A piece of RCMP history

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Patrick James collects memorabilia of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As a constable on the force, buttons, tunics and other odds and ends are easy to obtain. Last year he nabbed a restored former highway patrol car, the ultimate piece of RCMP history.

For decades Mopar vehicles were considered by many North American police officers who drove them as ideal for patrol and pursuit work. By the mid-’70s strangling emissions regulations were having a detrimental effect on vehicle size and performance. Among the big three, Chrysler was the slowest to downsize. When revised “R” body cars premiered in the late ’70s a Plymouth version was not available. This upset U.S. dealers who sold to police fleets. As a result, the Gran Fury “R” body, basically a Newport with a different front grille, debuted for the 1980 model year.

The 360 V8 was the largest engine offered in the “R” body sedan. While not providing neck-snapping performance for pursuit use, it was durable for patrol work if the problematic Lean Burn system was not acting up.

The Plymouth Gran Fury was also popular in Canada with police agencies from coast to coast. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was among them. The 1980 sedan owned by James was used for a short time in the province of Saskatchewan. So it is not a tribute car but an actual former patrol vehicle.

The blue and white was in service for only a brief period before it was damaged in a collision at around 13,000 kilometres and written off by the force. Later sold at auction, the former patrol car ended up in a storage lot in Edmonton where it sat for a number of years before being found by Gordon Baker, another RCMP member, in 1997. Baker remembers the car sitting in tall grass and examining it to see how badly damaged it was.

“The body was mint,” said Baker.

But it did require enough work that he passed on buying it. But a police car enthusiast did buy it and repaired the damaged floor pan on the driver’s side, replaced the oil pan, transmission, drive shaft and exhaust system. He then rebuilt the engine.

Sometime after, Baker later bought the Gran Fury and says he gutted the interior, replacing original seat material from fabric sourced from the U.S. He also repainted the sedan and collected and installed original police equipment including lights, siren, radio, spike belt and traffic cones. While the Gran Fury had a roof light bar while in service, Baker said to avoid a problem with transport regulations he finished the car as a “slick” putting red/blue lights behind the grill and on the rear shelf. Baker enjoyed the Gran Fury until selling it in 2006.

A few years later, James was keeping an eye out for an old police car that would be the jewel of his memorabilia collection. As luck would have it, he heard from an acquaintance that an old patrol car was for sale. Not long after James bought the Gran Fury in 2014 and displayed it at some car shows.

Looking factory fresh, the Gran Fury now has only 21,000 km on the odometer. The paint has a like-new shine and the interior shows very little wear.

This car was built in April 1980 at the Lynch Road Assembly plant in Detroit. One of 12,576 civilian and police cars produced that year. It has the optional code E58, 360 CID (5.9 litre), 4bbl high performance V8.

According to information in the book; Dodge, Plymouth & Chrysler Police Cars 1979-1994, “The E58 360ci, 4-bbl powered Mopar squads, full-size or mid-size were faster than the competition. In most cases, they were a lot faster.”

The comment stems from testing conducted by the Michigan State Police in 1980.

A rare item of Canadian police history as only one other similar car exists in western Canada; displayed outside the RCMP training depot in Regina.

Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the ’70s.

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