Home » Let’s Try And Figure Out This Estate Sale Mystery Of ’70s Cop Car Concept Drawings

Let’s Try And Figure Out This Estate Sale Mystery Of ’70s Cop Car Concept Drawings

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You know what Autopian readers are good at? Aside from, you know, being charming and successful and knowing every secret of the erotic arts? Finding cool shit. I know this because I see it happen all the time, including the time that is today, when a reader named Sebastian sent us some remarkable marker renderings of what appear to be concept police cars from the 1970s. He found these at an estate sale around Detroit back in the 1990s, but has never really been clear about what they are. Maybe one of you has an idea? If any group of people might, it’s the ones right here, right now.

These appear to be the work of a trained automotive designer; this sort of marker rendering is a very specific sort of learned skill, and whomever executed these clearly knows that skill very well. All of the drawings seem to show police or emergency vehicles, and three out of the four are two door wagons, possibly even shooting brake designs. All are known makes and models, but the bodywork tends to be unique aft of the B-pillar on all of them.

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Plus, they all feature a very sleek sort of light bar on the roof that integrates well into the overall design, certainly more so than conventional police light bars of this era would. If I had to pin down a year that I’d guess these were made, I’d say 1978, based on the look of the cars used, and details like the amount of black rubber bumper impact strips and so on.

Let’s take a look at these, starting with my favorite, what looks like an AMC Pacer emergency vehicle:

Pacer Copcar

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I think the light bar fits the best on the Pacer, appearing to sort of organically grow out of the Pacer’s rollbar-like B-pillar. The rear of the car looks similar to the wagon variant of the Pacer, but not exactly; it’s a bit more squared-off and lacks the vent window of the Pacer wagon. Plus, it seems to use the Pacer hatchback’s wraparound taillights as opposed to the vertical units used on the Pacer wagon.

The two-tone paintjob works well on this, too. Hm. Was this a proposal for an AMC cop car?

Let’s see what else we have:

Fordltd Cop

This one is really interesting! It looks to be a Ford LTD from the doors forward, but there were never two-door, short wheelbase LTD wagons like this. Which, upon seeing this, I realize is a tragedy. This is very cool, and the stripe graphics that wrap up the B-pillar into the light bar is inspired.

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Was there unfulfilled demand for two-door cop car wagons?

There’s another Ford in here, too, this time a Pinto:

Pinto Cop

This one is especially confusing because it’s almost a stock Pinto, but, once again, from the front door trailing edge and back we have different bodywork. The rake of the rear is more vertical, there’s a little vent window in the rear side glass and, again, it’s a bit more rectilinear. Simpler police graphics on this one, still pretty handsome looking, though.

Okay, one last one, this time from GM:

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4door Cop

This is the only four-door one, and it seems to be based on an X-Body Chevy Nova, again with bodywork that differs from reality from the B-pillar back, where it becomes an interesting four-door hatchback, kind of like a predecessor to the Chevy Citation, sort of. This one has more traditional Police coloring and markings, in a way, and because it has back doors, would be the most practical for a cop car that actually needed to, you know, throw people in the back, as cops are wont to do.

So, what are these, do we think? Sebastian told me they’re all high-quality reproductions on photographic paper, which suggests that copies were made, which means that it’s likely not just some talented design student’s homework. It likely wasn’t an OEM, though, since there are three OEMs represented here.

Sebastian wondered if these were, perhaps, part of the Hurst Highway System Rescue One project, which is best known today as being one of the earliest applications of the “jaws of life” which, frankly, is probably worth its own story.

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Hurst was using an AMC Gremlin for this, which maybe is related to that AMC Pacer concept, but the graphics and hardware are just too far removed from the HRS-1 look for me to think this is actually related.

Could these be proposals for a company that outfitted emergency and police vehicles? Maybe some supplier of hardware and equipment for such conversions? And why such dramatic changes to bodywork?

I’m a little baffled, which is why we’re here. Any ideas or thoughts or leads are welcome! Let’s discuss, and revel in the mysteries!

 

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Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
10 months ago

The back half of the Nova makes me think of the weird fastback Olds and Buick versions of the ’78-’81 A-bodies.

EricD14
EricD14
10 months ago

They’re from an alternate universe where designer Chuck Fosse designs cars for the show “Under Hauling”.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
10 months ago

I’m thinking this is student work based entirely on the weird stubby rear doors on the “Nova”. Looking at it hurts my brain. Leading me to believe the “Granada” was rendered as a short wheelbase two door because the artist just can’t draw a believable four door.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
10 months ago

Leaving aside the cop markings, the Pacer wagon looks like it could be an early proposal for one and almost certainly predates the production wagon.

