Former Patrol Car: 1971 Dodge Coronet 383

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bingeing on the old 1950s show Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford. That’s probably way before the time of most of you but I seem to gravitate towards old police shows for some reason, the older the better. This 1971 Dodge Coronet is a former highway patrol car and the seller has it listed here on eBay in Logan, Utah. There is a $4,000 buy-it-now price listed and the current bid is $1,500.

The dad of my best friend in school used to have company cars and one was a Coronet of this vintage. It was the classic 1970s green and it had a 318 V8 that would cause only one of the rear wheels to spin almost forever when driven by a teenager. I can’t imagine the power that this car must have had with its 383 four-barrel, yowsa.

The sixth-generation Coronet was only made for four years, 1971 through 1974 and they were similar to the third-generation Plymouth Satellite. As is often the case, the cars were improved over the four-year run to the point that the later cars were much nicer, quieter, and smoother. Still, I like the 1971 models, they’re raw, tough, and cool. And in this case, rusty. The seller has provided quite a few photos even including two underside photos, here and here. It’s a little rugged under there but hopefully it’s just heavy surface rust and nothing structural.

Most of the interior looks as if it could be cleaned up in a weekend but that steering wheel has pain written all over it. Not that highway patrol officers aren’t as tough as nails but nobody wants to get their finger stuck in that separated wheel while trying to chase down a perp. 10-4? If that back seat could talk, we probably wouldn’t want to know what it would have to say.

This whole car may have to be restored to do it any justice, no pun intended, and along with that restoration, this 383 cubic-inch V8 will most likely need to be rebuilt. With its four-barrel carb it would have had 250 net horsepower and 324 ft-lb of net torque. The seller provides some data to show that this was in fact a former law enforcement vehicle with 11″ brakes, radio delete, heavy-duty alternator, and all of the goodies that you’d expect to see. This is too much of a project for me but I would like to have a former law enforcement vehicle in the collection someday. Have any of you owned one? 2150, bye.

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    Few writers open their posts with 1950’s/’60’s TV references. Don’t let him fool you, this guy is a veritable library on older sitcoms. Go ahead, ask him anything,, as old police car posts don’t generate much interest. He knew the name of Barney Fifes boarding house owner,,Mrs. Mendelbright, and Gilligans Islands casts full names,,I watched that show for years, and never knew Skippers name was Jonas Grumby.
    Anyway, what a find,,,old police cars are like army tanks. When the war is over, what do you do with them? Generally made from the stoutest(?) materials, they are pretty much shot by the time LEO’s get rid of them, they lead a rough life. Pull the motor and Shred City for the old cop car, unless a remake of Dukes of Hazzard is in the planning,,and I don’t get the “2150” reference,,.

    Like 8
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Ha, you’re too kind, Howard. Broderick Crawford used to sign out with that line.

      Like 6
      • Jack M.

        I would have pictured you more of a Baretta fan Scotty.

        Like 2
      • Zephyr424

        I watch all of those old shows, including Highway Patrol, too. Cheyenne season two is soo good lately.

        I had a 74 fiebird growing up and had never watched the Rockford Files as a child. Am on season one of that and digging it as well. My father was a patrolman and detective from the 60’s until about 90. He drove a number of cars like this one. Too bad it’s so rusty.

        Like 0
      • Zephyr424

        The old shows are so good. I watch them as well, including Highway Patrol. Season 2 of Cheyenne right now is soo good. Growing up I had a 74 firebird but had never watched The Rockford Files. Digging that show lately too. The clarity of today’s vcr’s blow away the ones from 15 or so years ago.

        My father was a patrolman and detective from the 60’s until about 1990. He drove around in a few cars like this one. Too bad it’s so rusty. Would be a very nice one to own restored.

        Like 0
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      Broderick Crawford’s call sign was 2150..

      This beast best be bought by a hardcore well financed cop car enthusiast; just rebuilding this carcass will be a chunk of change though the enterior will be easy as it was all vinyl seat and rubber floor mats (and yes Scotty if the seats could talk though the odor would probably be abysmal). The Nevada Highway Patrol troopers, however, handcuffed their “customers” then put them in the FRONT passenger seat until the advent of the backseat barriers..

      With ‘60’s law enforcement tv shows in mind, Jack Webb was the iconic investigator. However, many of us never really realized how well he immersed himself into the role. In a tongue-in-cheek stint he did with Johnny Carson he showed us what it took..

      Like 5
      • Tom

        That Carson bit is classic. Right up there with the lecture about what it’s like to be a cop Webb gave to a couple hippies. Great stuff!

        Like 2
    • Dave

      “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…”

      Like 1
  2. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

    I’ve had two ex-State Police cruisers, a ’69 Ford Custom with a 428 PI and a ’72 Ford Custom with a 429 PI. Both cars were excellent high-speed cruisers, especially the ’69 which had probably around 450 hp. Heavy duty suspension and power disc brakes gave both cars great handling and superior stopping power. I raced quite a few hot cars on the highways back in the day and never lost a top speed duel; those cars would just keep pulling. The picture above is a ’71 Connecticut State Police cruiser but looks almost the same as my ’72; same color, same wheels and hubcaps. I’d love to have either one back again, they were a blast to drive.

