Ford Mustang SSP

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Ford Mustang SSP
1987-1993 Ford Mustang Police Car.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1982–1993
Body and chassis
Class Pony/Muscle Police car
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door hatchback
Platform FR Fox (1979-2004)
Related Special Service Package
Police Package Vehicles
Special Service Vehicles
Powertrain
Transmission 4-speed automatic
5-speed manual

The Ford Mustang SSP was a lightweight police car package based on the Ford Mustang produced between 1982-1993. The car was meant to provide a speedier option for police departments in lieu of other full sized (and heavier) sedans on the market at the time. The SSP abbreviation means Special Service Package, a special Foxbody Mustang trim made exclusively for law enforcement use. One of the taglines used by Ford to help sell this car was This Ford chases Porsches for a living...[1]

The units served a number of uses, and were often customized to suit each law enforcement agency's particular needs. Law enforcement agencies from municipal to government agencies bought nearly 15,000 examples of these units. Many still exist today, either still in some role of law enforcement, from display cars to DARE cars, or in the hands of collectors and racers.

History[edit]

In 1982, the California Highway Patrol asked the Ford Motor Company to produce a capable and lightweight police car due to the bulkiness of current police cars like the Ford Fairmont and LTD/Crown Victoria and the problems incurred with Chevrolet Camaros with their camshafts[2] and engine problems[3] at pursuit speeds. Taking the Fox 5.0 Mustangs in production at the time, Ford produced the Ford Mustang SSP and modified them to suit the needs of the police and law enforcement departments.

It is estimated that nearly 15,000 of these special units were made from 1982 until their discontinuation in 1993 for over 60 law enforcement organizations and government agencies. Their roles ranged from general patrol to pursuit units, with some used in special duties like drug interdiction to academy training units. Several units were specially tasked to help land the Lockheed U2 Spyplane.

Specifications[edit]

The Mustang SSP was essentially a more rugged version of the 5.0 Mustang, with added features (some standard, some optional) not available to the general public. Some of the additional features were:

  • Engine oil cooler
  • Silicone radiator hoses and aircraft-style clamps
  • Auto transmission fluid cooler
  • 130 and 135 amp internally and externally regulated heavy duty alternators
  • Two-piece VASCAR speedometer cable
  • Certified calibrated speedometer 0-140 mph (1982-early 1989) and 0-160 mph (late 1990-1993)
  • Non-operational courtesy lights (safety feature)
  • Relocated rear deck release
  • Single key locking doors/trunk
  • Reinforced floor pans
  • Full size spare tire

Depending on which agency bought them, extras like rollcages (installed by Oregon State Police) and power windows (requested by New York State Police) made each SSP unique to their respective departments. The original configuration of the civilian Mustang with its small rear seat and manual transmission were generally considered ill-suited for a law-enforcement vehicle. Many SSPs had automatic transmissions, to free an officers hand from using the manual transmission stick so that they could use the hand for other duties, such as speaking on a radio.

Usage[edit]

Some of the known users of the Mustang SSP include:

United States Government[edit]

State governments[edit]

Local/municipal governments[edit]

Canada[edit]

Disposition[edit]

Ex Florida Highway Patrol Ford Mustang SSP
Same Florida Highway Patrol Ford Mustang SSP after repainting

Most of the Mustang SSPs have been retired from service, with a few examples still on the rosters of police departments as display or DARE cars. A few law enforcement agencies still keep them on active duty. Most examples have found their way into either racing or restoration.

With its stiffened frame and beefed up suspension, many Mustang SSPs were modified for use in Drag Racing. The plentiful aftermarket of parts for the 5.0 Engine made the SSP platform a desirable frame to work on, but with the dwindling supply and rising prices of genuine Mustang SSPs, these factors have limited racers from converting SSPs for racing purposes.

Restoring Mustang SSPs have become a growing hobby as of late, with car clubs and websites devoted to the restoration of the law enforcement workhorse. Most enthusiasts strive for accuracy in their models, with many scouring for OEM parts, including police radios, shotgun holders, lights, sirens, and other related equipment. However, the hobby is limited, as many states have regulations on private citizens owning cars that could be mistaken for real law enforcement vehicles. Some get around the regulations by using magnetic decals and removable lights.

