S&S: Does Olds offer more than one police car package?
LOUCKES: We have two packages of recommended equipment for city and highway cruising. And we build police cars in both the F-85 and big car series. Modifications are similar on both. However we will build a car almost any way the particular police department wants it, with any combination of equipment. So you might say we don't have any "standard" packages. We merely recommend. This is different than production cars, where we have to standardize on certain equipment combinations.
S&S: Let's start with the "heavy-duty" aspect of police car design. What parts do you beef up for this work?
LOUCKES: We use a heavy-duty frame, such as we would recommend for trailer hauling with a passenger car. Special beefed suspension arms are used to resist the higher loads you get with stiffer springs, shocks and roll bar. Our police wheels have stronger rims. We have not found it necessary to use special front wheel spindles, ball joints, steering linkage or rear axle shafts. These are pretty highly developed components on a modern car. However, we use higher line pressures in our Turbo hydramatic transmissions to give a firmer shift. We find this helps durability in stop-and-go city driving. Also, we have a higher-capacity transmission oil cooler in the radiator, to keep transmission temperatures down in continuous city driving. You'd be surprised how these temperatures go up on a hot day. But, all in all, we probably don't do as much "beefing-up" on our police car chassis as you might imagine. We try to build heavy-duty durability into our cars from the word go.
S&S: Describe the heavy-duty suspension components for your police
LOUCKES: We have two packages. For city cruising we use springs, shocks, and a front anti-roll bar that are somewhat stiffer than the standard passenger car suspension. Conditions aren't so critical here because pursuit speeds are not as high, and ride is a bit more important on choppy city streets. But for the highway cars we go a lot further—considerably stiffer springs front and rear, stiffer shocks with near 50-50 compression/rebound ratio, stiffer front roll bar and we also put a roll bar on the rear suspension arms. This gives the steering a more neutral feel on highspeed curves, so the front end doesn't tend to plow and feel heavy in the turn. What we're doing, in effect, is to transfer more of the "roll couple" to the rear end, and make the rear tires work harder in the turn. By distributing the cornering work more evenly between the four tires we get more loyal cornering power. We use a rear roll bar on the 442 package, and everybody seems to like it. We're surprised more companies don't use rear roll bars.
S&S: Does the rear roll bar make
the car more stable in a crosswind?
LOUCKES: It doesn't have much effect here. We build quite a bit of "roll under steer" into our four-link rear suspension, which helps stability in crosswinds. The purpose of the rear roll bar, as I said, is primarily to make the rear tires work harder on curves, and make the steering feel lighter, more neutral and more responsive.
S&S: Does this different steering feel
take some getting used to?
LOUCKES: Apparently it does. Some police test drivers have said that our steering is too light and responsive when they first drive the car. But they soon change their minds when they start cornering at breakaway speeds. An Olds with a rear roll bar will stick when other cars plow off the road headfirst. Our cornering has proved to be strongest on the Pomona Fairgrounds road course where the Los Angeles Police Department test all cars for competitive bidding. Their drivers take the cars around here at maximum possible speeds—to the point where tires sometimes roll off the rims and wheels break. We can corner with anybody in this test.
S&S: You mentioned that you were
quite stiff on springs and shocks in
your highway suspension package.
Seems like you could go softer when
you're designing for straight, smooth
highways. And get a better ride compromise.
LOUCKES: You have to remember that these cars aren't always running on straight or smooth highways. Many times a car being chased will dodge off on a rough country road. Or many times a police car will have to run off on the shoulder to avoid another car in a high-speed chase. There have been cases where they have to run part way down into a ditch, and back out at 80 mph. This is mighty hairy business. We have to design our highway suspension for very high speeds over fairly rough roads. The main reason for the stiff springs is to prevent excessive "bottoming" of the suspension when we hit hard bumps at high speeds. This bottoming can throw the car out of control or break parts. It's good to keep in mind that the force that the springs and shocks have to control on a given bump increases at the square of the car speed. So a fairly mild bump at 50 mph could bottom the suspension at 100, as the forces would be four times as high. This is why Daytona cars that run up to 180 mph have to use such stiff springs—even though the track appears quite smooth.
S&S: How important are the 50-50
shocks in this high-speed stability?
LOUCKES: Very important. Regular passenger shocks have relatively little damping control on the compression or up stroke of the wheel. This gives the smoothest ride. But by putting control on compression we let the shock help the spring in resisting hard bump forces. Also the more even bump-rebound control keeps the wheels tied down better on rough roads, so steering and traction are better. Of course this additional compression control hurts the ride but this is the price we pay for a car that is stable on rough roads at 100 mph.
S&S: How about tires for your police cars?
LOUCKES: Tires are not too vital on city police cars. Most departments use more or less conventional nylon passenger tires. But highway cars are another story. Most car fans know that tires are just as important in high-speed cornering power, stability and steering response as the entire suspension system. We have tried all kinds of high-performance tires for our highway police cars. We can supply Goodyear Police Specials, Speedway Blue Streaks, or Firestone 500s for different applications, but most police departments specify their own tires.
S&S: Would radial-ply tires be good
in police work?
LOUCKES: Possibly. They wear longer, so you get more miles-per-dollar even though they cost more. They have good wet traction and are quite stable but are not designed for extreme speeds. They have high puncture resistance. But we still consider the high performance bias tires a better compromise for highway pursuit work, largely because of their excellent cornering power and response.
S&S: We've heard that the California
Highway Patrol (CHP) has drawn
up a long list of specifications for
their tires, so the tire companies have
to build special tires when they bid
for the market.
LOUCKES: That's only partly right. The CHP requires six-ply tires for one thing. They have specs for the square inches of tread contact area, rubber hardness, and amount of diameter growth at high speeds (which affects speedometer accuracy). They require a tire that can run for one hour at a continuous 125 mph in 120 degrees Fahrenheit air temperature. These requirements are so exacting that the tire manufacturers can't meet them with standard tires. However, Goodyear Speedway Blue Streaks are now approved.
S&S: What type of brakes do you
use on your police cars?
LOUCKES: Some police cars use standard brakes where conditions are not too severe. But we have kind of designed our highway brakes to meet the requirements of the Los Angeles P.D. in the famous Pomona tests. They require four successive "max G" stops from 90 mph, followed immediately by a stop from 60 mph where you must lock all four wheels. This requires a brake that can still work under very intense heat. In the past, we have used sintered iron linings with drum brakes to meet the requirements. But this year we're using front disc brakes with special high temperature friction pads, and standard organic linings in the rear drums.
S&S: Could you meet the Pomona
requirements with discs using standard
passenger car friction pads?
LOUCKES: It might be marginal. Heavy-duty disc brakes need special friction lining just like drum brakes, though things aren't so critical.
S&S: Why did you switch from
metallic drum brakes to discs this
LOUCKES: That's an interesting story. The new federal safety regulations for 1968 models state that the parking brake must hold the car on a 30 percent grade. We can't be sure of meeting this requirement with sintered iron linings, as they have relatively low friction when cold. The car might slip a little. We didn't have time to redesign the parking brake just for the police cars, so we switched to disc brakes as a quick answer. But some police officials are hollering about the extra cost, when iron linings will meet their requirements just as well.
S&S: Will this new parking brake
law kill metallic brake linings throughout the industry?
LOUCKES: It s very possible.
S&S: Are there any other modifications
to your passenger car brake system
when adapting for police work?
LOUCKES: When using front discs we omit the rear-brake proportioning valve on the police cars. This valve cuts down the line pressure to the rear drum brakes on hard stops, to prevent premature rear wheel lockup, since the front discs have no "self-energizing" action. This is good practice for the average driver. But this valve also acts to reduce the amount of work done by the rear brakes on moderate-hard stops. In police work we want to balance the work as evenly as possible between the four wheels, to keep down temperatures. The expert police drivers are able to make good stops without the valve.
