CHP purchases V6 Dodge Chargers

From having been shamed whilst driving Mommy’s SUVs, the CHP finds itself going back to sedans.

The newly-styled Dodge Charger.

I helped my department purchase and upfit its five 2004 Dodge Chargers as test beds with the Hemi V8. We learned a lot about the Charger. It understeered like a big dog, lacked trunk room, lacked rear seat prisoner room and constricted the passenger officer because of the upfitting issues involving vertical long gun mounts and laptop mount.

The other thing I discovered is that my Toyota RAV4 V6 SUV, chipped to 300 HP, could take the Charger’s 340 HP Hemi until it reached 3,400 RPM. Then the Charger simply said “buh-bye.”

California Highway Patrol officer Florentino Olivera stands in front of all three cars being used in Santa Ana, CA on Monday, March 20, 2017. The former mainstay is the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor by Ford Motor Co., left, The new Dodge Charger Pursuit and a Ford Explorer Explorer Police Interceptor. (Photo by KEN STEINHARDT,Orange County Register/SCNG)

Trust me, the new Dodge Chargers haven’t much changed. There are still issues. Also, the more airbags placed into a vehicle = the fewer airbag pathways that can be obstructed by equipment demanded in today’s technology-packed cop cars such as computers, laptops, electronic chargers, dash cams and speed tracking devices.


CHP is switching from SUV-style patrol cars to sleek Chargers

by Alma Fausto

California Highway Patrol officers have begun hitting the road in sleek black-and-white Chargers as the agency starts replacing their SUV-style patrol cars.

The Dodge Charger Pursuit is moving into the agency’s fleet as the older cars retire, namely the prevalent Ford Explorer and on occasion the iconic, and now rare, Crown Victoria.

Of Orange County’s 80-plus CHP black-and-whites, five are Chargers.

“I really like the look of the Charger,” said Officer Florentino Olivera, who is based at the Santa Ana headquarters. “It just looks like a cop car.”

Right. Instead of Mommy’s SUV.

Once, the Crown Victoria – referred to by cops as the “Crown Vic” or CVPI – ruled the streets when it came to many police fleets, including the CHP. When Ford stopping making them in 2011, many agencies opted for other sedans.

Much as I hate to admit it, the Ford CVPI was one of the most forgiving vehicles law enforcement has driven in the past and will ever drive. I had a love/hate relationship with the CVPI as an EVOC Supervisor and instructor. But, truthfully, sigh, well, yeah, more love than hate. It only took 25,000 years for the car to ramp up to 250 HP from its unchanged 4.6 liter small block V8 at 210 HP. The prior generation 351-engined Crown Vics sported a jaw-dropping 180 HP.

When production of Ford’s CVPI halted in 2011, other manufacturers stepped in, including Dodge with its Charger and Chevrolet with its Caprice PPV — an actual vehicle borne in Australia via Holden and imported into the US. At no small cost.

Which is why it never succeeded. Costly import fees and parts access made the overall experience more expensive for agencies. That and Chevrolet/Holden halted Caprice production.

In 2013, the CHP went with the Ford Police Interceptor Utility, based on the Ford Explorer SUV. It could carry the Highway Patrol’s large load of equipment and is all-wheel drive. Other police agencies have also chosen the vehicle.

But when the CHP’s contract was up for renewal last year, the state decided to go back to a sedan. The California Department of General Services weighed performance, price and load capacity. The rear-wheel-drive Dodge Charger Pursuit met the CHP’s specifications, and was slightly less expensive and better on gas than the Ford.

Because it was a V6. Like the Ford Explorer. Let’s make some things clear.

Fran Clader, a CHP spokeswoman in Sacramento, said 588 Chargers have been purchased, with 122 on the road. They are being distributed across California when an existing car is inoperable or sometimes when one reaches 100,000 miles, if it isn’t running real well.

In all, the agency has 2,900 black-and-whites.