    Like 15
    • nlpnt

      Cop cars like yours always make me think whoever specs them had great taste in chassis and powertrains (and in this case, color) but really should’ve gone three or four sizes smaller and a trim level or two plusher.

      Seat covers front and rear while in that “first job” and a strict no drilling of holes policy would help preserve that extra plush.

      Like 3
    • Pete Shea

      450 HP? Reference article here. Remember that the results are Gross (no power sapping engine accessories, air cleaner and an open exhaust system) and consider that this engine was blueprinted and rebuilt with some modern parts. A 100% production line stock 428 CJ/PI is good for some 240 rear wheels HP on a modern inertia chassis dyno and produces some 285 SAE net at the crank. About the only 428s that made 450 HP at the crank in those days were the heavily modified examples running in NHRA “stock” class.

      Like 0
    • Pete Shea

      450 HP? The full boogie 428 CJs running in NHRA “stock” class weren’t making that and they were fully blueprinted engines running many mods, open long tube racing headers and were completely untreatable. 100% production line stock, you’d be lucky to see 240 HP at the rear wheels on a modern day inertia chassis dyno from a ’69 428 PI, or about 285 at the crank. Remember that the pre-1972 advertised power figures were Gross and didn’t reflect the “as installed” (SAE Net) configuration.

      Like 0
  3. 8banger 8bangerMember

    And it’s not justice, it’s Buford T Justice.

    Like 5
  4. Rob

    I’m a huge fan of Highway Patrol (I have Season 3 on DVD). My first car was an ex-sheriff’s 1974 Dodge Monaco (400/4-bbl/dual exhaust/hot cam), so I’m all over the ex-law enforcement vehicles. Unfortunately, the mid-sized offerings simply didn’t have enough headroom for a guy 6’4″ in height.

    Like 5
  5. Sidejob53Member

    I have Highway Patrol Dvrd every morning at 5 here on the DC area!

    Like 5
    • Tony Primo

      Well you obviously have internet sidejob, you can watch Highway Patrol on YouTube anytime of the day or night that you want.

      Like 4
  6. Ken Carney

    My nephew just bought a 2000 Ford Crown Vic P-71 last month and he just loves it. But what he doesn’t understand is that one
    of these older patrol cars would quite literally blow the doors
    off his P-71 with no trouble at all– especially when they could
    be equipped with either a 325 HP 383 magnum or it’s bigger
    brother, the 375 HP 440 magnum V-8. If I could get my hands
    on one of these, I’d get it running in top form, take both cars to
    the drag strip in Orlando, and proceed to wipe up the track with
    his crown Vic. Ya’ just gotta teach the younger generation a lesson every once in a while. Hell, I’d even pay the entry fee!

    Like 8
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill” was a lesson learned by some of us at an early age-which, personally speaking was quite some time ago!

      Like 10
      • JTHapp JTHapp

        Norm Thatcher had a reply to a question about younger
        competitors and their new ideas…

        “Youth and ambition are no substitute for age and experience.”

        Like 12
    • Chris

      I’ve had my ‘07 P71 Vic going on 6 years now. It’s just a toy/ beater. It drives and rides decent and I guess you could say its peppy but not “fast”. It looks decent but rust is becoming an issue. Overall it’s been a fun car to have.

      Like 4
  7. Mutt

    Cool car no doubt. First thing I would need to know is about that hole in the windshield.
    Is it entry or exit…?

    Like 6
  8. Tom

    Who doesn’t dig old cop cars? Very cool!

    Like 5
  9. Dave

    It’s early on a Sunday morning, but IIRC the net rating system didn’t appear until 1972. The H-code 383 in this application should be either 300 horsepower or 330, same as the Road Runner. The powertrain may be the saving grace here…transplant it into a better body.

    Like 4

      In 1971 the 383 HP was 300 gross HP..It got detuned from 1970..The 335 HP rating of like ’69 and ’70 was gone..The road tests in 71 confirmed that..None of them got outta the 15s..I believe the 383 in 71 took a compression hit..The 440 only lost 5 hp from previous year,but 383 lost 35 HP..

      Like 0
  10. Dave

    Correction: the H-code VIN was the 340. The N-code was the high-performance 383.

    Like 2
  11. Timmy VMember

    Elwood: It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?

    Jake: Fix the cigarette lighter.

    Like 13
    • Mikefromthehammer

      Okay, as per Howard then, without our good friend “The Google”, what were the two primary characters’ names in Car 54 Where Are You? (Bonus points if you also provide the actors’ names who played them).

      Like 1
      • GOM

        Toody and Muldoon (Monday evenings at 8:30, as I vaguely recall.)

        Like 2
    • Mikefromthehammer
  12. Tom

    “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses…”

    Like 8
  13. Mikefromthehammer

    The new Oldsmobiles are in early this year.

    Like 6
    • Timmy VMember

      Disco pants and haircuts.

      Like 0
  14. Tom

    “Well thank you pal! The day I get out of prison, my own brother picks me up in a police car…

    Like 7
  15. Jon

    Probably was used as a cab after it’s service as a cop car. Too much to fix

    Like 4
  16. Keith

    What I enjoyed most about watching Highway Patrol as a kid was how many hub caps they could lose on a chase and still have all of them when they caught up to the bad guy.

    Like 7
  17. flynndawg

    KEITH… !!! you said ‘hub caps’… i didnt think that ‘old term’ was allowed… :D

    Like 2
  18. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Mannix was the ultimate. He always seemed to end up in a parking garage going 60mph, round and round.

    Like 3
    • Utes

      @ 370zpp/////I just caught a “Mannix” episode last week in which he was drivin’ a white ’68 or ’69 Dodge Charger….a ratty-lookin’ thing at that. I thought he always drove a 1967 Dodge Dart GTS.

      Like 0
  19. luke arnott

    “Clowns are allowed in the circus,not on the the highway”This was was one of his sign – offs.Bit of a toper by all accounts – the driving bits were filmed in the morning.Good actor though RIP.

    Like 4
  20. John

    To Rob,
    My. Dad had a 4 Dr 72 Dodge Monaco blk on blk with a 440 cu. I could make it from Staten Island to new Jersey in 15 minutes with my flashers on back then. They saw me coming and would All move to the right. I was a teenager back then.

    Like 4
  21. Troy s

    Stevie boy, where are ya’!”
    Where’s that car!”
    “Right here, but she aint got no lights or siren yet…”
    ” Hey, all I care about is what its got under that hood!”
    “Alright, listen to this…..” vvrroooom goes the black and white interceptor.
    Big smile goes across the coos face, an absolute gearhead with a badge.
    That pursuit car in dirty mary crazy larry realy grabbed my then nine year old attention, especially the chase through Walnut Grove, outstanding top end on the 440 pusuit cars. Always a fan of Ex-cop cars.

    Like 1
  22. Terrry

    Have to give BF credit..always the optimist. In this case the glass is half full..of rust! Anyway I remember Broderick squeezing himself into that poor ’57 Plymouth cop car, it’s springs groaning in protest when Broderick’s bulk hit the front seat.

    Like 1
  23. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    Auction update: this auction ended at $2,325 and no sale.

    Like 1
  24. craig

    I wonder if that ’71 ford Conn.state police is a real one and had the ONE YEAR ONLY 429 Hi compression 429 PI..In ’70 they still used FE 428..And in ’72 the 429 was low compression, i believe with D2OE-AB heads..That 71 motor was STRONG..11:1 i believe,,and 375 HP..

    Like 0
    • Pete Shea

      The “375 HP” figure was an advertised gross figure, as was the case for all pre-1972 model year auto engines. Knock 100 or so off that and you’ll get a good approximation of “as installed” (SAE Net) HP, which is also measured at the crank but with all engine accessories, air cleaner housing and element and full factory exhaust in place.

      Like 0

        Oh well aware of the gross to net HP change..In 1971 they still published?advirtised gross HP, but they also did publish net figures..I have a copy..They just didnt use it in advirtising..Example..The 426 hemi was still advirtixed at 425 gross HP..When i look on my net HP sheet its listed as 350 NET HP..Then in 1972 everyone published net HP in thier Ads..It made some engines look like huge loss,when in reality there was little change..Example..The pontiac 455 HO or even standard D port 455,1971 and 1972 were virtual carry overs..Same power,but people see the HP change and freak out..G.M. dropped thier compression in 1971..where ford and chryler waited till 1972 to do major compression drop..

        Like 0
  25. Stevieg

    I had a 1977 Fury, same body style as this. It was white, tan basic cloth bench seats. Looked like a cop car, but wasn’t. It was a slant 6 with 3 on the tree. It even had manual steering. The plain-ness of this car reminds me of mine, but I bet this one was WAY more fun to drive.

    Like 0
  26. Keith D.

    Hey Scotty! Although “Highway Patrol” is a show before my time (I’m 55) I have the pleasure of watching it at 5am weekly on MeTV one of the classic television stations I have on my cable. To my initial surprise I actually enjoy watching the episodes, and with those old cars too. In the later episodes, I suppose the company that produced the show (Ziv) struck a deal with the Chrysler Corporation and most of the patrol cars were Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge models with the 57-59 “Fins” My fondest memory of the Coronet was a neighbor of mine having a Coronet and with living in New York City (The Bronx) many of the local taxi cab stations incorporated 70-72 Coronets as part of their fleet. My mother and I traveled to certain destinations by taxi (# 212-234-5678) and I remember those black Coronets with the strange smell and those flat black vinyl seats. And one last observation about Highway Patrol, Broderick Crawford talks so fast! Ha!

    Like 0

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