to San Francisco on Sunday mornings, on four-lane I-280. Traffic was always very light on this splendid freeway which skirts the city in the hills above it. In my Mercedes 300E, I typically made the drive at between 95-110.

Junipero Serra I280

But as I approached the rest area where that ugly statue of Junipero Serra overlooks the freeway, I looked up there, and if I saw a little black Mustang up there, I hit the brakes. There was always an attractive young female officer behind the wheel, ready to swoop down on speeders. This was before the CHP was allowed to use radar, so she would have had to actually get in behind me and time me. I waved to her as we rolled by. Stephanie referred to her as “your girlfriend in the Mustang”. I always worried that one Sunday she would change her spot, and nab me. But she never did. Like so many of us, she was a creature of habit. And it worked to my advantage.