A few years ago, the only medium-price cars to be found in police departments were those used by the superintendent or other top official. Today, Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth still dominate the police scene but Chrysler, Dodge, Mercury, Oldsmobile and Pontiac are beginning to make inroads, especially in cars used for patrol work.
As an example, the Los Angeles Police Dept. recently purchased six 1963 standard size Oldsmobile models on the basis of an extensive evaluation program including performance, handling and braking tests.
Conducted under the supervision of Ray Wynne, transportation superintendent for the LAPD, the tests were carried out on a 2.1 mile test track which contains 11 wicked turns and curves, well suited for simulating patrol and high speed chase conditions.
The Oldsmobile tested, a Dynamic 88 sedan, was built with Oldsmobile Police Apprehender equipment, including heavy duty chassis, brakes, shocks, suspension and springs; a power team of a 345 horsepower engine and special Hydra-Matic transmission; and special duty wheels and tires.
In addition, Wynne had the test car equipped with a cage-type roll-bar of two-inch pipe outlining the door openings and anchored directly to the car's frame, headrests designed to eliminate neck injury and seat belts that restrict body movement to a minimum. All cars tested are built to Wynne's special police car and driver safety standards.
The Los Angeles test program should be a model for all police departments. While requiring an extra effort, such a program can readily determine if a particular vehicle meets the needs of a police department.
Under the Los Angeles test program, a team of three skilled drivers, each an expert at putting cars through their paces, evaluates each entry on handling and comfort, braking and performance.
To begin with, the test schedule calls for evaluation of the vehicle's stability, cornering, driver comfort and safety at low or high speed. Each driver takes the test car on several laps of the 2.1 mile track before being timed for four laps. In addition to driver observation, cameras stationed at key points record every movement of the test car as it moves through the 11 turns for further evaluation and study.
To check brake performance, "warm up" stops are made from 90 MPH with two minutes of brake drum heat soaking between each stop. Then comes a panic stop from 60 MPH. The ability of the heated brakes to halt the car is determined and recorded at this point. Within five minutes, the test is repeated, again checking for brake fade, brake pull, or rear axle hop. The final portion of the brake test calls for stopping from 30 MPH to check wheel pulling or brake grabbing under normal brake applications.
Concluding the driving test is a quarter-mile acceleration run which measures the over-all performance in freeway patrol.
The test drivers then examine the cars' interiors for such factors as ease of entry and exit, leg and head room, visibility, location of instruments and over-all comfort. Only alter the exhaustive examination does the Los Angeles Police Dept. purchase replacement requirements and new equipment each year for its fleet of 975 vehicles.