The Pinto likewise could be believed as a serious proposal for a butt-tuck to go with the 1979 square-front facelift.

After that, the Nova seems believable and buildable – there was a 3 door hatchback production car but it had the same profile as the trunk coupe and none of its’ hatch-only parts would carry over to a 5 door variant with decent rear headroom and loadspace floor-to-ceiling height (a weak spot of the RWD X hatchback coupe).

The Granada falls the flattest – surely a production Granada wagon would’ve had four side doors, and most likely have carried over more internal hard points from earlier “Falcon-platform” wagons rather than looking ahead to the Foxbody.

Overall I’d say “Design school assignment” is the most likely explanation, but if it came from an industry actor I’d look to professional-car builders rather than anyone in the police equipment business. Car-based ambulances were on their way out and they probably didn’t know if hearses alone would sustain them – and certainly didn’t know what a huge boost they’d get in the ’80s from both the stretch-limo fad and Cadillac keeping the 1977-era C body Fleetwood Brougham unchanged for close to 15 years.
They were likely spitballing new products they could offer, and the elephant in the room that would’ve been the reason these got no further than concept drawings would be the lack of customer value offered by these compared to more off-the-shelf wagons and hatchbacks. Imagine the presentation of the Pacer to execs the day after AMC announced their production Pacer wagon, with an MSRP something over 10 grand in today’s money less than this company’s coachbuilt one could be profitably offered at…

Last edited 10 months ago by Nlpnt
Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
10 months ago

“[T]he “jaws of life” which, frankly, is probably worth its own story.”
“Probably”? Yes, most definitely worth its own story!! Would be worthwhile doing & then reading, at least from what I’ve seen out there (besides, Hurst could use a little burnishing of their image after the crass sexism of their Dual Gate “HIS and HERS” shifter…)

Myron Vernis
Myron Vernis
10 months ago

This seals it. I’m adding a light bar to our Pacer wagon.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
10 months ago

AMC was so desperate in those days. They would’ve done a Cheech & Chong model for enough cash.

Is Travis
Is Travis
10 months ago

The second to last one is clearly the Inspector Gadget-mobile.

Last edited 10 months ago by Is Travis
Sgtyukon
Sgtyukon
10 months ago

I used to pay for cop cars as part of my job. I’ve never seen a two-door one, except for Mustang and Camaro pursuit vehicles. Have you?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago
Reply to  Sgtyukon

Alabama State Troopers ran the Mark Donahue edition AMX for several years in the back in the days long past.

Josh Ashby
Josh Ashby
10 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Donohue

Sklooner
Sklooner
10 months ago
Reply to  Sgtyukon

The RCMP had some Mustangs in the 90s, I passed one in the dark, in my diesel Jetta dumbest speeding ticket ever

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
10 months ago
Reply to  Sgtyukon

Not a real cop car, but driving by the State Trooper headquarters, I’ve seen a 4th gen Camaro with a light bar and drag slicks. I think they use it on the nights where they sponsor races at the drag strip to try and manage street racing.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
10 months ago
Reply to  Sgtyukon

I saw a silver undercover Challenger a few days ago. Even with the lights flashing I could barely believe it.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
10 months ago

It’s not unusual for a design studio to render up ‘special’ editions of forthcoming models (or existing ones) for big fleet sales. I did a few including a Red Cross/Red Crescent Defender (which we ended up showing at the Defender launch as a concept) and a military version because the head of a European army (can’t remember which) was interested in buying a load.

Sklooner
Sklooner
10 months ago

Perhaps some sort of design school assignment ?

DysLexus
DysLexus
10 months ago

What? You’re not mentioning the color of the lights? This is a HUGE deal. The lights are just red and small.

Whelen Co was the big manufacturer of emergency lights in US in past 60 years. The 70’s lights were gumball type and then just moving to light bars.

Most cop cars have one red light and one blue light alternating to give best visibility during day and night. There’s a whole theory to which is best and many countries have argued for years over this.

In the US, Emergency vehicle light colors are regulated at the local level so each state or community can decide for themselves. There are also white, amber, green and other colors depending on use.

You’ve just opened up a whole can of whooptie with this emergency light color (and strobe) opportunities to dive deep.

Dave Garland
Dave Garland
10 months ago
Reply to  DysLexus

Do we know anybody that has a light fetish and could do a story?