CHP ended up purchasing the 27A RWD package with the 5-speed transmission and  3.7L V6 engine rated at 292 HP, less than the Ford Explorer 3.7L V6 (304 HP) but more than the final production years of the Crown Vic. The 2016 Chargers were $27,140 per unit.

Once upfitted, Ford Explorers were damned near impossible to see out of when backing because of the rear seat cage, roll bar, lights and equipment. Most were spec’d with backup cameras in the rear view mirror and, had they not, there would be many more damaged law enforcement Explorers as well as other vehicles, buildings, fences and the like. Ergonomically, they were more comfortable and larger than Chargers. The Explorers were also plagued with transmission problems.

Frankly, the Charger fleet purchase was purely fiscal. Officers like the looks but, I sense, will come to be unimpressed overall, particularly with the anemic V6 and the limited interior room.

Conversely, CHP transitioned from the BMW R1200RTP authority motor to the Harley-Davidson FLHTP Electra Glide in 2014 which, at $28,381.00, has a base price more than the Charger. However, a 3 year/60,000 mile warranty covering all service and repairs makes the purchase price more palatable, something BMW did not offer.

Officers are of two minds about the bikes. Leggy officers enjoyed the BMW (a damned tall motorcycle) and its smoother engine. Shorter officers like the lower Harley but some are not keen on having their fillings vibrated for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for years.

CHP is also transitioning from their standard issue Smith & Wesson 4006 TSW stainless handgun in .40 caliber, to the Smith & Wesson M&P (military and police) in .40 caliber with their own CHP serial numbers, from CHP1018 – CHP908A. I have no current photo of this issue weapon, but will shortly.

So when you looked in your rearview and surmised “it’s just a V6 SUV,” you can do the same thing, only different. “It’s just a V6 Dodge Charger.” Different frame, different manufacturer, less horsepower.




12 thoughts on “CHP purchases V6 Dodge Chargers

  1. My LEO acquaintances say the Charger will rapidly overheat in sustained high speed runs. One deputy told of an assist run where he had the A/C off, the heater on, and the windows down after ten miles.

    • Some of my favorite cop cars. I’ve personally driven them on duty.

      1. 1976 Pontiac Le Mans Enforcer.
      2. 1974 Dodge Monaco.
      3. 1977 Pontiac Catalina Enforcer.
      4. 1987 Chevrolet Impala 9C1
      5. 1995 Chevrolet Caprice with detuned LT1
      6. 2011 Ford CVPI. Heavy sigh.


      • Best: ’78 Pontiac Catalina w/police package (400CI!)
        Worst: ’76 Ford Maverick – straight 6 (yep MPs actually used them for patrol – ONLY advantage was you weren’t ‘required’ to wear your hat in them)
        My personal experience, YMMV.

        • Gomez: my department had both 1976 and 1977 LeMans Enforcers. We had one of them, 686, that had the 400CI engine. Guys would fight over it. They’d open the hood, flip the air filter cover, wingnut it back down so that it made a much louder noise under acceleration.

          And — Mavericks??


  2. As an ex-cop as well, I had some opinions of the few cars I got to experience. Sadly, my days of law enforcement do not go back as far as your, and I can only imagine how much room the “Smokey and the Bandit” Pontiac cop cars offered. My favorite by far was the 1996 Caprice with the LT1 engine. The last cop car that had balls and could easily get out of its own way. I joined the force a few years after they stopped using the Caprice, but we had a few left in service, as you could not kill them, and they still did the job. Of course, by the time I was issued mine, it smelled of piss, vomit, shit, old stale beer, and sweat, and the seat was flattened the point a 2×4 would have been more comfortable…but damn it did move out. Despite the obvious drawbacks, there was never a shortage of guys who were willing to check it out…it was that fun to drive.

    I should add that my dept did not have a take home policy, so you had a line car, which you shared with one other cop (if you were lucky), or as many as up to 4. So, there was never this sense of “my car” where you took extra care of it and able to set it up as you like. Hopefully, the other cop(s) you shared the vehicle with weren’t slobs and cared as much as you did, or worse, smoked, or in my case for a while, a guy who chewed tobacco, and occasionally missed his spit cup. I would find food dropping under the seat, and after a while, you just plain learned to ignore it and NEVER put your hand into the darkness of a seat bottom as you just didn’t want to know (or touch it). After a while, the only thing I cared about was it moved, and the AC worked.

