Quite a few police cars have been featured on Jay Leno's Garage. Jay previously drove a 1961 Dodge Polara that served with the California Highway Patrol. This time, he's looking at a another '60s Dodge patrol car.
"This is the car that was around when I was a kid, that always struck fear when you saw it in the rearview mirror," Jay says of this 1966 Dodge Coronet police car.
"It got the job done," responds Fred Iversen, the car's owner and a retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff. Iversen drove these cars when they were new.
It's easy to get nostalgic about cars like the Coronet today, but in the 1960s they were simply tools to be used and abused. Like modern police cars, the Coronets were kept in service for a relatively short period of time (about two years), but they racked up a lot of miles. Cars would accumulate a "hard" 100,000 miles in police service, he said.
1966 Dodge Coronet police car Jay Leno's Garage screenshot
This particular Coronet isn't an original police car. It's a clone built by Iversen, and dedicated to officers of the San Fernando police force who died in the line of duty.
The car isn't a big performer. It has what appears to be a 318-cubic-inch V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor. Coronets were also sold with bigger engines, including 383, 440, and 426-ci Hemi V-8s. It's probably best that this car doesn't have one of the more-powerful engines, as it also has drum brakes all around.
Iversen tells Jay that he hit 100 mph in a high-speed chase, somethings that's discouraged under current California policies. But in the 1960s, cops could do a lot more than drive fast.
"We could ram," Iversen says. "There was a lot less liability."
Jay goes through the car's police equipment, including the Motorola radio, which Jay says drew its name from a combination of motoring and the old Victrola record players.
Like just about all episodes of Jay Leno's Garage, this one ends with a drive in the car. Jay even sounds the siren on the street. The ol' 318 does its best and Jay says it has decent pickup, but Iversen downplays the power and seems to think the car is best as a nostalgia piece at car shows. We think it's a piece of American history and it looks great.