Police Wagon! 1978 Dodge Monaco Squad Car

Police cars are generally four-door sedans equipped with, as Elwood Blues explained,  “It’s got a cop motor,  it’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks…” though any more, SUVs have wormed their way into police fleets pretty much everywhere. But at one time, the lowly station wagon had a place in the police line up too, and according to the seller, here is just such an example in the form of a 1978 Dodge Monaco. It is located in Queen Creek, Arizona and available here on Facebook Marketplace for $5,500.

I clearly remember the ’78 Dodge Monaco’s role as a police cruiser, The State Police where I was residing in the late ’70s used mid-sized Dodges in ’77 and ’78 but I can’t recall seeing a station wagon version, certainly not a marked one. This example was owned by the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department from new until 1999, amassing a paltry 54K miles. It is assumed that this wagon was assigned to some sort of staff function and not used as a cruiser. Prior to its acquisition by the seller, this Monaco sat unused for twenty years.

The exterior appearance is about what you would expect for a southwestern domiciled car, the white finish is faded but the body is supposedly rust-free. That mostly seems to be the case but there is something going on in the lower portion of the driver’s side fender. The chrome and minimal trim show as decent. The seller advises that the car is being sold with factory black police wheels and that is what appears to be on the driver’s side but not the passenger side – but then it could be the image lighting too. There is no evidence of any police lights, sirens, equipment or markings. And actually, the second digit of the VIN is “L” which decodes as “low” in the price class category as opposed to “K” which is the “police” code.

The VIN does certify a 155 net HP, 360 CI V8 engine, fueled by a two-barrel carburetor. The seller advises that he has swapped the two over for a four-barrel Edelbrock carburetor and intake manifold and then topped off by a dual-inlet “police-issue” air cleaner assembly. Since this car had not run since 2000, the seller “went through” everything with new seals, hoses, belts, master cylinder and 134A refrigerant – the A/C is listed as “COLD” and the brakes as “fantastic”.  It is advertised as a “drive anywhere” vehicle, so operationally, it should check out.

The interior doesn’t particularly look like a cop car interior, it more or less resembles a mattress cover. The dash pad has been destroyed by the Arizona sun, the carpet is shot and there is at least one door card MIA, can’t tell about the rest of it. There is a 140 MPH “certified” speedometer in place however – is it original or was it swapped in later?

The lack of a police identifier in the VIN and the decidedly non-police interior is troubling. It is easy to imagine that this station wagon is just a civilian model that was, in fact, purchased by a police department and then used for whatever but maybe not standard police work. And then, because of the police association, it has been tarted up with the wheels, air cleaner and speedo to look like the real deal. And then again, maybe it is the real deal and Dodge didn’t use the police “K” identifier on a station wagon. The price is not cheap but it’s not outrageous either but the police association seems vague so it’s doubtful that it would have a positive price effect. Real or clone, what do you think?

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  1. Howard A Member

    I think it’s the real deal. On Adam-12, Sgt. MacDonald( William Boyett, who I always thought looked a lot like James Arness, also showed up on Dragnet and was a fire chief on the lame Emergency) drove a Plymouth wagon to police doin’s, like a command post, of sorts. It probably never did any cruiser duties, but boy howdy, it knew the way to Winchells Donuts more than once,,just kidding, LEO’s have an INCREDIBLY tough job. Just a wagon now, which is cool, and you could probably talk your way out of a ticket with that speedo. Wagons led a rough life, great to see one like this again.

    Like 12
    • Bob C.

      Good old William Boyett. I’d say most of the characters he played were in law enforcement.He even played Broderick Crawford’s right hand man on several episodes of Highway Patrol.

      Like 7
  2. Superdessucke

    Roscoe P. Coltrain’s family hauler.

    I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these in wagon form. Police wagons weren’t common but when you saw them, they tended to be the full size models and were used by cororners and K-9 units.

    Like 12
  3. CJinSD

    It’s a shame this one doesn’t have the E58 4 barrel 360 with 220 horsepower. 1978 Fury pursuit cars were also available with 255 horsepower 440s. This is a nice wagon, but you’d need to descend a big hill to trouble the 140 mile per hour speedometer.

    Like 6
  4. Turbo

    This is how uncle Don liked ’em. Full bodied, white, past their prime and living the trailer life.

    Like 19
    • Turbo

      Like his Buick

      Like 2
  5. Phlathead Phil

    I once owned a mid seventies Impala wagon that got dubbed: “The Battle Wagon.” It was very similar to this one.

    I’m assuming this one rode like the B.W.,
    which, was like a magic carpet. Smooth as silk.

