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An Automotive History of the MSP

MSP Cars 1961-1970

 

 

1961 Plymouth Rosy

1961 Plymouth Savoy Pursuit. Whatcha got in the bucket, Rosie?

 

 The Minnesota Highway Patrol had many 1961 Plymouths. Purchased in small quantities throughout the model year, early ’61s used the 361 V-8, but most used the 383 V-8. A small number of late-year cars used the 413 V-8. Most had automatic transmissions. Advertised as being wind-tunnel designed, the 1961 Plymouths were fast and excellent handling automobiles.

 

1961 Plymouth LR

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1961 Plymouth Pursuit

Photos courtesy of W. Hanzlik and www.sportfuryGT.com 

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.1961 Plymouth Hanzlik

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and from a car guy’s point of view the 1961 Plymouth pictured above is absolutely stunning. This former MHP unit was found in North Dakota, and purchased by an avid Plymouth collector in the Twin Cities area. I have had an opportunity to look the car over and there is no doubt in my mind it is, in fact, an old MHP car. Upon examination, one can clearly see where the gumball and gold star had been removed from the roof prior to it being repainted white. There are numerous other clues that together are very convincing. After completing other projects currently in the works, the new owner intends to restore this one to MHP specs.

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1961 Ford

1961 Ford Custom Tudor

 

The Fords benefitted from some chassis and suspension upgrades for 1961. They were equipped with a 390 CID V8 with hydraulic lifters, straight stick, and 3.73:1 rear axle. With the low gear ratio, they were prone to valve float around 105 mph. Changing to a 3.1:1 axle, as in the cars with automatic transmissions, increased top speed, but acceleration suffered.

 

 

1962 Dodge Carlson edited

Officer Bruce Carlson and his 1962 Dodge Dart

 

The 1962 Dodge Dart was arguably a strange looking machine. Equipped again with the 361 Golden Commando V-8 with 4-barrel carb, rated at 305 hp and 395 lb-ft torque, automatic transmission, and 3.23 gears, the Dodges and their Plymouth counterparts were admirable performers.
The wheelbase of the Dodge and Plymouth pursuit cars dropped to 116 inches. They were smaller and lighter than in previous years, but used the same powerful 361 V-8 engines and TorqueFlite transmissions. The Plymouths also had a large round speedometer marked in one mph increments; just the ticket for clocking speeding motorists.
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1962 Ford BrownDrown

1962 Ford Galaxie Club Sedan

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Joel Brown and Dwight Drown are pictured above with a 1962 Ford Galaxie 100. The Ford was equipped with a 390 CID V8 rated at 330-horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Mated to a Cruise-O-Matic transmission, the specially equipped Interceptor 390 featured a 4-barrel carburetor, solid lifters, a high-lift cam, "shorty" exhaust headers, and dual exhaust. The solid lifters alleviated the valve float experienced with the 1961 hydraulic lifter equipped units.

 

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The Highway Patrol also had Plymouth and Dodge patrol cars this year. In 1962, all units were equipped with automatic transmissions and all units have been so equipped ever since.

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1963 Plymouth

1963 Plymouth Savoy Pursuit

 

 

1963 Plymouth Savoy Pursuit was powered by a 383 CID V8 rated at 330 hp and 425 lb-ft coupled to a TorqueFlite automatic. They were relatively light weight, quick, and good handling.

 

1963 Ford Boll edited

1963 Ford 300 2 door sedan

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Del Boll is pictured with this 1963 Ford 300. The drivetrain was carried over from 1962, utilizing the 330 hp 390 CID V-8, Cruise-O-Matic transmission, and a 3.0:1 rear axle.

