The Chevrolet Caprice and the Ford Crown Victoria are both nice cars with many things in common (but there is a sinister problem that I will touch on a little later).

These cars are both very popular in the Taxi industry. Their large size and great reliability, make them the natural choice for use as a taxicab.

Both cars are also super ungodly popular with American Police departments. Real wheel drive, large size, and big engines are all valued by the policemen of America. Once again Caprice and Crown Victoria are the natural choice.

Here is where the evil starts

The Crown Victoria and Caprice are also the car of choice among Senior Citizens. Most specifically the kind of older people who like to drive slow and erratically. This wouldn't be so much of a problem, but these cars look exactly like unmarked police cars from a distance. Not only do seniors buy cars that look exactly like Police cars, they usually pick either white or black for the color. To top it all off the seniors car will often have the factory police package on their car (or at least a front mounted spotlight).

Here is how this comes into play in your life and mine. You are driving along one of those wonderful American highways, the kind that have the speed limit set about 15 miles an hour slower than the pace of traffic, (so the government can make money on speeding tickets). You are going 73 MPH (the limit is 60). Up ahead you see a white unmarked Chevy Caprice (cop car you think to yourself). It is going much slower. You slam on the brakes (which is dangerous for everybody). Finally you slowly cruise past the "unmarked car". You look over and see an 80 year old man driving (wearing those odd square shaped sunglasses that are popular with seniors). As soon as you see this you hit the gas pedal, and get back up to speed. Several minutes later someone else will go through the same thing that you just did (with the same car).

As you can see, this is dangerous, and causes traffic problems to boot. If you are a car dealer, please point the senior citizens towards the Lincolns and Cadillacs, not towards the Caprices and Crown Victorias. There are already enough 90 year old police look-a-likes on the road. We don't need any more.

On the other side of the Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Crown Victoria coin, there are a great number of reasons to own one yourself. I am a 21 year old man who happens to drive a former San Antonio PD squad car in the form of a 1998 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, which is all painted white. I also wear all black, often in the form of BDU trousers popular among SWAT teams tucked into my jump boots, and a long black coat (which is not visible from outside the car). I have done this since before I even thought about getting a police car.

While I am sure that this has to suck for everyone else around me, it has great benefits in traffic. People let me in when I merge, they usually don't cruise at 10 MPH under the speed limit in the fast lane when I want to go faster than that, and they generally drive courteously around me. I have even been in a few Flying V's of Justice, where myself and two real unmarked police cars just form ourselves into an impromptu delta formation taking up three lanes at exactly the speed limit (can't help but love the precise Certified Calibration speedometers in the P71 police package).

This isn't to say that the car was purchased to look like a cop, I actually purchased it on the recommendation of several law enforcement professionals and cabbies who drive former police cars. Reliability and performance on the Police Package is better than it is on the civilian models, as are the cooling systems, which are vital in the Texas heat. The fact that the Lincoln does not have this, or the fact that the Police Package Caprice has a Corvette LT1 engine in it alone puts these law enforcement editions into a separate class from the civilian models.

But as to old people, the least they can do is drive, at minimum, the speed limit. They have a V-8 under the hood, so there is no excuse. Though honestly, the problem IMO is more related to elderly drivers rather than their cars specifically...anyone driving that far below the speed limit is dangerous in any car. It is my opinion that anyone who cannot drive the speed of the flow of traffic should either stick to suburban roads, or turn in their license outright. If they were to drive the speed of the flow of traffic, for instance, you wouldn't even catch up to them.

There's another problem with the Crown Vics: they use an antiquated fuel system design which blows up in accidents.

On October 23, 2002, Dallas, Texas Police officer Patrick Metzler, age 31, was in his Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser when it was involved in a rear-end collision. Investigation later revealed that the gas tank, which is located behind the rear axle in the Crown Victoria, was punctured in four places by the vehicle’s frame. Metzler died from burns over 98 percent of his body. He had no broken bones, so death was not caused by trauma, and probably would have walked away from this accident if it had not been for fire.

Ford had announced on September 27, 2002 that it would put shields around gas tanks on 350,000 police vehicles across the nation. By the time of Metzler's death nearly a month later, the City of Dallas had not yet received its shields. After the accident, however, Ford began rushing the upgrade kits to Dallas.

Nationwide, at least 12 police officers have died and nine others seriously injured in post-crash fires in Ford police cars. In each of the cases where an officer died, the officers would have survived except for the fires. The first such death occurred in 1983. At least 26 civilian deaths and six injuries have also been linked to fuel-fed fires in Crown Victorias and other models of Ford’s “Panther” line – Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car.

Rear-end collision fire deaths in Ford’s "Panther" line police cruisers is 140 percent higher than for a competitive General Motors line and about double the rate for Ford’s Escort line.

Several class-action lawsuits from across the country were recently centralized in a federal court in Cleveland. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the police Interceptors in November, 2002. Some state attorneys general, including Louisiana attorney general Richard Ieyoub, have called for a moratorium on municipal purchases of Crown Victoria police interceptors pending guarantees from Ford that it will not burst into flames when struck from the rear.


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