Blue Line

The Crown Victoria

November 25, 2011  By Corrie Sloot

2711 words >>>

Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

The Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (often referred to simply as CVPI or P71) is the law enforcement version of the Ford Crown Victoria. It is one of the most widely used automobiles in law enforcement departments of the United States and Canada. In April 2011, Ford stopped accepting orders for the CVPI, instead offering a version of the Ford Taurus.

After the 1996 discontinuation of the Chevrolet Caprice, Ford held a near-monopoly on the market for police cruisers in North America because the conventional rear-wheel drive, V8 power, and body-on-frame construction are advantageous for police use. The CVPI’s body-on-frame construction allowed inexpensive repairs after accidents without the need to straighten the chassis—an important benefit for a car frequently used by police forces for PIT maneuvers (ramming a car to spin it out). Rear-wheel drive made the car easier to avoid spin-outs than front drive rivals, and allowed it to better withstand hard driving over curbs and other obstacles in the urban environment.[1]


Although the Police Interceptor was not sold to the general public, these cars are widely available secondhand in the U.S. and Canada once they are decommissioned (no longer in service) for law enforcement or fleet duty. The cars are in demand by those who want a safe car, and those who need a car which can take three car seats in the back. They come equipped with many heavy duty parts such as a revised transmission, and a 187 kW (254 PS; 251 hp) engine. Used Police Interceptors are normally stripped of any police decals, radio and computer equipment, and emergency lights before being sold or auctioned. [2]

First generation (1992-1997)

Though the name has been officially in use since 1992, the 1978–1991 full-size LTDs and LTD Crown Victorias and 1992 updated body style used the “P72” production code designation for both fleet/taxi and police models, with the model itself being internally classified as S (similar to LX). From 1993 to 1997, the police car models of the Crown Victoria were officially known as Crown Victoria P71s.

In the 1993 model year, the Crown Victoria was given a chrome front grille and a reflector strip between the taillights. Another minor restyle followed suit in 1995, with a new grille and taillights. To accommodate the design of the 1995’s new taillights, the rear license plate was moved from the bumper to the trunk’s lid.

Second generation (1998-2011)

In 1998, Ford restyled the Crown Victoria, eliminating the “aero” look that the car had from 1992 to 1997 and adopting the more conservative styling of the Mercury Grand Marquis. Both cars included restyled front and rear end components. The 1998 police package P71 had a chrome grille, chrome door handle trim, chrome bumper strips, and a chrome-trimmed flat black rear fascia with the “Crown Victoria” badge. At this time, the car was still known as the “Crown Victoria P71”.[3]

1999 introduced the “Crown Victoria Police Interceptor” name, with a badge on the trunk lid replacing the 1998 “Crown Victoria” badge. A chrome-trimmed gloss black rear fascia, unpainted door handle trim, black bumper strips, and a gloss black slatted grille were also introduced at this time. Finally, the new “Street Appearance Package”, intended to make the Police Interceptor look like a Standard (P73) model, including chrome trimming and badging, was introduced.

Midway through 1999, the taillights were also changed. 1998 and early 1999 models had a separate amber turn signal along the bottom edge of each taillight housing. Starting in mid-1999, the extra bulbs were eliminated and the turn signals returned to the combination stop/turn setup with red lenses found in many North American cars. Although the lenses changed, the housings did not; they still had the chambers for the separate turn signals that early models had. These chambers were now empty, leaving a perfect place to install in police cars strobe tubes that would not affect brake or turn signal visibility. Non-Police Interceptors and Police Interceptors equipped with the “Street Appearance Package” retained the amber turn signal.

For 2000, the rear fascia and taillights lost the chrome trim, and the gloss black grille was dropped in favor of a flat black slatted grille. Further refinements were made in 2001, including removal of all trim on the plastic bumper pieces and a new honeycomb-style grille, replacing the slat-style grille as is found on previous Crown Victorias and CVPIs. Power adjustable pedals also became an option starting in the 2001 model year. Ford also relocated the rear window defrost switch from the left side of the dash to the direct left of the HVAC controls.

The year 2003 brought a minor redesign. The interior door panels and seats were freshened, with side-impact airbags becoming an option. The 2001–2004 CVPIs all look the same on the exterior; the way to tell the 2003+ cars from the 2001 and 2002 models is by looking at the wheels. The suspension, brakes, steering, and frame all were redesigned for the 2003 model year. Because of the new underpinnings, the wheels for the newer cars have a much higher offset. They look almost flat, compared to the concave wheels on the older model years. Along with a new wheel design, new hubcaps were introduced.

