Have you ever noticed that you never seem to see legitimate Pontiac police cars or taxis at car shows? This, despite the fact that these vehicle packages have a long history with Pontiac. Sure, we do sometimes see Pontiac professional car packages (ambulances, hearses, and so on), although rarely in the as-built-by-Pontiac condition. Given their contribution to society and relative scarcity, we are going to briefly discuss the details of a few of their packages and share some stories.
First, let's examine the police cars. There is some evidence these may go back to the '30s. More evidence exists of Pontiac police cars from the late '40s and early '50s. Art included with this article shows the '76 Catalina and LeMans Patrol Cars and the '77 total Pontiac Police Option Specifications among others. We are going to focus on what may be the best of all Pontiac police cars-the '77 LeMans ("A" car).
You used to see many repainted and used in chase scenes on TV, and let's not forget their co-starring role in Smokey and the Bandit. It's a little known fact that the police package for these cars was available on the two-doors as well as the four-doors.
What culminates in the '77 LeMans Freeway Enforcer package appears to begin in the '75 model. Working with the California Police agencies that actually performance-tested police packages, Pontiac Engineering set out to develop an outstanding vehicle. Some of the existing heavy-duty parts and options were immediately usable. For example, appropriate cooling packages, heavy-duty seats, and rubber floor coverings already existed. On the other hand, handling and braking revisions were necessary. A look at the '77 Freeway Enforcer Police Option Specifications shows some of the additions, such as a LoGear Blockout, were available for the automatic transmissions. This was to help prevent over-revving the engine. New 11-inch rear brake drums were a specific outgrowth of the police testing program. The steering gear was a special high-effort addition, and a 1-inch rear stabilizer bar is specific to these cars. For some unknown reason, the limited-slip axle was not recommended with this package. (When you look at this early release chart, the 301 is called a 302).
My son, who has a '77 LeMans Sport Coupe, and I found one of these cars in a local salvage yard some time ago. We liberated the rear bar for his car; he couldn't believe the difference it made in the handling (it originally had no rear bar, although it does have the Radial Tuned Suspension). This bar can be used on '73-'77 A cars. Mostly as collectible items, I also took home the optional front domelight (basically a simple round light with a plain lens) and the certified speedometer only used with the police car option.
These cars were so good, Pontiac made a video to promote them. It covers many of the '77 Pontiac police models-even the Ventura had a package. It includes footage of the California testing. Also seen is a two-door undercover LeMans. As part of the hype, it shows a huge quantity of blue and white cars that had been ordered by the NYPD. Notice that I didn't say sold to the NYPD.
Therein lies a dark tale. Someone in Sales decided that since these were for city use, they didn't need the police option. Perhaps this helped the bid price. Most were six-cylinders, although some for supervisors supposedly had V-8s. Well, New York City has an acceptance test, and it was soon discovered why heavy-duty wheels were specified for police use. Since the cars didn't pass the testing, NYC refused to accept them. Many had already been built, so these four-door blue-and-white beauties were parked all over the company property in Pontiac, Michigan, including the Product Engineering Development car parking lot. Pontiac personnel were dispatched to New York to observe the testing and resolve the issue. Resolution was obtained by partially retrofitting the police car option package onto the cars. I bet the financial results were not pretty.