An Automotive History of the MSP

MSP Cars 1981-1990

1981 Plymouth 41004 edited

1981 Plymouth Gran Fury - Class C


The 1981 Plymouth Gran Fury Pursuit was cheapened up a bit compared to the 1980 model. The gold brocade upholstery was replaced with a heavy plaid fabric and there were no power windows or power door locks as on the cars of the preceding several years. The only V-8 engine available for 1981 was the 318-4V teamed with a 3-speed automatic transmission. They worked far better than the 1980 version, but the performance was still less than exciting.


1981 Plymouth retouched

1981 Plymouth Gran Fury - Class A

(Photo from the R.C. Logan Collection)



1982 Ford B

1982 Ford LTD-S Interceptor - Class B


Ford equipped the Interceptor with an optional 351 CID V8 w/Variable Venturi carburetor and the first automatic overdrive transmissions. The Patrol’s first Fords since 1969, their new automatic overdrive transmissions were wrought with problems. Hopes were high that they would be good performers, but with 2.91 gears, they couldn’t maintain top speed in overdrive. Orders were given to avoid using overdrive during patrol duties. They were numb and vague handling cars compared to the Plymouths of the previous several years.


1982 Ford Side Moe

1982 Ford LTD-S Interceptor - Class A



1982 Ford LTD Wagon - Safety Education Unit


1983 Plymouth RCLogan

1983 Plymouth Gran Fury - Class A

(Photo from the R.C. Logan collection)


The 1983 Plymouth Gran Fury was considerably smaller than anything the State Patrol had used in recent years. Equipped with a 318 V-8 and Carter Thermoquad carburetor, the units performed respectably for their time. They had a stiff suspension that allowed for nimble handling. Motor Trend magazine described the car’s road feel as being able to “detect every chuckhole, tar strip, and paperclip” on the road.


1983 Plymouth Carlson

1983 Plymouth Gran Fury - Class B

(Photo courtesy of Bruce Carlson)


1983 Plymouth_R

1983 Plymouth Gran Fury - Class D


This was unit number 43023 and was issued to the District Commander in Marshall, Minnesota. aka. my Dad. It was Formal Black with a very comfortable red velour interior. The state bid price on the '83 Plymouths was $8,682. I added the red pinstripes and the alloy wheels came from one of those used cars purchased a couple years earlier. It was a very sharp looking ride! A little ahead of their time, Dad and the local state mechanic devised a way to hide red lights in the front parking lights; a practice that is commonplace on today's squad cars. 


1983 Plymouth Sticker Thumb


Click the image above to see the full size 1983 Plymouth window sticker.


1983 Olds SW

1983 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser - Safety Education Unit


Running a 307 CID V8, equipped with an electronically controlled E4ME 4-barrel carburetor, rated at 140 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, the Custom Cruiser was not really built for pursuit purposes. But, Oldsmobile offered heavy duty cooling, suspension parts, and a high output alternator that helped them survive the rigors of patrol use. There were just a few of these Oldsmobiles in service with the MSP, all of them assigned to Safety Education Officers.


1984 Ford A JSon

1984 Ford LTD Crown Victoria - Class A


The 1984 Ford Crown Victoria used the 5.8 liter V-8 with variable venturi carburetor. The specifications for the units included color-keyed wheels. They were delivered to the dealer with black wheels. To meet the terms of the contract, aftermarket wheel covers were selected in lieu of painting all the wheels. The 1984 Crown Victorias were outfitted with a cluster of gauges mounted in the dash above the glove box to monitor vital engine conditions.


1984 Ford CVI

1984 Ford LTD Crown Victoria Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit


This 1984 Crown Victoria saw duty as a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement unit. It probably served as a Trooper unit for 80,000 miles or more before being handed down to the Commercial Vehicle Section.


1985 Ford A JSon

1985 Ford LTD Crown Victoria - Class A


The 1985 Ford Crown Victoria could be differentiated from the 1984 model by the OEM wheel covers and the lack of gauges in the dash. The only other visible difference was the location of the horn button, which was now in the center of the steering wheel rather than on the end of the turn signal stalk. The drivetrain was the same as in 1984.
.1985 Ford Sticker Thumb
Click the image above to see the full size 1985 Ford CVPI Window Sticker


1985 Ford B

1985 Ford LTD Crown Victoria - Class B


1985 Ford C

1985 Ford Crown Victoria - Class C


1986 Chevrolet Carlson

1986 Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 Class B with Trooper Bruce Carlson


The State Patrol’s practice of buying cars in manufacturer’s standard colors was taking it’s toll on the uniform look of the fleet. The 1982 Fords and 1983 Plymouths were dark red. They passed for maroon, but barely. 1984 & 1985 Fords looked very good. In 1986, the Chevrolet Caprice was the vehicle of choice. It was the first time since 1955, that Chevrolets were purchased as regular patrol vehicles. It was also the first time a custom paint color was specified from GM.