The 2004–2011 Police Interceptor is rated for 187 kW (254 PS; 251 hp) because of the addition of a new air intake system. This includes a new airbox that resembles the Mercury Marauder airbox (raised airbox lid, deeper bottom), with an integrated 80 mm (3.1 in) mass airflow (MAF) sensor that is part of the airbox lid. This allows for much more precise flow calibration and reduces the chances of air leakage. The P71 zip tube (the flexible rubber hose between the throttle body and MAF outlet) is also used to reduce NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) as well as transfer air from the airbox to the throttle body with minimal flow resistance.

Standard on the 2006 is a redesigned instrument cluster, which now sports a tachometer, digital odometer with hour meter and trip meter features, and cross-compatibility with the civilian version’s various features (these are normally locked out, but can be accessed through wiring modification). Kevlar-lined front doors, which might be useful as protective barriers during gunfights, are optional on the Crown Victoria Police Interceptors for the 2006 Model Year. Also introduced in 2006, for P70/P72 Commercial Heavy Duty models and P71 Police Interceptor models is a 17″ steel wheel, replacing the previous 16″ wheels, plus new flat gray wheel covers rather than chromed wheel covers as in previous years.

For 2008, the Crown Victoria is restricted to fleet-only sales, and all Panther-platform cars are now flex-fuel cars. The CVPI receives some new options, such as the ability to have keyless entry. Presumably, this feature was added because the Chevrolet Impala Police Sedan has had keyless entry as an option since its inception.

For the 2009 model year, the CVPI now has power pedals as standard equipment. Standard equipment across the entire Panther line is side impact airbags and new federally mandated recessed window switches. The CVPI also received upgraded brakes for 2009, although specifics about them are not available. The confirmation flash that occurs when the doors are locked is now automatically disabled when the Courtesy Lamp Disable option is ordered. The confirmation flash was considered to be a safety issue because the lights would flash when officers exited the vehicle and locked the doors, potentially giving their presence away at night.[4] No other appreciable changes have been noted yet. Also new for 2009 Ford put a “Flex Fuel” badge in the right rear corner of the rear facia (2009 – 2011).

The 2011 model year Ford CVPI (and regular civilian models P74, P73, etc.) received updated larger front headrests to comply with new front crash rating standards.

Comparison with the Crown Victoria

There are few notable differences between the Police Interceptor and standard Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis. Both cars use the same Flex Fuel 4.6 L 2V SOHC V8, Ford Modular engine, and Ford 4-speed automatic transmission.

Engine and drive train

The Police Interceptor is equipped with an external oil-to-coolant heat exchanger to reduce engine oil temperatures, allowing the vehicles to idle for extended lengths of time without overheating. This engine oil cooler can be prone to seeping oil from the O-ring seals after the high mileage operation encountered by Police Interceptors, particularly where damaged by road salt.[5]

The Police Interceptor engine calibration comprises a slightly higher idle speed (by approximately 40 rpm) and minor changes in the emissions settings. The computer is tuned for more aggressive transmission shift points, and the transmission itself is built for firmer and harder shifts.

The 2006-present Police Interceptors equipped with a 3.27:1 and a 3.55:1 rear axle ratio from the factory that is electronically limited to 120 mph (193 km/h) due to the lower driveline-critical vehicle speed, while the Police Interceptors equipped with a 3.27:1 rear axle ratio have generally been limited to approximately 130 mph (209 km/h). This compares to 110 mph (177 km/h) for the “civilian” model.[6]

Ford used an aluminum metal matrix composite driveshaft for the 1993–2005 Police Interceptors as a measure to allow safe operation at over 150 mph (241 km/h), but it was more expensive than the regular aluminum driveshafts. Ford reintroduced the 3.55:1 rear axle ratio in the 2006 model year Police Interceptors, and set the speed limiter at 120 mph (193 km/h) to reduce the risk of driveline failure.

Police Interceptors also have a reinforced frame and body mounts and an optional limited slip rear differential.

Body and chassis

Another difference is Ford’s “severe duty” shock absorbers that offer a stiffer ride than the standard Crown Victoria. They also have black steel wheels with stainless steel or chromed plastic hubcaps.

All Police Interceptors also come with T-409 stainless steel dual exhaust systems without resonators. Standard Crown Victorias come with a stainless steel single exhaust system, while the Handling and Performance Package and LX Sport-equipped Crown Victorias have the same exhaust system as the Police Interceptor, with the resonators. The resonators further reduce noise, vibration, and harshness without adding any restriction to the exhaust system. Police Interceptors have higher-rate coil springs, approximately 0.8 inches (20.3 mm) of additional ground clearance, and thinner rear antiroll bars (shared with the LX Sport) than the Handling and Performance Package Crown Victorias; the base Crown Victoria does not have a rear antiroll bar.

On 2004 and newer models, P71s have a 200 A alternator and a 78 A h battery.