Distinct models[edit]

CHP Hatchback[edit]

In 1982, the CHP ordered 400 Special Service Package notchback coupes (394 were built by Ford and shipped to the CHP), and at least 4 cars were SSP hatchbacks. These four hatchbacks were painted and equipped in the same manner as the SSP coupes. They were produced under a different 6-digit Fleet DSO number than the SSP coupes, and were retained for use and evaluation by the CHP. These hatchbacks are not equipped with the Special Service Package. One of these hatchbacks exists in private hands.

CHP EVOC[edit]

Several Mustang SSPs were converted by the CHP to EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course) track vehicles. These EVOC vehicles were used for training the cadets how to drive at high speeds. The Mustangs were known for their 140+- mile per hour top speed. Modifications include a full roll cage, racing harnesses, and tuned front suspension(for high speed driving and cornering). The EVOC vehicles were highly maintained to ensure safety while on the track. [4][5]

USAF U2 chase car[edit]

Due to problems with landing the Lockheed U-2, a system was implemented where a second pilot would chase the U-2 (termed "mobile") and help guide the aircraft down to earth. The USAF usually utilized a performance car for this task.[6]

In 1986, the USAF was looking for a replacement for the Chevrolet El Camino as a chase car for the U-2. Beale Air Force Base asked the local California Highway Patrol to provide a Mustang SSP for testing. The test proved the Mustang SSP superior to the El Camino and the USAF ordered 20 for work with the spyplanes.

Their career lasted until the late 1990s, when they were replaced by "Special Service" B4C Chevrolet Camaros.

One of three examples from RAF Alconbury is preserved: 1988 Mustang SSP 88B 9971 "Mobile 1", serving with the 17th Reconnaissance Wing and the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron until its disposal in 1999. It is currently in the hands of a private collector in the United States after being ferried from its last operation in Italy to England.[7]

Saleen connections[edit]

Noted manufacturer Saleen contributed to the history of the Mustang SSP. The Oregon State Police had ordered 34 coupes in 1988, but cancelled the order at the last minute. The dealership that ordered the coupes, Damerow Ford, scrambled to find a way to get rid of the order, and Saleen took custody of 14 of the cars. Saleen returned the cars after adding vehicle ID, rear spoiler, ground effects and interior upgrades. The dealer then resold them.[2]

While not a true SSP, Saleen modified another 5.0, a 1989 5.0 LX Hatchback, for the Seal Beach, California Police Department. Designated as an S442 model, this model served Seal Beach until its retirement in the late 1990s.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "1982 California Highway Patrol SSP Mustang (The First SSP Mustang)". Sspmustang.org. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  2. ^ a b "SSP Mustang FAQ Page". Sspmustang.org. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  3. ^ Mustang Monthly "Highly Pursued" text and photos by Donald Farr, May 2006 pg 88-90
  4. ^ "1992 CHP Mustang EVOC vehicle". Sspmustang.org. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  5. ^ "State/Municipal/Federal SSP Mustangs gallery; 2 EVOC cars (92 on left/89 right) at the CHP academy; note hubcaps removed for safety". Sspmustang.org. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  6. ^ Modified Mustangs "They Come, They Go!: First in Harms Way" sidebar Story by Don Roy Photos by James Pickett, January 2007 pg 117
  7. ^ "A look at USAF 'Spy Plane Chasers'". Sspmustang.org. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  8. ^ Mustang Forty Years, by Randy Leffingwell, ISBN 0-7603-1597-3

Book and Magazine references[edit]

  • Mustang Forty Years, by Randy Leffingwell, ISBN 0-7603-1597-3
  • Mustang Monthly "For Special Service" by Miles Cook, November 2004 (PDF copy of article here)
  • Mustang Monthly "Highly Pursued" text and photos by Donald Farr, May 2006 pg 88-90
  • Modified Mustangs "They Come, They Go!: First in Harms Way" sidebar Story by Don Roy Photos by James Pickett, January 2007 pg 117

External links[edit]