Former SWAT Unit: 1942 Chevrolet ESU

UPDATE 11/30/21 — The consensus among our readers is that the front clip of this vehicle came from an International from the 1950s. The seller says it’s a 1942 Chevrolet.


As best we can determine, ESU stands for Emergency Service Unit, which would have been an earlier police designation for SWAT, an acronym for Special Weapons and Tactics. A SWAT Team is a law enforcement unit that uses specialized or military equipment and tactics to resolve a “situation.” Available here on Property Room is this ESU unit that was converted from a 1942 Chevrolet and possibly used at one time by state police in New England. Located at a towing yard in Hartford, Connecticut, the current bidding stands at just $850. Thanks, Wayne H., for this unusual tip.

Not a lot of information seems to be known online about these vehicles or even this specific one. For example, we don’t know if the “car” was built by Chevrolet for this purpose or was a GM pre-war car or truck that was customized for police use. Given that this vehicle is based on a 1942 model, perhaps Chevrolet had a hand in it as – by that year – consumer automobile production was being diverted to military use that a vehicle like this would be akin to a tank without guns.

This thing must weigh several tons given the amount of armor plating that looks to be present. It was built to take on adversaries who had sizeable firepower, reminiscent of the “RV” scene in the 1988 movie, Diehard. The ESU has an inline-6 under the hood with a 3-speed manual transmission, likely not operational for many years. It looks to be a stock drivetrain which – given the assumed weight – would take forever to accelerate to any kind of speed. But low-speed maneuvers are likely what it was built for anyway.

The reported mileage is under 40,000 which seems logical as this thing would only see action under the most extreme circumstances. It’s in very rough condition and has rust throughout, so restoring it would be a handful – if you could find parts. Anything related to the bodywork would have to be custom-made. Then it begs the question, if you bought this vehicle, what would you do with it? The best bet might be to put it in a police museum, which is where it may have been most recently, reading between the lines on the Connecticut State Police Museum’s Facebook page. Can any of our readers share any more information about this unique find?


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  1. Kendra Member

    1957-59 International front-end clip.
    Dash and engine are also International, probably all ’57-59.

    Like 23
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Not sure why, but it sure is cool!

    Like 9
    • Dave

      Because it has a “Road Warrior” vibe to it?

      Like 14
      • John Traylor

        Is Mad Max the seller?

        Like 8
      • Dave

        No, some guy named Humongous or something like that. He had a funny accent…

  3. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    Supposedly this one was used to quell rioters at the Boston Tea Party.

    Like 27
    • Mikefromthehammer


      Next time give me a heads-up to make sure the coffee does not go spurting through my nose, okay?

      Like 10
  4. Cadmanls Member

    Yeah that’s International front and motor. What a mess, sure it wasn’t built as a yard truck? See the dual tires on the front, to carry the weight or?

    Like 19
  5. Steve R

    Too bad this wasn’t listed for April fools day, it’s suited for that.

    Steve R

    Like 11
  6. Gary

    International with a homemade body. You have to admire the ingenuity in this, I guess. Bet it was a real pig.

    Like 7
  7. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Bring it back from the dead. A perfect Zombie Apocalypse vehicle with the right modern protections and drivetrain.

    I can’t imagine how those front duals are for tire scrub. I’d expect that turning the steering wheel is like applying the brakes?

    Like 11
    • Tman

      Yes Day Dream Believer. The only way to stop this thing is to run over the zombies in the way!

      Like 2
  8. grant

    I’d need some documentation before I’d buy that this was any kind of a tactical vehicle. I see a couple Bubbas and a welder.

    Like 32
    • Rosko

      I agree. While it’s comon for even modest community police departments to own military vehicles today (there are reasons why and not all of em good, IMHO), I don’t believe it was a big wishlist item for P.D.s in the 1940s. But, I could be wrong.

      Like 14
      • Ike Onick

        @Rosko- Spot on. This is some fools fever dream after watching too many TV shows of yahoos building stupid cars.

        Like 11
  9. Howard A Member

    Well, I doubt there was a “SWAT” in 1942, just send in Officer O’Malley for those situations, which didn’t really exist until much later, when riot control was really needed. I believe someone grafted an old armored car to an IH chassis, and schmalzed it up, in a paranoid, Mad Max style, like this. Clearly from the Cold War era, when paranoia was at an all time high. Oh, it’s( paranoia) still around, you should see what some of these fruitcakes are living in out here( Colorado), stuff just like this, only more modern. Who they hiding from? Themselves?
    Current shreddable steel today is going for $235/ton. Considering this probably weighs 3 tons, I’d pull the motor, take the $700 bucks and run,,,

    Like 18
  10. egads

    Don’t see anything Chevrolet here???

    Like 12
    • Howard A Member

      I believe the rear fenders may be GM.

      Like 6
      • egads

        1957 International pickup rear fender’s.

        Like 6
  11. jim

    Hmm. Why would you mount a spare tire on this vehicle’s door and put a metal plate over it?
    Aren’t you in trouble already if you need to change the tire during actual operations?

    Like 11
  12. Jeff

    With those dual front wheels and the front skirts that looks pretty tight, I wonder what the turning radius is. Can it turn?

    Like 10
    • Tman

      Well Jeff, it may have zero to150 ft turning circle in@45 seconds in order to keep the tires from rubbing against to welded on outer steel plate.
      Imagine trying to change a flat tire

      Like 1
  13. Poppapork

    Reminds me od the contraptions B.A. would build on “The A Team” out of schoop buses and dump trucks!

    Like 8
    • John C.

      You beat me to it! A leftover from the set of The A Team! Mr. T never got to use!

      Like 4
    • Dave

      Or the armored bus Clint Eastwood drove in “The Gauntlet”?

      Like 2
  14. Ike Onick

    This is a strong candidate for “Barn Finds Click-bait Of The Year”

    Like 11
  15. Dave

    It might be slow, but it sure is… ugly!

    Like 7
  16. Tiki Vega

    I remember the Mattel hot rod kit, “Fast Buck”. Maybe that was the inspiration.

    Like 4
  17. tony t

    Non-symmetrical fenders n stuff …

    Like 1
  18. Rolls-Royce

    I like to drive this old classic ¨SWAT¨ car, you can use it for what ever you want to! Bud who say’s its a ¨SWAT¨ car?

    Like 1
  19. DavidH

    After looking at the rest of the pictures provided at the auction site I would love to know the history behind this vehicle. The interior pictures show someone was very serious about survivability. The construction makes me think this could have been military, maybe home defense. I don’t see this as an assault vehicle. Perhaps reconnaissance or perhaps communications. Thanks to Barn Finds for providing another vehicular mystery.

    Like 6
    • Frank Sumatra

      Serious about survivabilty maybe but pretty stupid unless he had a spare 1,000 gallons of gas. He might get 5 mpg with this welded sculpture.

      Like 1
  20. Slim

    this thing should be named tetanus, thats the only thing you’d get out of it

    Like 6
  21. J_Paul Member

    This seems like the 1950s version of the guy who built (and, eventually, ran amok with) a tank out of a bulldozer

    Like 7
  22. Shuttle Guy


    Like 6
  23. Ray

    “You think you hate it now, wait till
    you drive it.”

    Like 6
  24. Russ Ashley

    It’s got 25 bids now. I’d like to talk to someone who bid on it and see what their plans for it are. Note on the window says no keys, so I guess that means you can’t take it for a test drive. It has steel plates the same circumference as the tire sandwiched between the wheels so it can still go if the tires get shot. Makes me wonder what the original builder had in mind to do.

    Like 4
  25. Robert G.

    It takes special king of stupid to do something like this to an otherwise good truck. This vehicle was never anything close to a tactical vehicle, because they did not have them back then.

    Like 2
  26. Dan

    Perfect for driving on Chicago’s expressways!

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Any expressway,,,

      Like 1
  27. John

    Here is a link to a 1947 International armored truck which shares many traits in common with the1957-59 vehicle feature on Barn Finds:
    My guess is that both these vehicles were built by coachbuilder J. Tom Moore & Sons: In addition to bank armored trucks, this company built riot vehicles for police departments. In 1967, the vehicles they were building for police departments weighed 33,000 pounds – hence the extra wheels.

    Like 14
    • That Guy

      I think we have a winner.

      Like 6
  28. TouringFordor

    The drive shaft is twisted in two. Maybe the body is a bit too heavy…

  29. Cristiana

    What a find! This vehicle is the long-lost first prototype of the Herkimer Battle Jitney.

    Like 1
  30. 433jeff

    It looks a little Jed Klampit Meets Fred Flintstone. Good thing for those special bends in the shifter, nothing worse than trying to ram the Bad Guys and finding out your in nuetral

  31. Terrry

    This is the war vehicle that Scotty Kilmer would build.

    Like 3
  32. Lance

    Wasn’t this thing was in a parade ? Yeah John Belushi was driving it .Yeah thats it.

    Like 2
  33. geezerglide85

    John, I think you’re right about the armored car lineage, but it was “modified” for tactical use somewhere along the way. What’s baffling is this is on govt. property web site, so was this really used for that purpose? And how did it get titled as a “42 Chevy?

    Like 2
  34. That Guy

    I’m going to respectfully disagree with the folks who are writing this off as a redneck backyard build fueled by moonshine and too much sun. The dual wheels with a thick steel plate between them is a utilitarian detail I can’t imagine Billy-Bob and Bubba thinking of. Everything about it looks well-built, well thought out, and made for a very specific purpose. Now what that purpose may have been, and who built it and when? Those remain open questions.

    Like 6
  35. Howie Mueler

    $1,500 now, why would anyone want this?

    Like 2
  36. Bill McCoskey

    I believe this is a fairly rare example of what was called either a mobile bank, or an armored payroll vehicle. Years ago I saw a photo of an almost identical main body as seen here, minus the later front end [including firewall and dash from the International and matching fenders.

    I see 3 stages of build on this: 1. The original 1942 Chevrolet chassis and running gear with the original armored body. 2. The later update using the International parts, and 3. Later additions to turn this into a tactical vehicle. most likely done by a local welding shop for a medium size town or city.

    I remember years ago during a factory tour, seeing a photo of the special armored payroll truck outside the GM Baltimore assembly plant, with a line of employees stretched out the back of the truck. The large rear door was open, and a place for an employee to approach a small window was just inside the open back door.

    The employee would step up, hand their payroll slip to the cashier inside, and be handed an envelope marked with the employees name or number, with the pre-counted cash inside.

    Payroll armored cars became common after many banks failed and closed in 1929 and into the early 1930s, because a large percentage of working class people didn’t have a bank account, and/or no longer trusted banks. Company payroll was handled by a bank that figured out each employee’s pay in advance, and had the envelopes pre-stuffed before arrival at the plant. In this way the factory didn’t handle the cash or payroll, and the hand-out of cash envelopes was fairly quick. No counting out cash and coins to slow things down.

    When I saw the photo of the interior back panel [partially removed] just inside the rear doors, I recognized it as a mobile armored payroll truck.

    If I had this truck, all the International parts would be removed along with the tactical steel & the dual front wheels, and install the original 1942 Chevrolet firewall/dash and front clip back on the chassis, and restore it back to it’s payroll days.

    I think I might be tempted to retain the turret on top though, that’s cool looking! Opening up the interior roof panels under the turret would allow someone to stand upright and look thru a series of thick glass panes for a 360 degree panoramic view!

    Like 11
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Thanks for the touch of sanity Bill. Probably cutting edge tech back in 1942. It looks like a primitive gas mask on the table in the back of the rig. Who knows? Perry Mason is starting so I gotta blaze. I will check back in the morning to read the 2nd shift comments.

      Like 2
  37. Stevens

    It’s not even a professionally done car at that. Someone probably got a frame from a 1942 chevy pick up, and then tried to get creative,which they did a terrible job at that. If the government done it ,it would be a piece of art worth some big bucks,like I said someone tried to get creative and failed bigtime!!

  38. Bill McCoskey

    I showed the photos of this truck to a longtime friend, a gearhead who emigrated to the USA from central America about 40 years ago. His first reaction was that it looked like something that ended up in a third world country, where local militias tried to create their own armored troop carrier!

    Like 2
  39. Gordo

    Looks like a Mexican drug cartel’s tank to me. There are probably still a few 42 Chevys vans down south that could be converted for cartel duty.

  40. Clay Bryant

    I’d take it to Amelia Island after a little touch up on the paint, show it and get Best of Show at the April 1 show.

  41. PairsNPaint

    Take this to Burning Man.

    Leave it there.

    • Bill McCoskey


      My first reaction to seeing this unique vehicle was that it had already been a Burning Man exhibit, as the left side looked like it had been in a fire!

      Like 1
  42. Karl

    I thin I have some fender/wheel covers from this that look perfect in my scrap steel pile! What a monstrosity!

  43. Kenn

    Residents could use it to drive around Portland.

    Like 2
  44. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Came back for the comments.

    Not disappointed!

    Barn Finds Readers Rock!

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