By Robert Rhine / Hagerty.com
When police cars like my 1957 Ford Custom 300 were in service, the city of Los Angeles had approximately 2 million residents, fewer than half the people it contains today. Many freeways were yet to be built. The city was growing at a dizzying rate, however, and things were changing fast. The LAPD was no exception. My ’57 Ford patrol car was the last model powered by an inline-six, and it’s mated to a three-speed column-shift transmission. The 223-cubic-inch engine was a strong runner, performing remarkably close to V-8s of the day.
In 2018, I bought this Ford from former Burbank police officer Robert Stentz, who had treated it to a two-year “body-on” restoration. The goal was to make the car appear exactly as it was in 1957. The doors, hood, fenders, and decklid were all removed for painting and installation of new rubber seals. The front floorpans and outer rockers were replaced with new reproduction parts, and the lower portion of the front fenders was replaced with new metal. The quarter panels, rear floors, and trunk are original and solid, and the bumpers were both triple chrome-plated. Underhood, the engine was replaced with a correct rebuilt one. To maintain the appearance of authenticity, he had it detailed with correct decals, colors, and original components, including the road draft tube. He installed a reproduction Power Punch battery cloned to appear as an original wet-cell type; however, it’s actually a dry-cell design and will not create acid damage.
The odometer shows 90,098 original miles, and there is still so much great original equipment on and in the car—brake drums, radiator, windshield, ball joints, headlights, etc. The front and rear springs are heavy-duty and paired with NOS non-gas shocks.
The roof-mounted can lights are vintage S&M model 757s used on an LAPD Central Division unit. The siren, B&M model S8B, was remanufactured by the factory under direction of the late Kevin O’Connell, who went through many cores to find one with a period-correct serial number. It is a masterpiece and produces a robust, spine-tingling sound. There is a floor-mounted button on the passenger side, for use by a second officer, which was helpful to the driver as he would have been shifting gears and maneuvering the vehicle on code-three calls.
The trunk, meanwhile, is fitted with a CO2 fire extinguisher, a working Motorola electronic bullhorn, a Motorola two-way portable, a vintage Johnson & Johnson first-aid kit, an LAPD-issued D-cell flashlight, and a 1956 city of Los Angeles municipal code book. Some of this stuff bears the stencil “Property of LAPD.”
My Ford sports a pair of antennas, because LAPD cars received dispatch calls on 1712 kHz AM and transmitted back to HQ on 155.01 MHz FM. I’ve even equipped the car with an electronic module that plays LAPD Valley Division calls through the Motorola speaker on a continuous loop. These are recorded onto an SD card and edited to eliminate any information that did not exist in 1957.
Mine is the only correct example of an LAPD ’57 Ford known to exist, and I love cruising L.A. in it and showing it off whenever I can—including at police events in the city, like the True Blue Gala, and the 150th anniversary of the LAPD back in 2019.
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