The Ford Mustang SSP was a lightweight police car package based on the Ford Mustang produced between 1982-1993. The car was meant to provide a speedier option for police departments in lieu of other full sized (and heavy) sedans on the market at the time. The SSP abbreviates the designation Special Service Package, a special Foxbody Mustang trim made exclusively for law enforcement use. One of the taglines used by Ford to help sell this car was This Ford chases Porsches for a living...
The units served a number of uses, and were often customized to suit each law enforcement agency's particular needs. Law enforcement agencies from municipal to government agencies bought nearly 15,000 examples of these units. Many still exist today, either still in some role of law enforcement, from display cars to DARE cars, or in the hands of collectors and racers.
In 1982, the California Highway Patrol asked the Ford Motor Company to produce a capable and lightweight police car due to the bulkiness of current police cars like the Ford Fairmont and LTD/Crown Victoria and the problems incurred with Chevrolet Camaros with their camshafts and engine problems at pursuit speeds. Taking the Fox 5.0 Mustangs in production at the time, Ford produced the Ford Mustang SSP (originally labeled Severe Service Package, renamed in 1983 to Special Service Package) and modified them to suit the needs of the police and law enforcement departments.
Nearly 15,000 of these special units were made from 1982 until their discontinuation in 1993 to over 60 law enforcement organizations and government agencies. Their roles ranged from general patrol to pursuit units, with some used in special duties like drug interdiction to academy training units. Several units were specially tasked to help land the Lockheed U2 Spyplane.
The Mustang SSP was essentially a more rugged version of the 5.0 Mustang, with added features not available to the general public. Available options included:
- Engine, 5.0 L HO V8 with Sequential Multi-Port Injection
- Forged pistons, roller cam (Hypereutectic pistons 1993)
- Engine oil cooler
- Aircraft-type silicone radiator hoses and clamps
- 5-speed manual or 4-speed AOD transmission
- Auto transmission fluid cooler
- Brakes, power disc front/drum rear with rotor shields
- Stainless steel factory headers
- Dual exhaust system w/stainless tips
- Fuel tank capacity — 15.4 U.S. gallons (58 L)
- Heavy duty stabilizer bars, front and rear
- Full instrumentation with in-dash tachometer
- 130 and 135 amp internally and externally regulated heavy duty alternators
- 2 Piece VASCAR speedometer cable
- Certified calibrated speedometer 0-140 and 0-160 mph
- Non-operational courtesy lights (safety feature)
- Relocated rear deck release
- Single key locking doors/trunk
- Reinforced floor pans
- Full size spare tire
- 15" X 7" cast aluminum wheels
Depending on which agency bought them, extras like rollcages (installed by Oregon State Police) and power windows (requested by New York State Police) made each SSP unique to their respective departments. The original configuration of the civilian Mustang with its small rear seat and manual transmission were generally considered ill-suited for a law-enforcement vehicle. Many SSPs had automatic transmissions, to free an officers hand from using the manual transmission stick so that they could use the hand for other duties, such as speaking on a radio or grabbing a sidearm.
All of the 15,000 Mustang SSP's were of the coupe or "notchback" style cars.
Some of the known users of the Mustang SSP include:
United States GovernmentRectify
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Immigration and Naturalization Service
- United States Air Force - Used as a chase car for the U2 Spy Plane.
- United States Border Patrol - Drug interdiction; resides at USBP Museum in Texas.
- United States Customs Service
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Alabama State Troopers
- Arizona Department of Public Safety
- California Highway Patrol - Initial Purchaser of the Mustang SSP
- Colorado State Patrol
- Connecticut State Police
- Delaware State Police
- Florida Highway Patrol - Second biggest user of the Mustang SSP.
