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The performance ability of a police car – especially those used on the highway – is largely determined by the performance of the cars they’re likely to be chasing.
This explains why the ACT Police, initially satisfied with FX and FJ Holdens in the immediate post-war period, had replaced them with Studebaker Larks – fitted with the V8 ‘truck’ motor – in the early 1960s.
Chrysler Valiants were also used in this period. But even these weren’t fast enough in 1964 when it was reported that they were being out-run by the likes of Jaguar E-Types and Mercedes-Benz sports cars. Which explains why, incredibly, the ACT Police used a Daimler SP 250 for pursuit purposes!
These thoroughbred English sports cars were fitted with a 2.5-litre Rover V8 and fourwheel discs, and clad in a two-seater fibreglass body. They were allegedly capable of 120mph (193km/h). Around 30 were in use by the British Metropolitan Police.
The one used in Canberra, mainly on the Monaro Highway leading to Cooma, was donated by Hercules Motors (who entered the car in which the Geoghegan brothers won the 1962 Bathurst 6-Hour Classic), possibly for promotional purposes. It was given a lot of publicity in the press but by mid-1965 it was still to be used, because only one officer had done suitable high-speed training.
The Daimler was driven by plain-clothes officers and bore no police ID on the body. The siren was hidden under the bonnet. Still, as someone pointed out in a letter to the editor, everyone in Canberra knew that the Daimler was a police car. There were no others in the capital.
At the same time, the ACT police force commissioned what was called a ‘Lotus Cortina’, although it’s more likely to have been a GT, perhaps one of the special GT 500 models designed by Harry Firth for Bathurst. Perhaps...
There was also a fleet of Mini Coopers in use from 1963 onwards. These were quick but unpopular, mainly because the average copper was too tall to fit inside.
At this stage the ACT must have had the most exotic fleet of police cars in Australia.
This tradition continued when they adopted the new range of V8 Falcons, starting with the XR V8 Police Pursuit special. XW, XA, XB and XC models followed, all four-doors with GT mods. XD Falcons were used from 1979 to 1983.
Testing was done on a Holden Torana SL/R 5000 and a V8 Kingswood but the V8 Falcon was always preferred.
When Ford finally axed its V8 production, the V8 Commodore was used for the 1985 to 1994 period.
More recently, the Falcon XR6 Turbo and V8 SS Commodore have been used in the capital, both equipped with manual gearboxes – the only police service in Australia still using this transmission type today.