(first posted 8/14/2013) The state fair is always a jubilant and optimistic peek into the future. Displaying the latest developments for home, garden, and farm, it offers an abundance of ways to improve both economy and efficiency.
Yet, every state fair is steeped in tradition. Were it not for a state’s rich traditions, there could be no platform from which the future could be viewed. Keeping history alive by building upon the knowledge and experiences of others does indeed help prevent future mistakes.
With a wonderful blend of rosy history and excitement for things yet to come, this 1959 Dodge Coronet surely seemed to be trumpeting its presence in the equipment display hosted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
This Dodge does offer up a load of history, and has been doing so for years at various fairs, festivals and parades around the state. Having seen it a few times over the past decade or so, this was the first time it has met my camera. Even among the large number of vehicles displayed at the fair, this one surely deserves its day in the sun.
Dodge introduced its official police package in 1956, and Plymouth followed suit in 1957. Using existing racing and export market parts, Dodge was able to offer a prospective purchasing agency more durability and ruggedness in their existing base-series offerings. Their inaugural police package offered one L-head six-cylinder engine and four V8s, one of which was the 315 CID, 260-hp hemispherical head engine.
By 1959, all six-cylinder engines had been banished from the Dodge police lineup, perhaps as a result of the Director of Racing’s reassignment to law-enforcement vehicles after the June 1957 ban on factory sponsored racing; or, perhaps, Dodge was simply aiming at the higher-end state and county police car market. With its 122″ wheelbase, the ’59 Dodge met the size criteria for a number of larger states.
In any case, the ’59 Dodge made for a formidable police vehicle, particularly when equipped with the D-500 option. For 1959, the D-500 moniker was pinned to the 320-hp, 383 CID V8 with a single four-barrel carburetor.
As part of their annual acquisition procedure, the California Highway Patrol tested a ’59 Dodge Coronet with a D-500 against a 430 CID Mercury Monterey and a 389 CID Pontiac Catalina. In four different acceleration tests (two quarter-mile and two one-mile tests, from standing and 50 mph starts), the Dodge proved itself to be superior to the competition. The performance of the Dodge–such as the quarter-mile at 86.89 mph–was very good for 1959.
All of this history leads us to the ’59 Dodge Coronet you’ve been feasting your eyes upon. This Dodge is a gin-you-wine, fifty-four-year-old police package fleet vehicle that was purchased new by the agency whose name is on the door. This car has had quite the history.
The base price for a ’59 Coronet V8 was $2,707; this one, most likely thanks to those wonderful fleet discounts, had a sticker price of $2,271.50 when it was purchased on June 4, 1959. The Dodge dealer was willing to take a trade-in, so the cash price for this car, after trade, was a mere $594.44. The Patrol’s website states they purchased 455 Chevrolet sedans for model year 1958; given that they were turning their cars out at 25,000 miles at that time, the trade-in may have been one of these Chevrolets, or even another ’59 Dodge purchased earlier in the year.
The rapid turnover of the fleet was still happening in 1959, as this car was only in service until February 11, 1960, when it was traded with just over 26,000 miles on the clock. Economic circumstances certainly were different then.
This car, equipped with the D-500 engine option, was privately owned until 1979, when it was donated back to the Patrol. Since its subsequent restoration, it has been used across the state as part of a community relations program.
During the brief time these ’59 Dodges were in service they made quite a positive impression; in fact, a mural along old U.S. 66 depicts this very Dodge. Fifteen years ago, during my first stint in the state capital, I also worked with a gentleman whose father had owned one.
His story was that his father had purchased it from a dealer around 1960. His father wasn’t a Dodge man, but simply was looking for another car. One test drive with the D-500 engine hooked him. My co-worker stated that his father kept the car for years, and would never let him drive it due to safety concerns for his then-teenage son. He also told me his father loved to stand on the throttle, and that the Dodge would scoff at the so-called challenge of climbing any of the steeper hills here in the fringes of the Ozarks.
Looking at this car, mixed in amongst all the Chargers currently in service, creates fondness for the days of yore. Then, both life and cars seemed to be less complex, and that recalls a certain flavor from 1959 that simply doesn’t exist any longer. Take another gander at this car–a factory two-tone that isn’t the stereotypical black-and-white of the constabulary.
This car also wears the same degree of chrome as any other ’59 Coronet; how de-contented were Crown Victorias before they were canned? Take the gumball machine and decals off this car and you’d have what appeared to be an ordinary ’59 Dodge, and not something exiled to fleet land upon its birth.
While this Dodge did have company, its 1959 charms were diluted by the intrusion of 1968, and that’s a shame. However, having cars such as this around does provide a bold look into the past that can help us see what direction can be taken for the future.
Broderick Crawford would heartily approve of this car!
Didn’t he drive Buicks on that show?
He drove several models. When CHP dropped their “cooperation” with the show, he drove a 1957 Mercury Monterey and a 1956 or so Dodge Coronet. The cars were similar to CHP’s paint scheme, but they had to modify the door decal and the uniform patch. He had a Buick Special (3 portholes) as well. But they still had the steady red spotlight and the rear amber flashing light on the back tray. CHP felt they concentrated too much on non traffic crimes which back then CHP were mostly “traffic officers” but were fully sworn Peace Officers.