- Georgia State Patrol
- Idaho State Police
- Indiana State Police
- Kansas State Police
- Kentucky State Police
- Louisiana State Police
- Massachusetts State Police
- Michigan State Police
- Minnesota State Patrol
- Mississippi State Police
- Missouri Highway Patrol
- Nebraska State Patrol
- Nevada Highway Patrol
- New Mexico State Police
- North Carolina Highway Patrol
- Oklahoma Highway Patrol
- Oregon State Police
- Pennsylvania State Police
- Rhode Island State Police
- South Carolina Highway Patrol
- Tennessee Highway Patrol
- Texas Department of Public Safety - Third biggest user of the Mustang SSP
- Utah Highway Patrol
- Washington State Patrol
- Wisconsin State Patrol
- Wyoming Highway Patrol
- Arlington, TX Police Department
- Clearwater, FL Police Department
- Fort Worth, TX Police Department
- Jonesboro, AR Police Department
- New York City Police Department - Highway Patrol Branch
- Pensacola, FL Police Department
- San Francisco Police Department
Many of the Mustang SSPs have been retired from service, with a few examples still on the rosters of police departments as display or DARE cars. A few law enforcement agencies still keep them on active duty. Most examples have found their way into either racing or restoration.
With its stiffened frame and beefed up suspension, many Mustang SSPs were modified for use in Drag Racing. The plentiful aftermarket of parts for the 5.0 Engine made the SSP platform a desirable frame to work on, but with the dwindling supply and rising prices of genuine Mustang SSPs, these factors have limited racers from converting SSPs for racing purposes.
Restoring Mustang SSPs have become a growing hobby as of late, with car clubs and websites devoted to the restoration of the law enforcement workhorse. Most enthusiasts strive for accuracy in their models, with many scouring for OEM parts, including police radios, shotgun holders, lights, sirens, and other related equipment. However, the hobby is limited, as many states have regulations on private citizens owning cars that could be mistaken for real cop cars. Some get around the regulations by using magnetic decals and removable lights.
Out of the initial batch of 400 units for the CHP, five were of the "hatchback" variety. These were produced under a Fleet DSO and retained for use and evaluation by the CHP. They are not Special Service Mustangs. One exists in private hands.
Several Mustang SSPs were heavily modified and used as training units at CHP's EVOC facility.
USAF U2 chase carRectify
Due to problems with landing the Lockheed U2, a system was implemented where a second pilot would chase the U2 (termed "mobile") and help guide the U2 down to earth. The USAF usually utilized a performance car for this task.
In 1986, the USAF was looking for a replacement for the Chevrolet El Camino as a chase car for the U2. Beale Air Force Base asked the local California Highway Patrol to provide a Mustang SSP for testing. The test proved the Mustang SSP superior to the El Camino and the USAF ordered 20 for work with the U2 spyplanes.
One of three examples from RAF Alconbury is preserved: 1988 Mustang SSP 88B 9971 "Mobile 1", serving with the 17th Reconnaissance Wing and the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron until its disposal in 1999. It is currently in the hands of a private collector in the United States after being ferried from its last operation in Italy to England.
Saleen connections Rectify
Noted Mustang tuner Saleen contributed to the history of the Mustang SSP. The Oregon State Police had ordered 34 coupes in 1988, but cancelled the order at the last minute. The dealership that ordered the coupes scrambled to find a way to get rid of the order, and Saleen took custody of 13 of the cars. Saleen returned the cars, and also added vehicle ID, rear spoiler, ground effects and interior upgrades. The firm then resold them, tuned for private use.
While not considered a true SSP, Saleen modified another 5.0, a 1990 5.0 LX Hatchback, this time for the Seal Beach, California Police Department. Designated as an S442 model, this model served Seal Beach until its retirement in the late 1990s.
SSP in popular culture Rectify
One restored Mustang SSP appeared in the film Friday Night Lights. The usage of the SSP was to keep within a reasonable time period to set the atmosphere of the film.
See also Rectify
- Ford Mustang
- Police vehicles in the United States
Book and Magazine references Rectify
- Mustang Forty Years, by Randy Leffingwell, ISBN 0-7603-1597-3
- Mustang Monthly "For Special Service" by Miles Cook, November 2004 (PDF copy of article here)
- Mustang Monthly "Highly Pursued" text and photos by Donald Farr, May 2006 pg 88-90
- Modified Mustangs "They Come, They Go!: First in Harms Way" sidebar Story by Don Roy Photos by James Pickett, January 2007 pg 117