So, Mr Chris Pollitt decided that his first piece on this sort of vaguely-but-not-very esteemed site would be to throw down a three grand challenge to me where he came up with an obscure French minivan no one has ever heard of, and only he remembers, as an example of a bargain.
He also wondered what you could pick up for $3000 here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I can tell you that if you have three grand to spend on something fun here in America, you go American. You go V8, you go bang for your buck and you go be that guy.
Allow me to introduce the Ford Crown Victoria with the P71 package.
Yes, P71 is the code for the the police package.
The good news is you don’t have to be a wannabe cop that failed the psych test to get into the academy. You don’t have to be one of those guys that has to open carry all day every day in the hope someone asks if they are a cop. You certainly don’t even need to be the kind of guy that appreciates an easy to clean rear vinyl bench seat and enough trunk space to store two dead hookers and a shovel.
All you have to be is someone that wants a roomy, rear wheel drive car with an easy to maintain V8, and can put up with radiating hatred of people that have been driving carefully but now realise you’re not actually a cop.
Contrary to popular belief, the police package suspension is not necessarily an upgrade for handling but it’s actually beefed up and raised to allow the car to take on rough roads and curbs while full of weight. This makes for a mean daily or even a handy school run mobile that you can go do burn outs in the car park later with.
So, what do you actually get for your money?
There are different packages that could have been installed along with the basic police package, but every car has a 4.6 L 2V SOHC V8 and that’s fitted with an external oil-to-engine-coolant oil cooler to allow the vehicle to operate at high RPM and high loads for extended periods without damaging the engine. The ECU is tuned for more aggressive transmission shift points than a standard Crown Vic and the transmission itself is built for harder shifting.
1993 – 2005 models use an aluminium metal matrix composite driveshaft so it doesn’t break under the mixture of power, aggressive driving and the weight of a body on frame car packed with police equipment. I believe that because “aluminium metal matrix composite” sounds cool.
For your money you’re getting a lot of car, however it’s worth shopping carefully. The average P71 will have a had a hard life – even if the mileage isn’t that high you can guarantee it’s spent a lot of its life idling while cops listen to donut shop jokes. The smart shopper will look for the detective model from the late nineties and early 2000’s.
You may also want to look for one with the Street Appearance package to try and avoid people thinking you’re that guy.
Of course, if you are that guy then you’ll want to go full asshole and make sure it’s in white with at least one of those side mounted lights still attached so everyone knows you can’t even get a security guard gig at the local grocery store, and actually refer to criminals as “perps”.
So, Chris served up a completely uncool vehicle for under three grand, and I truly believe this is actually even less cool. American car culture pretty much frowns on them because there is nothing more annoying than realising the cop car isn’t a cop car anymore, and cops don’t like them because there is nothing worse than wannabe cops. On top of that general society isn’t a fan of wannabe cops either.
However, as a car you can pick up for three grand it’s technically an enthusiasts wet dream of a cheap car. It’s rear wheel drive with an easy to maintain V8 and an almost indestructible body on frame chassis. It’s a car that is designed to be used, and to a degree, abused.
Also, did I mention it’s a rear wheel drive V8?
It’s also a car that becomes cool if you buy one and and ship to the UK, and parts are not going to be the biggest issue in the world. I haven’t tried it yet but here in California I can probably pick up an alternator for any old Ford along with a tall latte.
Hell, occasionally I trip over Ford parts here just crossing the street.