Here’s the Dodge
Great car! When I first saw this, I thought “oh no, another higher trim car that someone has turned into a police car.” I saw one of these at a show recently, and up close, it was a nicely trimmed Fury III with cloth upholstery, something that never would have been used as a patrol car. Was the Missouri State Police using a blue and white color scheme back then? That Mercury looks baby blue as well.
As time passes, I am warming to the looks of the 59 Dodge. It was certainly the most overdone of the final Forward Look cars, but I am coming to like its angry scowl.
This car makes me pine for my white 59 Fury, also a 4 door sedan. Mine was a very good handling car, and decently powerful with its 318 V8, so I can imagine that the D-500 version would be an absolute blast to drive.
I wonder if any of our more senior readers (like I’m not one of them?) can tell us why the passenger side wiper on these always parked higher up than the one on the driver’s side. Every one of these cars I have ever seen does that, and I assumed that it is some kind of slop in the linkage from age. I tried adjusting mine down, but then it would slap on the trim on the bottom edge of the glass. I settled for manually pushing it down whenever I noticed it up, because dammit, wipers are supposed to park evenly.
The two baby-blues are a fluke; I didn’t even notice it.
The Patrol will use all sorts of factory colors for resale purposes. While at the fair I saw Chargers all over the place in silver, black, red, white, gray, and blue.
I found a document on their website about the history of their patrol cars. Two things of interest: in 1959, they had both two and four-door Dodge patrol cars. Second, for 1960, they split the bid among Buick, Chrysler, Ford, and Plymouth.
Mo. Highway Patrol seemed over the years to spring for a few amenities on their patrols, such as full wheel covers. California Highway Patrol, on the other hand, had their pursuits definitely built to order. I remember seeing many a Mopar over the wheels with the bone colored steering wheel, and some of the ’63 and ’64 Dodge 880s had A-100 or Lancer bucket seats in them.
California completely repainted the cars in popular colors for resale directly to the public at some of the CHP garages. One of my HS friends dad bought him a turquoise ’67 Polara at the Gardena facility. Cars were sold at 75,000 miles.
Here is the look I remember so well.
Nice! A great-looking car!
Trying to compare photos to identify a police car in Houston, TX, ca. 1959. Is your photo that of a ’59 Plymouth Fury?
Yes it is. The lower line Savoy and Belvedere models were the same but with less trim.
The guys at copcar.com call those inauthentic restorations “clown cars”. These guys are hardcore. To get in their club, you have to have an actual police package car restored to the livery of the original user. Not only must the equipment be period correct, it has to be correct that particular department at that particular time.
Anything else is “clown car”.
No word on how they treat unmarked restorations.
WRT the Missouri Patrol, they often aped CHP’s choices, although not always, evidenced by the ’68 Mercury. Missouri used Mercury until about ’79 or ’80, then switched to Buick LeSabres for a few years.
Wiper linkage design must have been a Ma Mopar backwater for many years. The “park gear” on the Imp has been kaput since before I bought it. My Dad said the C-Ps he leased in the early ’70s tended to strip their gears even when almost new.
You can still find factory rebuild kits kicking around. One of these years! In the meantime I try to time my shutoff so they park at the bottom…or just avoid rainy days. 🙂
The Mopar wipers need to be shut off in the first five inches of the upward swing after coming down to actuate the park mechanism My dad was told this when he bought our ’56 DeSoto. I’ve had hundreds of Mopars and still have 7 of them. It works and all my cars have the wipers parked as new. Admittedly, sometimes have to do it more than once, but it does work.
I can’t speak for other states, but the 1970 Plymouths in Washington State Patrol service were 440-powered Fury III’s with cloth upholstery and air. Can’t remember if they had power windows. This was definitely in contrast to the 1965 Fury I WSP cars.
Define drivers side, its a Dodge thing from that era, great cars lousy wiper mechanisms lots of better off farmers where I grew up drove Dodges one was known to brag about the souped up Murican police car he got cheap, I knew about the car having seen it on a farm but this explains where he got it.
A family friend had one of these Chrysler products of this vintage – I can’t recall the year, but it was a beautiful car and so much fancier than dad’s 1950 gray Plymouth.
What I REALLY liked about the car was the dash-mounted rear view mirror! Now THAT was fancy!
Yeah that was really cool one friends family had a Plymouth Savoy so equipped in fact sidevalve 57/58 Plodges were quite good cars by the standards of the times here, everything rusted and American cars were favoured by farmers and others with overseas funds so some got beaten to death on gravel roads and some survive like the Seneca I shot last week, I had a sedan that shape badged Dodge Phoenix 383 automatic 127000 miles ex farmers car worn right out the steering and suspension was shot to pieces it ran great but it steered real bad and I couldnt find the parts to get a WOF for it I did find someone eager to fit my running gear into their 56 the engine was fine the trans too axle was quiet the suspension clanked and banged and it had a few dents but it was fixable just not here pre internet and global parts shipping/shopping.