Various stories circulated about how the color was chosen for the 1986 Chevrolets. Some say the Chief held the color chips up to his trousers under flourescent lights and chose the color. Some have said the color number was read incorrectly off the paint chart with the number above the paint chip specified rather than the number below the paint chip. How it truly happened is unclear, but the bottom line is the wrong color was selected. To make matters worse, the bright red paint was defective and faded quickly to a rosy pink. Many of the cars were repainted under the factory warranty. Some were repainted a more appropriate color, but most just got a fresh coat of red. Twenty-plus years later, people still make jokes about the Mary Kay cars of 1986.


The drivetrain in the 1986 Chevrolet Caprice included a "police only" 5.7 liter V-8, 4-bbl carburetor, TH700R4 transmission, 3.08:1 rear axle ratio, and F41 performance suspension, making for a very smooth yet road-hugging combination. It made the paint color a bit more bearable. The state bid price for the maroon (ok... red) units was $10,488 and unmarked units were slightly lower at $10,459. The difference was the cost of a spotlight.
1986 Chevrolet Sticker Thumb
Click the image above to see the full size 1986 Chevrolet window sticker.

1986 Chevrolet C

1986 Chevrolet Caprice - Class C


1987 Chevrolet Moe

1987 Chevrolet Caprice


Mechanically, the 1987 Caprice differed little from the 1986 version. New for 1987 were the composite headlamps and more upscale burgundy cloth interior trim. And, the color was much better than the 1986 models.


1987 Chevrolet Interior Moe

1987 Chevrolet Caprice Interior


1987 Ford SW

1987 Ford Safety Education Unit


1987 Chevrolet CVI

1987 Chevrolet Caprice - Commercial vehicle Enforcement Unit


 About ten of these units were purchased for Commercial Vehicle Inspectors; all of them grey in color. These units were not equipped with the police package and were powered by a 5.0 liter V-8.


1988 Plymouth A Wh

1988 Plymouth Gran Fury


The 1988 Plymouth Gran Fury was the last of the Plymouths used by the Minnesota State Patrol. They were small, firm riding, agile handling cars. The drivetrain was nearly unchanged from that of the 1983 Gran Fury, except the 318 was now topped by a Rochester Quadrajet carburetor instead of the Carter carburetor of previous years. The unmarked 1988 Plymouths were among the first MSP cars equipped with airbags.


1989 Chevrolet 49120 Moe(1)


1989 Chevrolet Caprice


The 1989 Chevrolets were the first regular State Patrol units equipped with fuel injection. The 5.7 liter V-8 was now rated at 190 hp @ 4400 rpm and torque of 285 ft-lb at 2400 rpm. The 9C1 Police Package included the TH700R4 transmission and a 3.42:1 rear axle. The Caprice rode on a 116” wheelbase that offered a smooth, but firm ride, and great road manners.


1989 Mustang Blue

1989 Ford Mustang - Class C


The Minnesota State Patrol purchased twenty Ford Mustang Police Package Coupes in 1989. These were all unmarked units that provided an inexpensive alternative to the traditional police sedan. They were equipped with the  High Output 5.0 liter V-8 with automatic transmission.


1990 Chevrolet B(1) 

1990 Chevrolet Caprice - Class B


1990 Chevrolet Caprice was changed little over the 1989 model. The 1990 Caprice was equipped with passive safety belts and the paint color changed again slightly, this time taking on a slightly  brown hue. This was the first year some of the units were outfitted by a private vendor rather than MnDOT mechanics.


1990 Chevrolet Sub(1)

 1990 Chevrolet Suburban - Safety Education Unit


Suburbans were assigned to Safety Education Officers and mobile weight enforcement personnel. The 2-wheel drive 3/4 ton units were powered by a throttle body injected 350 CID V8 coupled to a 400 Turbo-Hydramatic transmission and 3.73:1 rearend. Most of these units were in service well in excess of 200,000 miles.


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