    Anyway, after we got rid of the Caprices, I was assigned to a 97 Crown Vic, which is somewhat different than the later models, and for me, rode horribly in comparison for some reason. As a rookie, we got issued three year or older vehicles, which in cop car years, is darn near end of life.

    After I got some seniority, I started to move up the food chain of being issued my vehicle. We got in a bunch a new Crown Vics in, and were issued first to the brass, then by seniority, a half dozen or so every quarter. Boy were we newer guys jealous as hell of the long term guys getting brand new cars. It was a year before I got mine. One sergeant, less than a week after being issued his new patrol car, was T-boned by some idiot drunk and the car was totaled. There should have been some enhanced sentencing guidelines for totaling a brand new patrol car in my opinion. The damn thing had less than 500 miles on it. It was sad.

    When I got my new patrol car, I remember constantly rainx-ing the windshield and taking it to the car wash as I was proud of it after years of driving what would soon become a “new” taxi cab. Sadly, the two other guys I shared it with didn’t seem to care about our new vehicle as much as I did, and after a while, I just quit caring as well.

    Another thing I remember is that some time in early 2000’s, Ford moved the seat belt, which was originally on the side of the driver seat, to slot cut into the seat instead. Because of this, I no longer could wear the seat belt as it interfered greatly with my holster and weapon. Sadly, Ford also put a longer annoying seatbelt warning buzzer, which nagged and nagged and nagged if you failed to use the seatbelt. It just plain would NOT shut off. So, I ripped the damn wires out from under the seat to stop it. This had the effect of stopping the ding noise, but allowed the seatbelt idiot like to come on, which wasn’t a big deal….you would think. My next tour of duty, I go to check out my car, and come to find it had been downed for service and for the next few shifts, I had to take an older ass-smelling line car. A few days later, I get my car back, and the seatbelt is fixed, and again, I rip the wires out from under the seat to shut it up. The next day, car is downed for service again. I put 2 and 2 together and realize some nerdy rookie who uses the car for the opposite shift was overly concerned with the seat belt dash warning light and feared for his safety that the seatbelt would “fail” and sent the car in for service to have it checked out. I laid into him and asked him WTH and why are you downing our car when nothing is wrong. He stated he was afraid the seat belt would malfunction because the seat belt light indicated something was wrong. I told him what I did, and told him NOT to down the car again. He stated this would be WRONG, and he said if the light was on, he was practically honor bound to put the car in for service. SOB bastard. So, to solve this issue once and for all, instead of ripping the wires out, I instead went thru the trouble to wire it up as if the seat belt was always in use….problem solved…nerdy righteous asshole.

    Anyway, after a few years, they started bringing in Chevy Impalas. Now anyone who knows the early 2000 Impalas, knows it is NOT your Father’s Impala…big and roomy. These new impalas had no room, a lousy no horsepower 6 cyl engine, and were terrible in every way for cop use. As any cop who has been around a while, the focus of a cop car is no longer meant for high speed pursuits. Long gone are the days of the 5.0 Mustang patrol cars and the “get ’em at any costs” attitude. If you have to drive over the speed limit to catch a bad guy, the chase is called off. In our city, if you didn’t want to get a ticket or get arrested all you had to do was go ten over the speed limit and you would get away. Every chase had to be authorized by your sergeant, and of course, permission was never given. You would have to kill someone twice, and that someone had to be important, and it had to be daytime, with no rain, or no traffic, on a lone empty stretch of highway, and for 2 minutes only, in order to get permission to chase someone. It just plain doesn’t happen anymore. At least not where I worked.

