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Four-Eyed Justice: 1986 Ford Mustang SSP

Mustang SSP

There are cars that I like and there are cars that I believe should be in every enthusiast collection. The Special Service Package Ford Mustangs fall into the latter category, as it rubs me the right way on multiple levels: it’s rare, it’s a four-eye Fox Body notchback (personal preference), and it represents a time when state police departments cruised the highways in some of the most powerful cars America had to offer. It’s almost like a glimpse into a bygone era, when even the bean counters wanted to let their hair down and live a little. That’s why you should check out this 1986 Mustang SSP, formerly of the Nevada Highway Patrol, here on Craigslist, complete with an authentic Jesus fish on the rear end!

HP Mustang

Where I grew up in New York, it was not uncommon to see Mustangs and Camaros painted in the standard state trooper colors of navy blue with gold striping. Those cars were menacing, and I can still remember the day I saw a black Acura NSX screaming north on the Taconic State Parkway just moments before landing in a speed trap headed up by one particularly hungry Camaro Z28. Although I felt bad for the unsuspecting Sunday driver, I was almost a bit disappointed I didn’t get to witness the takedown! Regardless, cars like this ’86 Mustang SSP remind us of a different time in law enforcement – perhaps a bit less sophisticated – but still awesome in all the right ways. Heck, Ford sold these cars with the tagline, “This Ford chases Porsches for a living!” I don’t think they’d say that about the Taurus today.

Mustang SSP Engine

While the Jesus fish on the tail of this former traffic warrior is a bit out-of-place, it does underscore how most of the SSP cars ended up in private hands or for use in special programs, retiring them from the days of high-speed maneuvers and radar guns. Savvy Ford collectors have scooped them up, recognizing that these curiosities may not be repeated by police departments any time soon, especially with almost ever agency under the microscope for delivering new efficiencies, particularly of the MPG kind. I wonder what it was like in stations around the country when the keys for the newly-delivered SSP Mustang landed on a desk. All I can picture is an all-out brawl to swap the standard-issue Caprice for a hot-rod Mustang with all the special police upgrades, cop motor and cop suspension, as Elwood would say.

1986 Mustang SSP

It’s clear that the seller is taking the high road and passing his project along to someone who can finish it. As we all know on these pages, we often see cars slide past the point of no return before an owner admits he’s got too much on his plate. The fact that he has done his homework and knows the car’s production numbers and the community it served, along with tracking down the Marti report, all speak to the seller’s interest in seeing this project through. And if I was in a position to buy it, you can be sure I’d scoop up the spotlights, steelies and scanner to complete the look. And yes, the Jesus fish would stay. So tell us, does the SSP catch your eye? What’s your favorite highway patrol vehicle? Start the conversation in the comments below!


  1. Wiley Robinson

    That brings back memories. When I was a teenager, I could spot these things and their Crown Victoria brothers from a mile away in the dark by the pattern of the headlights and front indicators. Nothing struck fear into a a teenager moving along at twice the speed limit like realizing that’s a cop car coming at you in the opposite lane.

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  2. Andrew

    I saw a county sheriff in a 2013 camaro SS (blue w/white racing stripe) performing a stop on a back road. You couldn’t have known it was a cop until it was too late. I’ve also seen some sheriff’s in newer challengers too.

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  3. David

    Didn’t the SSP versions of these cars come the same 15×7 10 hole alloys that came with the ’85-’86 GT? I seem to recall that they were painted black, with the center hub cap in silver to complete the dog-dish look. I love those wheels. I know I’m in the minority for saying so, but I remember how wide they looked at the time — and they do a good job of covering up the ugly rear drum brakes.

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    • Patrick

      David, the 82(CHP only)-86 SSP’s came with steel wheels but you are correct about the “10 holes” being finished in black with the center cap left in natural aluminum. Those wheels were used on the 87-90 SSP’s though. The 91-93 SSP’s used the same 10 hole wheel but without the black finish. Here is a picture of my Florida Highway Patrol SSP that I restored a few years ago and absolutely love to take out cruising!

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  4. Brian

    It’s easy to understand the popularity of these cars if your “of a certain age” (I owner three of them between ages 16-18), but the values of these cars seems alittle outta whack lately considering how common they were just a few short years ago. However … overpaying for a nice, overpowered police model really would satisfy an adolescent dream of mine!

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  5. Rick

    One of my younger brothers still has an ’84 ex State Patrol 5.0 notchback 5 speed pursuit car that he bought at the state auction in about 1988 I think, anyhow a couple of interesting add-ons were still on it when it went to auction, one was the switch that alternately flashes the high beams and the other was the plumbing for nitrous oxide, which was complete and functional except the bottle was missing, which he replaced immediately. He doesn’t drive it much anymore, but he had a lot of fun with speeders in Porsches and the like with flashing headlights back in the day.

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  6. That Guy

    And the window sticker is an interesting combination of religious iconography and tramp stamp.

    As to my favorite highway patrol vehicle? That’s an easy one for me. When I was growing up my family’s cars were a pair of 1966 Dodge Polara ex-cop cars. They had special-order 426 Wedge engines (the 426 was not a catalog option in ’66), stiff suspension, non-power-assist manual steering (!), and probably other unique details I don’t recall now. At least in the early days, my dad always special-ordered the 8-ply police tires whenever new tires were needed. Those cars were real sleepers to look at, but had a menacing rumble at idle and a massive bellow at full throttle. They were seriously fast, supposedly capable of 140 mph.

    My dad’s had been crashed hard early in its service life, and he was never satisfied with its handling compared to my mom’s car. He sold it just before my 16th birthday (coincidence? I think not.) But my mom continued to drive hers into the early 80’s, by which time it had 250,000 miles on it, used a quart of oil every 25 miles, and the transmission had to warm up for about two or three minutes before it would go into gear each morning. I bought it from her and drove it myself briefly, but I was still in college and I couldn’t begin to afford the rebuild costs, so I sold it, to my everlasting regret.

    A decade later, I saw it for sale in the Auto Trader. The guy I sold it to had died, and his collection of muscle cars was being sold by a junkyard at a weird hybrid sealed-bid/phone/competitive auction (this was pre-ebay). It clearly hadn’t run in many years but was still intact. I hoped I could get it cheap, but there was obviously someone else who knew what it was and immediately jacked the price beyond my limits. I was a student again, in grad school this time, so I had to let it go. I don’t know what ever became of it.

    But those Polara cop cars were awesome machines. I would dearly love to find one, but today I think the prices would be insane.

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  7. Drew

    My favorite Hi-way Patrol car???The 401cu-in powered, Torqueflite equipped AMC Javelin used by the Alabama State Patrol in the early 70’s… Rumor has it that when Alabama done away with them, that all of the cars were bought by the troopers that had been assigned the cars…

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    • kf4wwe

      except one…the state troopers this day still own one AMC Javalin. I sits in the entry way of the Alabama Department of Public Safety building across from the capital building in Montgomery and also used for special functions too

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  8. Dolphin Member

    I really like Fox body Mustangs, and this one has lots of appeal, being an ex- Nevada H.P. car and all, but….

    There’s lots of selling going on in the CL ad, and details about the mechanical condition of the car are pretty thin. These always rack up a lot of hard miles doing their duty on those long NV highways, so I would want to know
    – how many miles?
    – can the seller confirm the miles?
    – how does it run, drive, and stop?
    – how bad is the interior? ….photo?
    – does the Marti Report confirm the car’s history as ex- N.H.P.?

    If you have to rebuild everything because it led a hard life it would make more sense to look for a better 5.0 since you can get a pretty good one for the ask here. The cool factor of the N.H.P. history is good but I’d rather have the best car I can get since these are now close to 3 decades old.

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    • Brad Hill

      Above is a pic of how the 1986 Nevada Highway Patrol mustangs looked when in service.

      This is a car better suited for those into the SSP hobby that wants a unique piece of history to restore. If you’re just looking for a 5 liter coupe, plenty garden variety versions can be had for this price and maybe cheaper. This car deserves a restoration back to or close to in service condition to preserve its heritage.

      Car has approximately 230k miles on it. Last owner used it as a daily for several years in Arizona. It drives, shifts and runs fine but I also haven’t driven it more than a few blocks. Door panels are surprisingly good. Needs the normal stuff for these years: new dash pad, carpet and headliner. Seats need reupholstered. I bought it to save it from getting cut up into a race car and had all intentions of restoring it myself. But I have too many projects ahead of it and made the decision to pass it along for someone else that cares enough to restore it.

      Very little has been changed on this car since it was auctioned which is pretty rare too. Both spotlight holes are still in both A pillars, whip antenna hole still on quarter panel and double bar door decal remnants (where they were wrapped around into inside of doors) still on both door jambs. Exhaust, valve covers and 3 row radiator are all that I can tell was changed.

      Yes, Marti report confirms ssp option and Fallon, NV dealer delivery that NHP used. Not only that but the Nevada Hwy Patrol buck tag is still intact on the core support.