Ford also offers trunk packages for equipment storage (see below), and as of 2005, has added an optional fire suppression system to the Police Interceptor.

The bulk of police car modifications, such as installation of emergency lights, sirens, passenger seat dividers, and plastic rear bench seats, are offered as aftermarket modifications by third parties.


The front seats have a steel “stab plate” built into the back so that a suspect being transported in the back seat cannot stab the officers in the front seat with a knife or other sharp object. Also, most Police Interceptors have a break in the front “bench seat” despite having the shifter on the steering column. This gap between seats is generally filled by a console holding radios, controls for emergency equipment, large firearms, and often a laptop computer or mobile data terminal (MDT). The Police Interceptor also has a calibrated 140 mph (225 km/h) speedometer.


The easiest way to distinguish most P71s is the small “Police Interceptor” badge that replaces the standard “Crown Victoria” markings on the trunk lid, although the Street Appearance Package Police Interceptors forgo the badge, using the standard Crown Victoria marking. However, the Police Interceptor badges are now available for purchase online, so this identifying technique is not as reliable as it once was, although Street Appearance cars also use color-coded trim rather than black trim of normal Police Interceptors. P71’s can also be identified by the dual exhaust and an analog speedometer that goes up to 140 MPH. The Police Interceptor has the interior trunk release in the center of the dashboard, while the civilian version has it in the driver’s door.[citation needed] All 1998 and newer Crown Victorias made for civilian (non-fleet) use have a five digit horizontal keypad (known as SecuriCode) above the driver side door handle which can be used to lock/unlock the car and open its trunk. All P70, 71, and 72 Crown Victorias are assembled without this keyless entry system so unless the driver door was damaged and had an improper replacement door installed any Crown Victoria you see with a keypad is a civilian one, while any one without a keypad is a P70, 71, or 72 fleet Crown Victoria. The only completely infallible way to identify a Police Interceptor is to look for the code “P71” in the VIN.

Police Interceptors will have the characters “P71” as the model code in the VIN, instead of P70 (Stretched wheelbase), P72 (Commercial Heavy Duty/Taxi and fleet vehicles), P73 (Base), P74 (LX), or P75 (1992 Touring Sedan).

Problems and criticism

Following the criticism of fires following highway-speed rear-end collisions, 2005 and later model Police Interceptors now come with an optional automatic fire suppression system and special “trunk packs” designed to prevent cargo from penetrating the fuel tank in a collision. Each agency must pay an additional $150 per-car for the trunk packs. For a more detailed discussion of the fuel tank leakage concerns that prompted these changes, see Ford Crown Victoria.

There were also some problems with early 2003 Police Interceptors. The newly designed steel wheels would rust prematurely, and the rack and pinion steering units would fail early (=10,000 miles). This was not limited to the Police Interceptor; some 2004 Mercury Marauders were also affected. A recent recall (04M05) affects the steel wheels used on 2003–05 Police Interceptors.[verification needed]

Another issue with the wheels have been weld points that come loose, causing rapid air loss in tires and the potential for loss of control. A recall was issued after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the company has created anger among civilian owners of 2003+ Police Interceptors by refusing to honor the recall unless the vehicle is still being used in fleet service. The only way this problem could be addressed is if the civilian customer complains to a dealership about air leakage problems, an inability to balance the wheels properly, or a “nibble” or excessive vibration in the steering at speed. The issue is then addressed through the “Customer Satisfaction Program” that Ford has initiated for the same wheels. Ford ultimately resolved this issue on production cars in 2006 by introducing new 17″ steel wheels for their heavy duty models. These wheels may be of interest to those who have 2003–2005 Police Interceptors, 2003–2005 P70/P72 Commercial Heavy Duty models or 2003–2008 Standard (P73) models with 16″ steel wheels and are concerned about the safety of these wheels.

Discontinuation and future

On March 12, 2010, Ford Motor Company introduced the 2011 Police Interceptor as a rebadged and reengineered version of the current Taurus. This new vehicle bears no relation to the Panther platform on which the previous Police Interceptors were built.[7] In response, police departments like that of Austin, Texas, are buying reserve supplies of the last Crown Victorias to allow them to maintain a fleet of reliable police cars into the future.[8][9] The London, Ontario, police department noted when stockpiling extra CVPI’s that while potential replacements may use less gasoline, the CVPI may be easily and cheaply converted to run on propane, giving it lower running costs than its competitors and the Taurus Ford is touting as a replacement.[10] Others have reluctantly shifted to other models and manufacturers.[11]

On September 15th 2011, the final built Crown Victoria, a civilian model destined for Saudi Arabia, rolled off the assembly line at 12:30 PM, concluding assembly operations of the St. Thomas, Ontario plant.[12]

Print this page


Stories continue below