Friday, June 13, 2014

Stop! You're under arrest in 1986!

In a city as big as this one the forgotten every day items from decades ago tend to accumulate. I present to you a trio of Hill Street Blues era Cop Cars (one is a civilian model but just barely).
Out on Ocean Parkway I discovered this 1989 Dodge Diplomat looking ready to pounce on unsuspecting perps.
This thing was clean as a whistle! Not a dent or scratch to be found in it's factory Platinum Silver Poly paint. The 2 Police Package engines were both V8s; either the 318 or 360 could be specified, both a little more stout than the standard lumps.
The Diplomat as a stand-alone model debuted in 1977, really as the fancy-trim version of the Aspen (the Plymouth Fury of this era was identical and was the upmarket Volare accordingly). While this example came from 1989, they looked the same from their first facelift in 1980 through the decade.
If you're above a certain age this screams COP CAR! New York City was filled with these bricks patrolling in blue & white. Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing features one prominently.
This is my favorite part of the car. Original "dog dish" hubcaps on steel wheels that announce this as a utility vehicle not meant for the public (except for short 1-way rides in the back seat). There are always those weirdos* who inexplicably order a new car identical to the current police model for their own use, but these caps show who's really on the clock.
*Seriously; who are those people? A white Crown Vic with a roof rack will pull onto the highway making everyone slow down until you realize it's That Guy!
 This car with its cloth seats would be the detective model not meant for heavy daily use. As a result it's been allowed to survive in flawless condition.
Why did I take this picture? Because besides the wheels and their openings this is seriously the only curve on the entire car. It's also the only damage to be found; faux-chrome flaking off of grill.

As seems to be the case since I started this blog I quickly ran into 2 other examples of this ride!
Looks like an ex-cop lives around here somewhere! It's hard to imagine the level of nostalgia required to own 2 different versions of such a boring car in the city. Behold a police-issue Diplomat in the back and the civilian SE model in front. Don't let those steel wheels fool you on the front car; it's got a vinyl top which means it was always headed to the golf course as opposed to the station.
This car has it's game face on and has heard it all. It's headlights are so bored with the "Have I done something wrong, officer?" bit. This car leans in close in the interrogation room and whispers "you know you did it" while it's partner is getting a cup of coffee.
Notice the mostly blacked-out grill on this ride. This may have been an unmarked model but it was built to be a cruiser and probably saw much more use than that soft detective edition at the top.
Everything's just a touch rumpled as this thing was probably running 12 to 24 hours a day in the crack cocaine epidemic years. When I see this car I think garbage strikes, Central Park Five, and an Alphabet City crumbling into piles of rubble.
Those 2 red lights let you know this was not the car to lean against when parked. I like that the patina and wear have been left on this ride as it's in pretty nice shape considering it's hard life.
There are some details you just can't fake. Look how flimsy that little expanse of rear-deck cardboard is! It's actually warping where the speaker holes are punched through because that loss of material was too much for the paper structure to stomach in a humid climate.
Everything is 100% accurate here with the taxpayer-edition plain vinyl bench seats. Even that seatbelt plastic has that institutional prosthetic limb color only found in schools and hospitals.
Again with the dog dish caps! Obviously the name plates on these cars were basically stickers as you can see the ghosts of "Diplomat" on the fender and trunk. This explains why that silver detective car had no badges whatsoever after it's repaint.
We'll finish up with the only real variation on the Diplomat; the SE model. The main change is that the SE got the Chrysler Fifth Avenue's front end with the X-marks-the-spot grill and turn signals located above the headlights. Those signals look like the bushy white eyebrows of whatever old codger ordered this thing originally to take to OTB.
With the exception of this badge, the vinyl roof, and the front end this car is identical to the police cruisers of the day. The interior probably had puffy velour or cheap leather, and the engine was no doubt quieter and slower, but that's it.
These were dinosaurs by the time they were discontinued in 1990. These were the last rear-wheel-drive carburated cars in the Mopar lineup, and were so behind the times that they were subject to the Gas Guzzler Tax late in the '80s. You actually had to break off a big penalty for the privilege of driving around in this thing, which probably explains why their were few made in civilian trim. At this point they probably invoke more nostalgia driving through the gentrifying neighborhoods than fear from the faded players still wandering around.

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