Where I grew up in NY ’50s and ’60s, blue lights indicated volunteer firefighters. Cops, ambulances and fire trucks were red, think tow trucks were orange. But one time in the car with some others, we’d all had a few drinks, we got balked on a country road by somebody, and my bro turned his hazard flashers on, the car pulled over and we went sailing by. And then drove fast so that if he was pissed, he wouldn’t be able to catch us.

AutoPartsGuyBuffalo
AutoPartsGuyBuffalo
10 months ago
Reply to  DysLexus

NYS has some wild emergency light laws. State and below police cars cannot have forward facing blue lights (although many agencies do this anyway). Red is for offical emergency vehicle (police, fire, ambulance). Blue (forward facing) is reserved for volunteer firefighters in their personally own vehicle (POV). Green is for volunteer EMS on their POV. Amber for tow trucks & security. And VIOLET for funeral duty for the hearse.

Tbird
Tbird
10 months ago

I’m certain #2 is a Ford Granada, not an LTD. The taillights look to be similar to contemporary Cadillac Seville units. The slab sides indicate Granada, not LTDII, the body side on these (and full size LTD) were very rounded but vertical surface on this is flat. Granada/Monarch based.

Last edited 10 months ago by Tbird
Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
10 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

And the door shape/glass is a direct match for the Granada.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Above comment is the correct one. I award you one hood ornament.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
10 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Also, it has a badge that might say Grenada on the fender. Definitely doesn’t say LTD.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

Number 2 looks like a LTD II with a Fairmont wagon ass end.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
10 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

Our brains are one thought element.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

My first impression is that these were some form of K-9 transport concept. That was reinforced by the Hurst ad with the Dalmatian, though I know that was just an inside joke for first responders. Also, shooting brakes were designed for hunting dog transport, too, and these are clearly influenced by those designs.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Speaking of dalmatians. My wife and I spent a week on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia and didn’t see one damn dalmatian dog.

Lokki
Lokki
10 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Someone must have tipped them off you were coming….

Apropos of nothing, is your wife’s name Cruella by any chance?

LarsVargas
LarsVargas
10 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

That sounds a lot nicer than spending any time in Pomerania. Even if you don’t see any of those yappy shiteaters, the anxiety of the possibility would be enough to ruin my trip. [shudders]

Jbavi
Jbavi
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

This is what I was thinking too, where the cop would pull up to a big crowd of protesters or drunken spring breakers and open the hatch to release a team of hungry 70’s German Shepherds to feast on youths

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

Starsky and Hatch.

Last edited 10 months ago by Chronometric
Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

A joke from third grade:
Did you know they’re making a cop show about a potato and a dog?
It’s called Starchy and Husky.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
10 months ago

Yeah, the less-intricate version of the light bar makes me think these are toy designs?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago

I’ll take weird Matchbox concept cars for 200 Alex…

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
10 months ago

The Pinto can be a prisoner transport and execution method rolled into one 🙂

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
10 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

COTD?

Lokki
Lokki
10 months ago

If Baltimore abstains from voting, maybe

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
10 months ago

The Hurst guess is a good one, and certainly wouldn’t surprise me if they were attached to a plan to upgrade the Highway System Rescue One project. Or to offer it on different cars to ease fleet maintenance.

My other guess though would be that they come from Whelen or a competitor. Notice how the lightbar itself is the most consistent part. Police departments were under pressure to use more fuel-efficient cars in the 70’s same as everyone else. And I would guess that these were concepting a new style of lightbar they were considering alongside cars being suggested as replacements for the gas guzzlers.

Strangek
Strangek
10 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I’d buy that Whelen guess. Why are they all wagons and hatches though? Was part of the design to showcase this body style for emergency vehicles or something?

WOV
WOV
10 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Can I also just mention here that the HRS-1 vehicle seems to have most of a.lot of what you’d need to do an extrication except for, well, for starters, like, another 5 people?

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
10 months ago

Since all the light bars appear to be the same, I’d lean toward these being concepts created by a company that outfits emergency vehicles. These were probably overview concepts, and somewhere, lost to time, probably, are the detail drawings showing the actual equipment. The cars look vaguely like actual cars for familiarity, but not exactly to avoid any pretense that they were working with a specific manufacturer maybe?

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
10 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Yeah, I agree. The identical light bars are the only real clue; I think everything else is a red herring.

I do think it’s strange that the artist used stock front ends with somewhat-to-radically different back ends to create not-real cars, instead of the more common mode of making real cars a bit generic. But, again, I don’t think it means anything, it was just their approach to the brief.

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