    I only bought the B.W. out of a dire need for “Back-up” freight hauling and for pulling a trailer, which it did well.

    The body had serious salt air rust issues around the quarters, so no one really wanted it.

    The frames on these cars are like trucks.

    You can NEVER wear them out!

    I eventually donated the car to a local church and it was reported to have gone from California to Florida by a hopeful divorcee.

    Man, what a ride that must have been!!!

    Like 5
  6. Superdessucke

    This car doesn’t have a frame but other than that good story.

    Like 2
    • Anthony

      This car does have a frame, just not the body on frame type.
      And his story was about the frame on his Impala wagon.

      Like 2
      • Phlathead Phil


        Well yes it was partially about the frames on BOTH cars. It was also about the divorcee, but I simply can’t tell you any more, I can only just imagine. Now the rust was another issue. II was everywhere from the rear windows down.

  7. Troy s

    Not a pursuit car, not a prowler, maybe the police department had it on hand for other types of work or emergency’s.
    And rarely used it?
    It’s more interesting now, over forty years later, as squad cars have most definitely changed in both appearance and under the hood. Plus the fact station wagons are nostalgic in their own way.
    Does it still have the dreaded Lean Burn?

    Like 4

      I wondered the same thing. Was this wagon, perhaps, used as a Field Supervisor’s unit?

      Like 3
  8. KEVIN

    The certified speedo is an interesting twist, but in general the car doesn’t look like a cop cap, particularly the seats. What’s up with the rust spot on an Arizona car?

    Like 3
  9. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    I’m seeing the photos out of sequence but think the car was cleaned up after being hauled from it’s resting place on the trailer. No cheesy tinted glass on the photo of the front drivers side. The paint looks shinier and the wheels are indeed a platinum color and not black. Hood and door surfaces appear to be repainted so maybe there WERE police markings there at one time.

    Like 4
  10. stevee

    Digital photos often show discreet paint variations. Both front doors look to be a slightly different shade of white. That would possibly indicative of a police or commercial marked car.

    Like 5
  11. David G

    The K designation in the VIN that identifies a Police package car was last used in 1977. L is the low price class (standard trim) car. Code A38 on the fender tag is used on the ’78-’83 Mopar Police cars to identify them as such. This car has no such code on the tag, and it does not have an auxiliary transmission cooler, which is standard equipment on Police models. Steering wheel in this car was used on ’74-’77 Police models, and discontinued for ’78. Wheel has been swapped in, and likely the speedometer as well. Many Police agencies bought civilian package cars to use, and this is likely one that was used by an agency for hauling stuff, running errands, etc. These wagons were available with a Police package, but this is not one of them. It is in great shape, though, and worth the asking price.

    Like 7
  12. Bill McCoskey

    Local & state government agencies [including police departments] often put out bid requests for vehicle quotes. Dealers who were good at handling these government orders had ways of providing the specifications listed on the bid request, while keeping the cost down to win the order.

    Unless the local police department specified it be a “K” order, the dealer could quote a regular base model station wagon and work up an order with the heavy duty suspension and police-rated tires & rims [including the air-cooled hub caps], and the 140 MP speedo.

    This may well have resulted in a vehicle that was cheaper than the “K” order car from a competing dealer, hence the dealer obviously got the order!

    Like 8
  13. Wade Anderson

    The Orlando Police Dept had several 70 wagons in their fleet and the Florida Highway Patrol always had a few marked in their colors

    Like 2
  14. bill davidson

    I’m gonna buy the car and then have Ricardo Montalbán install new seats using rich Corinthian leather.

    Like 2
    • James

      I have some bad news for you, as of a couple years ago.

      But I’d have to imagine his coffin was a work of the upholsterer’s art. He’d deserve nothing less.

      Like 1
  15. Davis Jones

    I remember seeing Police wagons in Detroit I believe they were Furys growing up in the 70s …Don’t believe they were used for patrol though

  16. joseph l. molinaro

    i worked at a chevy dealership in Montclair NJ in the late 60’s…we sold the station wagons to the police dept. in that town…we first sold them in 1968 bel air wagons with ralley wheels on them with small hub caps for cooling the disc brakes down…i believe we sold them up to 73-74 as i recall…

    Like 2
  17. chrlsful

    “… purchased by a police department…” who knows. Back in the day I would look for the ‘lights” & plate color, taken my foot off the skinny untill IDed….that ‘fleet white” may indicate other on-job duties (than ‘cop’)? Saw them used by towns and counties all over late 70s, early 80s (or another of the big 3). Dodge must have offered discounts on fleet vehicles as we saw them used a good deal…

    Like 2

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