I like it’s angry glowering face,what a pity Stephen King didn’t choose a Coronet for Christine.It has a menacing presence that the Fury doesn’t
Agreed, but in print it’s hard to top a car called “Fury”. A ’59 Buick Invicta would have been a good choice to play Christine as well.
That’s another mean looking car for sure
I like the chrome “eye brows” on the ’59 Dodges.
When designing the nose on the 2nd-gen Intrepid…someone had to be thinking of the ’59 Dodge.
I was thinking that about the mid-00s Charger.
Wow, from ’59 to ’99: it’s true!
Loving the “flair” these have. Eyebrows in the front, tail fins that terminate before the fender does, quad round taillights that stand proud…
Where’s the gas filler on that sucker?
The left tail fin.
I forgot to mention this car is sometimes driven to its destination – that would be a fun assignment.
Left rear fender, totally visble
Always thought these had the most pissed off “face” of any car, ever. I can imagine the fear of many a teenager seeing that face in the rear view mirror.
Modern ones are pretty fierce too.
When I was a kid a distant relative had one of these (a ’59 Dodge, not a police package car specifically) stowed in his garage. It looked to be in near-perfect shape. I was fascinated; I thought it had a face like a bulldog. I never saw it on the road, but his plan was to be able to pull it out and drive it when it was 25 years old (so, 1984). I think he passed away before that, and I don’t know whatever happened to the car.
I’m a big fan of most Forward Look cars, but not so much this one. That face looks like a guy with big eyebrows smoking two cigars at once.
Of all the images I wouldn’t think the interwebs could provide…that guy.
I’m surprised nobody’s remarked on that mechanical siren up on the fender. Super cool. In countless old movies and TV shows, the police car with siren wailing suddenly arrives at the scene, and you still hear it winding down as they rush into the action. Very dramatic.
Ditto! Sometimes the police in historical movies anachronistically have modern electronic sirens.
I’ve heard that modern sirens are programmable so they can choose between French style, American, or something else.
One of my uncles had one of these-’59 Dodge, not a cop car. It had the 255 horse 326 and would spin the rears for miles on end on the gravel farm roads. Fun stuff. It was a two tone silver and chocolate brown, only one I’ve ever seen. After a couple of years the silver started peeling off.
I think the most famous Dodge police car was from the circa 1960 TV series, “car 54, where are you” believe it was dark green and white, but on screen it was black and white, just like everything else.
The one I remember was a 61 Plymouth.
I love that car and all of the period-correct police equipment, but then I love all old restored police cars. That air siren has got to be loud, no OSHA requirements back then! No radar back then either, you actually had to chase speeders. The stories that car could tell…
Whole different breed of law enforcement back then.
+1 on Police cars can we have some more please?
Red and White cars may have been used in Car 54 as red appears as a realistic gray on black and white film.
I could certainly get over the odd grille and bumper to welcome a ’59 Coronet into my garage.
I love the styling on these Mopars, the chrome just floats on a beautiful shape of a car. I think this was one of the few times that Chrysler outdid GM in looks. Even though I wasn’t alive then, these cars say 50’s everyman contemporary more than anything else that comes to mind.
I love these Dodges, the ’59 is very fine, and also the ’60 I really dig…
A snazzy Coronet 500 convertible was on display, as part of the US car display, at the 1959 US National Exhibition, held as part of a US – USSR cultural exchange agreement in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park in the summer of 1959. To the millions of Soviet citizens who attended, this Dodge and the other cars must have seemed like something from outer space. Many Soviet visitors thought these were “dream cars”, intended only for propaganda display purposes… at the time, private Soviet ownership of cars was virtually nil…
At the time, Detroit’s glitzy products were thought of as a persuasive example of the successful US capitalist system, so the USIA (United States Information Agency, branch of the US State Department) asked Detroit to show their wares at these and other USIA foreign exhibitions…
Here are pics of the Dodge on the display turntable, and the Dodge page from the Mopar Russian – language brochure that was distributed to fair attendees. The brochure shows a Coronet hardtop sedan in the middle of a football stadium. The text explains the Dodge, and also the American sport of football… a fascinating Cold War cultural relic…!!!
Here is a Russian – language site (can be roughly translated) about the US National Exhibition, and pix of all the US cars on display from Ford, GM, and Chrysler, and their respective brochures. IIRC a Rambler was parked in the driveway of the US ranch – style model home that was part of the exhibit. The famous Nixon – Khrushchev “Kitchen Debate” partially took place in this home – which was furnished by Macy’s 😉
Hubcaps on the Royal Lancer were inspired by googie architecture of LAX airport…
I think the Dodge Boys might have some regrets then they didn’t used the Coronet monicker during the 1960-64 model years, hence why they bring it back when the 1962 “full-size” plucked chicken morphed into a mid-size/intermediate for the 1965 model year when the Polara moved to the new C-body. Another opportunity to use it could have been when Dodge inherited the 1961 Newport who became the 880/Custom 880.
Uh, the 315 was a polyspheric head not hemi head. The 315 Poly