An Automotive History of the MSP

MSP Cars 1951-1960



1951 Ford Rosy Macy

1951 Ford Tudor

Adolph Rosetter and Ken Macy


 1952 Ford Benson

1952 Ford Mainline

Photo from the R.C. Logan Collection



1953 Ford Brainerd

1953 Ford Mainline Tudor with Sergeant George Haub at the wheel



1953 Ford(1)

1953 Ford Mainline Tudor


The Police Package included a 255 CID flathead Mercury V8 engine. Equipped with dual exhaust, it produced 125 hp @ 3700 rpm and torque was rated at 218 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm.


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1954 Ford Mainline Tudor



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 1954 – The Highway Patrol’s 25th Anniversary Year


This was the first year of the overhead valve engines for Ford and the first year Ford marketed it as the Interceptor. The Interceptor included an optional 256 CID Y-block V-8 borrowed from Mercury. Equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, the all new engine was rated at 161 hp @ 4400 rpm and produced 238 lb-ft of torque  @ 2200 rpm. Other special equipment included in the police package included optional 7-leaf rear springs, heavy duty brakes, 7.10 x 15 tires, and a laundry list of other severe service features. Pictured with the 1954 Ford above are Joel Brown and Gerald Kittridge.



Split 54(2)


Norris Sletten is pictured on the left with his first patrol car, Unit 54158. This unit was originally assigned to Chief Paul Martz and was unique in that it was outfitted with a 4.10:1 rear axle and overdrive. Most of the 1954 Fords used a 3.90:1 rear axle and no overdrive. The unit was reassigned to Sletten in April 1956. On the right, Sletten is pictured in 2008 with the MSPTA's restored 1954 Ford Mainline which also bears Unit Number 54158 in gratitude for all of the technical assistance rendered by Sletten during the restoration of the unit.


1954 Ford update0809

1954 Ford Mainline Tudor MHP 25th Anniversary Replica


Having undergone a total restoration over the winter of 2006-2007, this unit is available for displays and shows throughout the state of Minnesota. Contact your local State Patrol headquarters or email us to request the car for your event.



Downtown Garvin 1955(1)


Prior to 1954, the majority of the Minnesota Highway Patrol cars were black in color. From mid-1954 through 1957, the Highway Patrol purchased cars in all different colors. The logic behind it was that all of the patrol cars would blend in with other traffic. Thus, every vehicle could potentially be a Highway Patrol car which would cause people to mind their manners on the road. You never knew where a patrolman might be lurking. In the photo above, five 1954 and 1955 Ford patrol cars of various colors are parked in downtown Garvin, Minnesota.



1955 Ford Tutone

1955 Ford Custom Tudor


Several of the ’55s were white. Administrators decided white probably wasn’t the best color for a patrol car considering Minnesota winters. So, the hood, roof and decklid were repainted dark blue to achieve this unique two-tone treatment. The 1955 Fords were equipped for duty with a 292 CID Mercury V-8 with 7.6:1 compression producing 188 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 272 ft-lb of torque at 2500 rpm. Below is Andy Nesvik with a Sandalwood Tan example. 


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1955 Ford Custom Tudor



The Highway Patrol had about a dozen 1955 Chevrolet patrol cars, too. Their 50/50 front/rear weight distribution made them more ideal than the Fords in spirited driving applications. These units used Chevy's all new 265 CID V-8 with  8:1 compression. It was rated at 195 hp @ 5000 rpm and 260 ft/lb @ 3000 rpm. One can only guess the Fords were used more extensively since they were manufactured locally.


1956 Ford Keepers fixed
1956 Ford Custom Tudor


Ford was really beginning to up the ante on performance by 1956. The Highway Patrol outfitted their 1956 Fords with the new 312 CID Y-block V-8. The 312 used a single 4-barrel carburetor and would reach a top speed of nearly 120 mph. In the photo above, Don Keepers is pictured with this Pine Ridge Green example.



1957 Ford 57057 Blue

1957 Ford Custom Tudor


This Dresden Blue unit was equipped with a 312 V-8 with two 4-barrel carburetors, dual breaker ignition, and a 3-speed manual transmission. With a 9.7:1 compression, and producing 265 hp @ 4800 rpm and 336 ft-lb @ 3400 rpm, these became the first units in the fleet to require Premium gasoline. They used a  3.56 rear end and ran on 8.00 x 14 tires.