      No false “selling” in the ad. Pure truth and fact about the car and any potential buyer will be provided with all proof of pedrigree and if need be the bill of sale to prove I’m actually losing money at this price. All I care about is that it goes to another enthusiast that restores it.

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  9. John A

    What is a crap new car like this doing on BARN FINDS??? Let’s get back to what this site is really about! Enough with this new crap!!

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    • Jim C

      I enjoy them all, even though they all don’t click with me personally. To me, the story or the history is what makes it fun. If you thought a 1970 Boss 302 was a classic in 1998, its the same time frame.

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    • DT

      Its not new,Youre just getting old

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  10. dj

    Alabama used a version of these as State Trooper cars. But most of the them were gray with the black wheels. The write up is correct. When I was a teenage driver and saw these cars coming, you knew your ass was grass. LOL

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  11. TC

    I am a new reader to this site. I find the ones who seem to be getting jacked up, a bit unnecessary. If you don’t like the content, delete it and move on.
    As far as I am concerned, if it has a backstory, that make it interesting. Just because it wasn’t found in a garage, doesn’t mean that a lot of people mind the education that comes with each vehicle.
    As to this particular vehicle, not my taste, but one heck of an interesting history!!!
    I hope he sells it to someone who wil bring it back to what it was. It deserves it.

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  12. fred

    As a kid I rode a Kawasaki around the neighborhood and eventually the neighbors got fed up and called the highway patrol. I’ll never forget speeding down a two lane rut next to a RR track being pursued by two of these 440 powered beasts, with two more appearing in front of me to close me off. I headed into some brush, dropped the bike and stayed put for over two hours to evade capture. I was scared straight.

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  13. ConservativesDefeated

    Jake and Elwood wouldnt be caught dead in a Fox platform based Mustang………..

    And neither would Lt. Dan Mathews!

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  14. Alan (Michigan)

    Gee, I’d have never thought to complain about this listing…

    The rarity and history of the ride had me thinking how cool it was, and how much fun it would be to have when restored to a former glory. Mustangs generally are not my cup of tea, but I like this car, along with the concept of cool old HP cars.

    Great Broderick Crawford Photo! (and the cars are great too)

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  15. Jeff Lavery Staff

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Given how many HP patrol cars get used up and tossed into the salvage pile, I always find it neat when one evades capture!

    Great stories, too. I, too, had the neighbors call the police and that was one lesson learned quickly.

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  16. John Malloy

    I am the proud new owner of this rare SSP i have owned many in the past and always wanted a NHP. I also wanted it 4eye and no carb so to get a chance at 1 of only 10 -1986 and the only 1 found to date.. I had to make it happen. It will be coming up northeast to the coast so climate change for the car. I’m not sure about how it would be considered new since it will be 30 in another year. I know fox mustangs aren’t for everyone. But boy do these cars get attention when restored back to in service.

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    • Alan (Michigan)

      Good on ya, John!

      Keep the BF guys informed of your progress returning the car to a better condition. Would be great to see it running and driving again.

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      • John Malloy

        Thank you Alan,
        Have to get her here first need to transport from Bama to Mass. But will post updates on this thread.

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  17. John Malloy

    Got her home finally a day after 8″ snow storm so she got her 1st time in snow driving off the trailer into garage. And a day before 24″ storm.but atleast it is home and i shipped enclosed so no road salt on the 1200 mile journey

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  18. John Malloy

    Pulled interior today going to body shop tomorrow…

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  19. Alan (Michigan)

    Good times.
    Post photos!

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  20. John Malloy

    Got this back about 2 years after I sold it to a friend he never had the time to get the project finished. I did get it back with the very low mileage mint interior he purchased for it. Now i’m waiting on the paint shop hope the day come soon.

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  21. John Malloy

    Car is painted he will be color sanding and buffing it this week then I have to get it all back together. Will post some pictures soon.

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  22. John Malloy

    Picture of paint.

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  23. John Malloy

    Making progress

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    • Rico

      Fast forward 2019 .. theses SSP’s are on Fire 🔥 the value has soared glad I was there to see it happen.. I originally purchased one 15 years ago for 800.00 bucks! Would not sell it for no less then 15k but then again I won’t be selling it.. modern day mad max machine.

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  24. John Malloy

    Still working on it coming along slowly hope to have it ready for PITS show in spring.

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    • Alan (Michigan)

      Neat to get updates, John.

      Hope the winter time finds you with a nice heated location to continue with your project!

      Alan (aka DayDreamBeliever)

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  25. John Malloy

    Alan sadly no heated garage the winter has been mild for new england but car went untouched sadly hope to get some done soon.

    Like 1

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