    So, hence, the new Chevy Impala, with the emphasis on NO HORSEPOWER, was the answer. All of them we had the bench seat removed and a pair of the low end Recaro seats installed, which you would think would be comfortable, which they were…for about 3 months before they no longer felt like a seat and more like an upturned 5 gallon bucket. The seats sucked, the whole damn car sucked. They were slow, they had no interior room, no back seat, no trunk, the alternators and the wiring were constantly shorting out as they could NOT handle the electrical demands of a cop car, and on and on. These lasted a year or so until everyone realized they were not up to the task of law enforcement. Next, the Dodge Charger. The Charger, were better, but as stated in the article, just plain did not work as a cop car, and all for the reasons stated above.

    You would think that any of the big three, or maybe even some foreign car manufacturer like Honda or Toyota could produce a decent cop car. Hell, they could dominate if they could build anything close to what the Crown Vic was. And NOT like what you see across the pond with their Le Car police cars of whatever they use, with those unmanly sirens going “neee nooo neee nooo neee nooo”…OMG. (But those cool “bobby” hats, well that might be worth the tradeoff.)

    Anyway, with budgets how they are, and the focus being not on strength and reliability, but instead, pollution control, compact and tiny, I think you will not see a police cruiser the likes to the Crown Vic ever again. The end of an era.

  3. Okay, I finished my diatribe above, but a thought came to mind that I just had to spill out onto the blog and share with all of you who are now annoyed at having to read the LONG WINDED story, or maybe you just ignored because well…it’s just too damn long and better to move on to the next comment.

    Anyway, when I was a rooking and still in training, I referred to out car as a Crown Victoria, and was immediately excoriated and was told I was wrong. My FTO (Field Training Officer) confidently told me that all police cars are NOT Crown Vics, but instead Ford Police Interceptors. He proved this by pointing to the rear truck badges stating as such, and that there were no badges or indications anywhere that the car was a Crown Vic. He assured me that the Crown Vic and the Police Interceptor were two entirely different vehicles, and were even made at different manufacturing plants. I tried to tell him that our police car was still a Crown Victoria, and that the Police Interceptor badge was just to indicate it was an “upgrade” to a Crown Vic. Well, I was the know-nothing rookie, and we was a big time, lots of years on the force, Mr. Sniper on the SWAT team, uber cop, and if he says it is a police interceptor and NOT a Crown Vic, well then he is right and I am wrong. I used logic and explained that just like a Trans Am is still a Firebird and a Z28 is still a Camaro, that a Police Interceptor is still a Crown Vic. I was wrong of course and logic had no bearing on what this grizzled cop knew as true. I believe I got dinged on my performance review for that day.

      • I met some guys from Carbon Motors. Someone finally stole the idea from fire departments across the nation. Build a job-specific vehicle. Problem was, Carbon was too little, too late, and too poorly run. Met some Carbon guys at a SF LE show. Weren’t interested in giving me the time of day. With that kind of management and “promotion” it’s no wonder they failed.


  4. I can comment on the bikes.

    “Officers are of two minds about the bikes. Leggy officers enjoyed the BMW (a damned tall motorcycle) and its smoother engine…”

    Very true. I owned a 2003 RS1150, and tipped it over pulling out of a driveway to a gas station because I couldn’t reach the ground. The second issue with that bike is rider position. Even the RT has a forward leaning position that requires the rider to keep his head elevated past normal position creating potential for severe headaches at the end of the day. I hated the day after a ride.

    After the BMW, I have owned 2 Sleds:
    2007 FLHX Street Glide Patriot Edition,
    2014 FLHTK Ultra limited (Cadillac of bikes).

    “Shorter officers like the lower Harley but some are not keen on having their fillings vibrated for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for years.”

    This statement is both true and untrue. A simple seat replacement can assist longer legged riders, and engine vibration has all but been eliminated with the rubber mounts. I’ve logged several thousand miles, both short and long runs and can say with confidence, there is no better ride than a Harley.

    • Knew some CHP motor officers in the 80s. They liked the Harley FXRP. Not so bulbous and more responsive than they had previously experienced with Hardley-Ablesons.


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