The cars detectives drove on TV get all the attention, like Thomas Magnum’s Ferrari, Rick Simon’s Dodge Power Wagon or even Enos Strate’s beat up Chevelle on the spinoff from the Dukes of Hazzard. But what about the stalwart police cruisers from the TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s? Where’s the love for the black-and-white? Here’s some of the most memorable, in somewhat chronological order
ADAM-12 (1968 to 1975)
Part of the cop car appeal of ADAM-12 is that it ran right through the point when auto design really changed. Styling went from full-on shoebox to fuselage bodystyles in a matter of years, and Pete Malloy and Jim Reed drove right on through all of it.
For the beat cops on ADAM-12, it was a steady diet of Plymouth products, beginning with the 1967 Plymouth Belvedere.
From that season forward, every year the patrol would update to the current year Plymouth. Plymouth never received credit in the closing credits, but it was supplying cars left and right.
1968 Plymouth Belvedere
In 1971, Plymouth revised its intermediate Satellite lineup to a “fuselage” body, which was a lot more modern. The coupes looked pretty good, but the sedans always looked weird to me. Reed and Malloy switched to these cars in ’71:
Kojak rolled around in a brown Buick
Skylark Century (as Philip Ruth wisely pointed out from the bottom of his Corgi miniature), but we’re really focused on uniformed police vehicles here. We can’t let Kojak slip by without mentioning this NYPD-liveried Boyertown Merchandiser, the exact same step van you could see lettered up with Mister Softee graphics.
This one was featured chasing Griffin Dunne down in the bizarre Martin Scorcese movie After Hours.
It’s funny, I remember S.W.A.T. being a big deal, seeing that its theme song made its way to a K-Tel album I had in 1976, but the show’s run only made it from February of 1975 to April of 1976.
Along with a bunch of cruisers, the main vehicle everybody was interested in from S.W.A.T. was the van, specifically an International Harvester Metro II, which was the ubiquitous delivery van throughout the 1970s.
Dukes of Hazzard (1979 to 1985)
Yeah, The Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t a cop show, but there were plenty of cop cars in it.
In Season 1, Hazzard County Sheriffs drove around in an AMC Matador, complete with that rebel flag everybody’s up in arms about.
Quickly, though, Plymouth slotted itself into Dukes of Hazzard’s production, pushing little AMC right out the door. By the end of the first season, it was all Plymouth Fury for Enos and Rosco:
CHiPs was another show that owed a tremendous debt to the Dodge Coronet (essentially the same car as the Plymouth Fury from Dukes of Hazzard). But early in the run of CHiPs, AMC must’ve executed one of the last bigtime promotional contracts in its history, because the first few seasons were completely littered with AMC products, including the familiar black-and-white cruisers.
In front, that’s a 9C1 Police Prep Chevrolet Nova, which was reportedly a favorite amongst the police because of its light weight. It’s driving in front of a Dodge D200 utility body, which was also odd to see in service on the show.
Of course, the star of the show was the Kawasaki KZ900 Police Special. California used Moto Guzzis just prior to CHiPs going on the air, but the show never used anything but the KZ900s and the later KZ1000C and KZ1000P models.
Hill Street Blues (1981 to 1987)
T.J. Hooker (1982 to 1986)
T.J. Hooker — the Shatner-fronted police drama — suffered the most ignominious comedown of any TV cop.
He started out like everyone else, patrolling the streets in a Dodge Monaco: