Police Say Goodbye Crown Vic, Hello Interceptor

Tom Bono, a mechanic at the East Hampton Town garage
Tom Bono, a mechanic at the East Hampton Town garage, is in charge of wiring the console of the Ford Taurus Interceptor, the newest police vehicle in the department fleet. Photos

    The familiar sight of Ford Crown Victoria police cars patrolling both the town and the village will soon be a memory. The venerable “Crown Vic” is being retired, to be replaced by the Ford Interceptor. East Hampton Town police may roll out the first one within the week.
    The Interceptor, a modified version of the Ford Taurus further customized by the crew at the police garage, offers many advantages over the old mainstay. For one, its drivetrain and engine parts are interchangeable with the Ford Explorer, the S.U.V. version of the Interceptor and the town force’s utility vehicle of choice. Also interchangeable  are the wheels, brakes, and tires, Jim Frazier, the shop foreman at the garage, said on Monday.
    All-wheel drive is another attractive feature of the new vehicles. “It’s going to be nice with the snow and wet weather. It will handle a lot better,” Mr. Frazier said.
    Richard Davis, a build coordinator at Ford’s research plant in Dearborn, Mich., sees new models three years in advance. He is particularly excited by this variant of the Taurus.
    The Crown Victoria, he said, was “a framed vehicle,” while the Taurus Interceptor has a “unibody construction” — rather than starting with a frame and building onto it, the body is welded together. This makes cars lighter, but also safer, because the design of the unibody allows the car to absorb more impact.
    Not only does it get better gas mileage than the Crown Victoria while moving just as fast, it also has backup sensors, handy because visibility out the rear window is slightly reduced.
    Another difference is its transverse engine, which is mounted perpendicular to the body as opposed to the parallel mounted engine of the Crown Vic.
    Mr. Frazier said it was the first vehicle with a sideways-mounted engine in the fleet, and has a better pickup.
    Town police could have gone for a more expensive twin-turbocharged  engine, which kicks the horsepower up to 365 and accelerates from zero to 60 in under 6 seconds, but instead chose the standard 3.5-litre engine, which rates 280 horsepower and can hit a top speed of 130 miles per hour, doing  zero to 60 at a bit over 8 seconds. That is more than fast enough in a town with no major highways.
    The old Crown Victorias have been around, off and on, since the early 1980s. Detective Lt. Chris Anderson, a 25-year veteran of the force, has fond memories of the ones he used to drive when he was an officer. “They were boxier, roomy,” he said Tuesday. “Very comfortable.”
    The new Interceptor has a surprising amount of head and leg room in front, although the front is a bit tighter than the cars being retired. The back seat, usually reserved for those in handcuffs, is a bit roomier than the Crown Vics. New cages are being installed in the backs for the prisoners.
    The newcomer to the fleet is in hiding in the garage, decals yet to be applied. “We’ve spent a lot of time with this new car trying to get it right,” said Mr. Frazier. “We bought all new gear. The console is new, the cage is new.” The cages had to be installed without interfering with the side airbags. The car is loaded with safety features.
    Tom Bono, a mechanic, has been working on the electrics, customizing the center console where all the electrical equipment sits, including computers, multiple radios, and, of course, the pinging radar system. “I just had to figure the car out,” he said. Calling the old Crown Victoria “a good, tough car,” he added, “We’ll see how this one does.”
    The town’s current police cars will not be headed for the junk heap, at least not for a while. Instead, they will be dispersed throughout various town agencies.
    “We’ll run them as traffic control cars until they stop working,”said Mr. Frazier.
    Rick Talmadge’s job as fleet manager is to keep the Vics rolling as long as safely possible. “We’ll have them around for a couple of years, no problem,” he said.