Norris Sletten shared this information. "The officers who were issued the '57 Fords received a memo stating that Ford recommended not running the engines in excess of 5000 rpm which, they said, equated to 119 mph with the standard transmission or 135 mph with the automatic transmission.  This writer can assure you that the '57 stick would go faster than 119 any day of the week (and usually did). You couldn't get the 3.1 rear end auto tranny units to 135 because there wasn't enough power to get them up to 5000 rpm."


Though Ford doesn't acknowledge building them as a police package, a handful of the Highway Patrol's ’57s used the 300 hp Supercharged 312. The troops that drove them say there was nothing quicker when they worked right. Unfortunately, they were wrought with trouble and the majority of them had the superchargers removed. The resulting normally aspirated low-compression engines performed poorly.



1958 Ford Keepers

1958 Ford Custom Tudor - First Maroon MHP Cars


Roger Keepers, brother of Patrolman Don Keepers, is kneeling beside this brand new '58... I don't know if Roger was praying for the car or for the poor souls who were about to become its victims.



At the urging of AAA and other groups, Maroon (Ditzler paint code 50551) was adopted as the standard color for the Minnesota Highway Patrol in 1958, as shown on this 1958 Ford Custom. This was also the first year of the roof-mounted “gumball”, which was surrounded by a large gold star decal. These were powered by a 352 CID V8 with automatic transmission and 2.69:1 rear axle.


1958 Ford Star

1958 Ford


The star on the roof made its first appearance with the maroon paint color in 1958. The star aided pilots of the Patrol's recently formed flight section in identifying the patrol cars from aloft. Also new for 1958 was the MINNESOTA HIGHWAY PATROL lettering across the trunk.



1958 Plymouth

1958 Plymouth Pursuit


For this year only, the Pursuit Special, based on the Savoy model, was equipped with a 295 horsepower 350 CID "Golden Commando" wedge V-8. The 280 ft-lb of torque were relayed to the 3.31:1 rear axle through a 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission with pushbutton shifter.



1959 Ford

1959 Ford Custom Tudor pictured with Bert Johnson


The 1959 Ford Custom was equipped with a 352 CID V-8 with hydraulic lifters. Power was relayed to the 3.73:1 rear axle by means of a 3-speed manual transmission. Shod in 7.10 x 15 tires, these were terrible handling machines, particularly in any sort of crosswind or wet road conditions. They were truly disappointing automobiles in comparison to Ford's previous offerings in the market.


 59600 Left

 1959 Plymouth Pursuit


The Highway Patrol also used Plymouths in 1959.  Based again on the Savoy model, the 1959 Plymouth Pursuit Special used the “Golden Commando” 361 CID V8, coupled to a pushbutton operated TorqueFlite automatic transmission and 3.31 rear end. They used 7.10 x 15 tires. The new engine was rated at 305 hp and 395 lb-ft torque. They were exceptional handling cars for their day and had super acceleration- would top out at approximately 120 mph.


This unit took a short sabbatical after being knocked around a little bit by a car driven by a drunk driver. After a little R & R (Remove & Replace), it was back to work and feeling better than ever. The Trooper was uninjured thanks to his safety belt.

 1960 Dodge Dart Color(1)

1960 Dodge Dart Seneca



The Highway Patrol used several makes of cars again in 1960. This Dodge Dart Seneca was probably the rarest of them all. Its chassis and driveline were identical to the 1960 Plymouth. It rode on a 118” wheelbase, was powered by the 305 hp 361 CID V-8, and used the TorqueFlite automatic transmission to send power to the 3.31:1 rear axle.
One change that made a Minnesota Highway Patrol car stand out from the crowd was the addition of white doors to the maroon paint scheme. Beginning in 1960, the doors were painted white and a new one-piece decal included a maroon background with gold lettering. The unit number, previously displayed on the doors, was relocated to the rear of the car.


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1960 Plymouth Pursuit

Photos courtesy of Andy Nesvik 

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The 1960 Plymouth Pursuit Special was again equipped with the 361 CID V8 and automatic transmission. Plymouth advertised the Minnesota Highway Patrol as one of several major agencies using their cars this year.


1960 Ford Karl Kittridge(2)

1960 Ford Custom Tudor


Virg Karl is seated in a 1960 Ford as he chats with Jerry Kittridge. The Ford was equipped with a 352 V8, 3.10 rear axle, and an automatic transmission. This transmission was "a real slush-bucket" in comparison to Chrysler's TorqueFlite, according to one retired trooper. These units had a top speed of about 110 mph. Detroit insiders were certain Chrysler and GM were going to release new sleek designs for 1960. So, although it wasn't fully engineered, Ford rushed the new body style into production and dropped it on the 1959 chassis. The result was a terribly clumsy combination that  handled and performed poorly.



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