S&S: Do you offer anything special
in the way of steering for police cars?
LOUCKES: We offer a special manual steering gear with the overall ratio reduced from 24-to-1 to 02-to-1, for quicker steering and better maneuverability. But we definitely recommend power steering on all police cars as the ratio is only 18-to-l,and you don't have the high steering effort in city driving. This is the only way to go.
S&S: Do you use hopped-up engines
in your police cars?
LOUCKES: Not in the standard packages. But we offer optional "Police Apprehender" engines for both the F-85's and big cars that are highly recommended for highway work. For the F-85's we use just the regular 400-cubic-inch 442 engine with high compression, big-valve Toronado heads, Quadrajet carb, 286-degree hydro cam and dual exhausts. For the big cars we use pretty much the same package, but on the 455 cubic inch block. This latter combination, incidentally, is not offered in any of the passenger cars. It's a very strong engine. We have no trouble meeting the CHP requirements of standing-start acceleration to 125 mph in two miles with either engine.
S&S: Do police cars have trouble
with fouled plugs when using full
throttle after prolonged stop-and-go
LOUCKES: Very definitely. The best defense against this is to run a high- phosphate fuel which leaves deposits that are soft and easily burned off. Our optional capacitor-discharge ignition system solves the problem with one blow . It has so much spark energy that it will fire fouled plugs just like new ones.
S&S: Do you have any special equipment
on the engines to control temperatures in high-speed pursuit on
very hot days? We understand this
could be a problem on some standard
LOUCKES: Yes. We recommend a heavy-duty radiator and a six-blade fan on all police cars. We also offer an optional cellular-type oil cooler that goes behind the grille, just ahead of the regular radiator. It can hold crankcase oil temperature at around 200 degrees. With this equipment we can run at least 15 miles at 125 mph when the outside air temperature is between 110 and 120 degrees. And it's likely the police wouldn't have to sustain this very long, as the guy they're chasing is sure to overheat.
S&S: We've heard some wild tales
about the very high electrical loads
on some police cars. What do you use
in the way of electrical equipment?
LOUCKES: Police cars do have some very high electrical loads at times like when simultaneously running the siren, flashers, radio, heater, lights and other accessories. In fact, we have measured loads as high as 72 amps just idling without the siren. Our standard alternator puts out 55 amps maximum and 25 to 30 amps idling. For these very high load requirements we have used two 62-amp alternators that can put out 70 to 75 amps at idle. In police cars we feel that the generating equipment should be able to supply the maximum electrical load at idle speed—because they do a lot of idling and we don't want to drain the battery at any time. This problem is not critical on passenger cars.
S&S: Are most Olds police cars ordered with automatic transmissions?
LOUCKES: The great majority. Police don't enjoy shifting gears any more than civilians. Also, automatics last longer, require less maintenance, and the fluid drive cushions loads on driveshafts, Ujoints and axles. The whole driveline requires less maintenance. This is especially important with city cars.
S&S: Are there any areas of a police car that present special problems
LOUCKES: Tires are sometimes a problem. But mostly because some police departments try to cut costs and use sub-standard tires. This is especially true on city cars. The only other problem area I can think of would be the possibility of engine failure due to excessive engine temperatures in a high-speed chase in very hot weather, where there is no optional oil cooler and heavy-duty radiator.
S&S: What do you see in the future
for police car development?
LOUCKES: It's pretty much a problem of designing police cars with considerably better performance, handling and braking qualities than the hotter cars on the road. We can do this as long as the government agencies that buy the cars are willing to pay the necessary price. But we're more concerned right now with future federal safety legislation and how it might affect police cars. For instance, what if all cars, including police cars are required to have 80mph speed governors in a couple of years? How could the police overtake a speeder? We're afraid of laws like this because we've seen how the new brake requirements have affected the use of sintered metalic brake linings. It could happen again.