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1964 Kremer web

1964 Ford Custom Tudor

 

Don E Kremer stands alongside his 1964 Ford. The Highway Patrol began phasing in electronic sirens in 1964, as denoted by the flared siren housing on this unit. Some who drove these cars say they were a great machine as long as you kept them moving in a straight line. They were heavy in the frontend and tended to understeer or “plow” their way through corners. Ford again equipped these units with the 330 horsepower 390 CID V-8. Below: The same 1964 Ford at a crash scene near Bingham Lake, MN.
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1964 Ford Kremer cropped

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Minnesota state statute requires vehicles of the State Patrol used primarily for traffic enforcement to be predominantly maroon in color. However, the same statute allows the State Patrol to also operate “specially marked” vehicles. They are called specially marked because the law requires them to have an emblem on the right side. The example shown below, though not in the best condition, was one such unit back in its day. This 1964 Plymouth Pursuit Special is dark blue and you can see there was once a Minnesota Highway Patrol emblem on the passenger door. It was originally equipped with a 383 V-8, 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission, dual exhaust, 11-inch power drum brakes, sway bar, bucket seats, and a Sure Grip rear end. Although the body is not entirely bad, this car, unfortunately, became a donor car for another restoration project.

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1964 Plymouth

1964 Plymouth Savoy Pursuit

(Photo courtesy of Daryl Fish)

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1965 Plym

1965 Plymouth Fury I Pursuit

 

These were equipped with the 330 hp 383 CID Super Commando V8 and rode on a 119 inch wheelbase; the longest to date for Plymouth. A little heavier than the Plymouths of the few previous years, they didn’t perform quite as well, but were still very respectable.

 

1965 Plymouth Interior

1965 Plymouth Interior

 

 

Here’s an interior shot of a ’65 Plymouth. The radar control head is in the middle of the photo. The siren control and radio are attached to the underside of the dashboard. The four small knobs in the dash are the controls for the emergency lighting.

 

1967 Plymouth web

1967 Plymouth Fury I Pursuit - First MHP Four-door sedans

 

 

1967 marked a few milestones in the Highway Patrol’s fleet history. These were the first 4-door patrol cars, the first equipped with power steering, and the first to be equipped with the legendary 375 hp 440 cubic inch Super Commando V-8 with a torque rating of 480 ft-lbs. Only the front doors were painted white; a look that became the hallmark of the Minnesota State Patrol for the next 25 years. Here, Don E Kremer is at the wheel.

 

1967 Plymouth Pierce

1967 Plymouth Fury I Pursuit

 

 1968 Ford(2)

1968 Ford Custom Sedan

 

 

The 1968 Ford used a 428 CID V-8 and 2.8:1 rear axle. Due to the construction of the hood panel, the front corners of the hood would begin to lift at moderately high speeds and frighteningly so at even higher speeds. One legendary ride with a certain Sergeant in the Marshall District was all it took to convince the Ford rep that something had to be done about this malady. Soon after, Ford provided aftermarket hood pin kits to be installed on these units to insure the hood wouldn’t come apart or fly open at high speeds. A properly tuned ’68 Ford would hit top end well in excess of 130 mph!

 

 

1969 Ford front

1969 Ford Custom Sedan

 

 

The 1969 Fords were the last of the units to display the gold star on their roofs. To aid in cooling the cars in the hot summer months, 1969 Fords received this new tutone paint treatment and the stars were removed in the process. The roofs on many of the 1968 cars were repainted white, as well. White paint was cheaper than air conditioning! Also new for 1969 was the hood mounted bi-directional STOP light. Sirens were mounted under the hood. These cars ran a 429 CID V8 power plant, 3-speed automatic transmission, and 3.0:1 rear axle.

 

 

1969 Ford Reynolds

1969 Ford Custom Sedan

Photo courtesy of Greg Reynolds/www.copcar.com

 

1970 Plymouth edited(1) 

1970 Plymouth Fury I Pursuit Sedan

Photo courtesy of Greg Reynolds/www.copcar.com

 

The 1970 and 1971 Plymouths were nearly identical. All were equipped with 440 CID V8 engines, although compression ratios began to drop. Previously 10.1:1, compression went to 9.7 :1 in 1970 and 9.5:1 in 1971. 1971 would be the last year the front doors were painted white and the last year the cars required premium gasoline.

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JKS