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1992 Mustang SSP

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by Joe Babiasz  More from Author

The Ford that Chased Porsches for a Living

Photography by Huw Evans

 

My, how things change. Who would have thought that a vehicle originally designed for high school speed demons would later be used by people who made their living writing tickets to speed demons. Enter, the 1982 Mustang Special Service Package known as the SSP. Until then, law enforcement agencies relied on full size GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles to fill the need of their agencies. But by the late ’70s they were experiencing problems with their vehicles. Most were either under powered or unreliable.

In the early ’80s the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was looking to replace its Camaro as their CHP vehicle. The Camaro had been part of their fleet from the late ’70s but was problematic, primarily because of the soft camshaft in Chevrolet’s 305 cubic-inch engine. At CHP’s request, Ford Motor Company built 406 Mustang SSP vehicles to be used as test beds for their high-speed pursuit car. All would have a four-speed transmission linked to Ford’s powerful for its time 5.0-Liter V8. These 406 vehicles would become a real world test to determine if the $6,800 Mustang SSP would stand up to severe use.

The SSP proved to be a quick and nimble police car. Built as a notchback only (except for five specially built hatchbacks for the CHP), all came with a 5.0-Liter V8. A number of specialty items were added for police use but for the most part the car was purely a stock Mustang 5.0-Liter. All cars received a “certified” 140 mph speedometer, anti-static bonding straps and a single key locking system as well as a few additional items necessary for police use. While it didn’t have much interior or trunk space, the outstanding handling and performance outweighed those few shortcomings. In fact, the CHP gave the car such rave reviews it became clear that Ford could possibly sell the Mustang SSP to other local, state and federal agencies. Its advantage was that it was not only 10 to 15 percent cheaper than other police cars, the Mustang SSP offered better fuel economy, reached 60 mph in about 6 seconds and had a top speed of 137 mph. Nothing, up until then, compared to it.

Powered by a 157 horsepower V8 engine, the 1982 Mustang SSP would outrun just about anything on the road. First year cars included any production transmission available on any 5.0-Liter Mustang and included a 7.5-inch rear-end with a 3.08 axle. Over the next three years horsepower increased as it did with all Mustang V8s. Because of excessive rear axle failures in early cars, the small diameter rear axle was discontinued and replaced with an 8.8-inch axle in 1986. The suspension system was standard Mustang as was the front disc, rear drum brake combination. For added reliability, a heavy-duty alternator, special radiator hoses, and recalibrated cooling fan eventually found their way into the package. By 1987 special purpose 10-hole rims were standard although they were replaced with black painted aluminum wheels mid-year 1990. Bright finished wheels were available as an option. By 1992 horsepower was upped 225. During the same year, the rear upper control arms were revised to include different durometer bushings.

Inside, the SSP was spartan at best. Early cars had roll-up windows and manual door locks. LX bucket seats were standard equipment. The severe use in the field identified several deficiencies with the front seats with the rearward front seat floor fasteners breaking through the floorpan. The problem was solved with all 1984 and subsequent models having a special plate welded to the floor. Broken seatbacks, another high frequency problem was corrected with additional welds placed on the seatback frame. The biggest downside to law enforcement was the inability to transport passengers in the back seat. Officers were typically required to call in an additional vehicle to assist.

Eventually over 60 local, state and federal agencies including the United States Airforce and the FBI would purchase nearly 15,000 SSP vehicles. Over the years, California ordered the most cars of any agency. With the coming of the new SN-95 platform, Ford ceased production of the Mustang SSP. Today, there are a growing number of people interested in owning and restoring police cars. How cool is it to ride up behind someone and have them do a quick look in their rearview mirror and see the roof lights? Now that’s cool.

 

Fuel For Thought

Who has a police car? Almost nobody.

Fast with great handling

Excellent car to move traffic over

Could be a money maker if you’re ready to break the law

 

Specifications

Number built – almost 15,000 during its 1982 to 1993 model year run

Construction – Unibody

Engine – 5.0 liter V8

Power/Torque – 225 horsepower, 300 lb-ft torque

Transmission – five-speed manual, four-speed automatic

Suspension front – independent modified MacPherson strut, coil springs with antiroll bar

Suspension rear – Rigid axle located by four trailing links, coil springs, antiroll bar

Steering – rack and pinion-power assisted

Brakes – front disc, rear drum brakes

Length/width/height – 179.6/68.3/52.1 inches

Wheelbase – 100.5 inches

Weight – 3,255 lbs.

0-60mph/quarter mile – 6.2 seconds, 14.8 seconds at 95.8 mph (www.carspectsdirectory.com)

Top speed – 125 mph est.

MPG – EPA Estimate: 16/22-mpg city/highway

Price – MSRP $13,422 for a 5.0 liter coupe, Today – $ 20,000

 

Insurance cost

Insurance cost is $220 per year for a $20,000 1992 Mustang SSP. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.

 

*Based on a quote from

Heacock Classic Car Insurance

www.heacockclassic.com

 

Engine

Powerful pushrod V8 with roots dating back to 1962. Many police departments put nearly 200,000 miles on their vehicles without an engine overhaul, a testament to the reliability of Ford’s long lasting small block. Law enforcement enjoyed the exceptional performance when chasing down speeders.

 

Handling

Handling was strictly standard Mustang. Keep in mind that this was much better than many departments’ full-size Plymouths and Dodges and better than Chevrolet’s Camaro. The only flaw was its ability to perform well in inclement weather. The Mustang SSP was more comfortable in the southern part of the United States that received little snowfall.

 

 

Alternative

Caprice police.jpg

1992 Chevrolet Caprice (9C1) Police Car

Number built – N/A

0-60/quarter-mile – 9.06 seconds, 16.89 seconds at 82.9 mph

Top speed – 133 mph

Price – MSRP unknown due to differences of local, state or federal requirement for the vehicle. Today – varies greatly depending on condition.

 

Alternative

Camaro.jpg

1992 Camaro (B4C) Police Car

Number built – N/A

0-60/quarter mile – 6.8 seconds, 15.1 seconds at 93.4 mph

Top speed – 152 mph

Price – MSRP unknown due to differences of local, state or federal requirement for the vehicle. Today – varies greatly depending on condition.

 

Strong Points

Great performance at a reasonable price

Unique vehicle

Fun to drive in public since you rule the road

Owners have a tight bond with the vehicle

Many were saved and restored

 

Weak Points

Many SSP cars have been worked hard and left to dry

Early cars have few options

Authentic OEM parts are expensive and hard to find

Many imitation vehicles for sale

 

Vehicle Category

Most owners love to show off their unique vehicles and drive them regularly. They are rarely tucked away in a garage until the next show. On the contrary, they continue to rule the highway with the unknowing public believing the fuzz is following them. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

What to pay

1992 MUSTANG SSP

MSRP – N/A

Low – $2,850

Average – $14,000

High – $20,000

*Based on prices from the Classic Cars and Parts Price Guide, fueled by NADA and available wherever Mustang & Ford magazines are sold.

 

Parts Prices

NOS engine oil cooler hose set $259.99

Replacement engine oil cooler (new) $299.99

NOS fan clutch $109.99

Replacement silicone radiator and heater hose set $109.99

NOS VASCAR 2-piece speedometer cable $299.99

NOS 160 MPH Certified Calibration speedometer $399.99

NOS trunk board $27.99

 

Performance Parts, Inc.

(703) 742-6207

www.performancepartsinc.com

 

Websites

www.copcar.com

www.policecarsight.50webs.com

www.policecararchives.org

www.policecarowners.com

www.specialservicemustang.net

www.sspmustang.org

www.evooa.org

 

Books

Encyclopedia of American Police Cars by Edwin J. Sanow

Ford Police Cars 1932 to 1997 by Edwin J. Sanow

Cars of the State Police and Highway Patrol by Monty McCord

Police Cars in Action by Robert Genat

Police Cars: A Graphic History by Bruce Cameron

 

Review

How many people can say they own a real cop car? Certainly some states restrict how many police particulars you can keep on the car but most are understanding and appreciate the work to keep these special cars on the road. The 1992 Mustang SSP was an example of the hard work and collaboration between a great domestic manufacturer and the various law enforcement offices. Owning and driving a Mustang SSP is a rare moment in the collector car world.

M&F

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