Sunday, July 3, 2011

20th Annual National Police Car Convention raids Kansas City.

The Smokeys were thick as bugs on a bumper when the Police Car Owners of America hosted their 20th Anniversary Convention in Kansas City over the Independence Day weekend. Police cars, both real and replica, came from all over the country to tour local landmarks, drive on scenic roads, and show off their public safety sedans.

I've always had a soft spot for police cars. For one thing, I don't believe in movies that don't involve at least one car chase where a minimum of 18 Gran Furys get trashed. But also, my dad had lots of Caprices and Impalas around when I was growing up, and my current car is a '96 Impala SS, all of which have a connection to the police cars that were derived from them.

I actually caught up with convention cars in three places. They were parked all around the square in Zona Rosa, where between sets at the free jazz concert they did a lights show. I also saw a couple of them at their host hotel, the Four Points Sheraton near the airport. And I caught them at the main event, the big police car show at the new Kansas City, Missouri Regional Training Academy.

This really was an interesting show. As you might expect, there was the usual gathering of late-model Ford Crown Victorias, front-wheel-drive Impalas, pursuit-worthy Tahoes, and copped-out Camaros.

But the older cars were really what caught my attention. For example, there was a '38 Buick Century California Highway Patrol car that was really restored nice. Even the tires were period-correct. This thing was as pretty as it was functional.

In the 1950s TV show Highway Patrol, actor Broderick Crawford is known for driving a black and white '55 Buick Century. But thanks to the magic of HULU, we can go back and see that in some of the earlier episodes, the chief actually rolls in a '54 Oldsmobile. And to that end, there was a more-than-suitable example of a '54 Olds CHP car on display. It really was nice, and a great way to restore an old sedan that may not have been as striking if you tried to make it a hot rod or even just stock.

Other Hollywood-inspired police cars on hand included a Buford T. Justice-worthy '77 Pontiac LeMans, and a very nice '73 AMC Matador that was meticulously restored in Adam 12 livery.

When I went to the hotel, there was a retired policeman there who was hanging out with his Model A Shay Roadster decked out with Kansas Highway Patrol badges. I incredulously asked him how a two-seat roadster could be considered a police car, and he informed me that the early KHP cars were, indeed, built in this configuration. He also mentioned that there might be another one at the show the next day, and sure enough, a real Model A Roadster, also with Kansas Highway Patrol identification, made its way on the grounds.

There was also a Missouri Highway Patrol '59 Dodge that was really striking, a mid-'70s Minnesota State Patrol Plymouth Fury that could have been on every TV show I ever watched, and a '74 Dodge Coronet San Diego County Sheriffs car that had a fantastic restoration and all kinds of great vintage police accessories.

All-in-all, this one of the more interesting car shows I've been to in awhile. I'm glad they chose Kansas City this year so we could have the opportunity to check them out. I'm leaving you with a pretty big slideshow, so you can check them out too.

Also, if you like this story, you might enjoy looking back on this one with several vintage factory photos of police vehicles over the years. Many of the cars depicted in this promotional material were actually featured at the convention.


  1. I own the Pontiac LeMans "Buford T Justice" special. I understand there may be another one just like mine in the KC Metro-area. Anyone know the owner? Thank you.

    PS-our club had a great time and thank you KC for hosting us!

  2. It was nice to see my 2002 black & white Camaro on your slide show. Garry M Walton
    I live in the UK but I try to get over each year to be with members of the P.C.O.O.A. A Great bunch of guys
    many thanks to all that made this year a great trip