In the constant battle against car crime, police forces around the world need the very latest and best equipment to stay one step ahead of road users that are out to do no good. And that includes the cars they drive.
Like most crime-fighting, prevention is better than cure and the right police presence will often diffuse a situation before it turns nasty. That’s why, every now and then, a police force will reveal a borderline ridiculous patrol car.
Don’t expect to see these amazing crime-fighting cars engaging in a pursuit or real front-line battle unless they absolutely have to, but they do serve as an amazing visual deterrent for anyone thinking about bending the rules on roads around the globe.
Have a look at some of our favourite police cars from nine nations around the world and ask yourself - would you try your luck?
Perhaps the most ostentatious and arguably well-funded traffic police fleet in the world, Dubai is often front and centre when it comes to outrageous machinery wrapped up in the green and white livery. And while it can claim to have one of the world’s fastest cars in its ranks, if you read on, you’ll see that some other countries come close.
Top of the Dubai pack has to be its Bugatti Veyron - a multi-million dollar, ultra-exclusive dream machine that once held the title as the world’s fastest production car. Arguably useless as a law enforcement car but once this rocket locks on to your bumper, it’s safe to say you won’t be losing it.
For something with a little more practicality, the Dubai police can call on a Ferrari FF. With a second row of seating, a decent boot with folding seats and monstrous V12 power, this iconic Italian is fast and versatile. Just don’t expect to see it used as a canine response vehicle or divvy van.
For those days when the Veyron is having its four turbos serviced, the Dubai coppers can call on a Lamborghini Aventador complete with ridiculously ostentatious scissor doors and 6.5-litre, high-revving V12.
Or what about an ultra-rare Aston Martin One 77? With only 77 of these beauties rolling around the world, the Dubai force can certainly claim to have the most museum-worthy collection of cars dressed up in uniform.
But equivalent examples from fleets around the world might get you just as excited…
On home turf, of course, there have been the more recent high-profile police acquisitions made necessary by the end of locally made muscle cars, including a fleet of Kia Stingers, BMW 5 Series and the decidedly muscly Chrysler 300 SRT.
But what about some of the more exciting and lesser-known cop cars over the years? Lexus once got its flash of blue light and an RC-F that did a shift with the New South Wales police.
A 5.0-litre atmo V8 provided ample power to keep up with wayward Commodores and added a gorgeous soundtrack to it.
Honda also loaned a Civic Type R for community service. It might not have the outright power of the big V8s but its incredibly sharp chassis and 228kW 2.0-litre turbo engine would be very hard to lose in the right hands.
Speaking of which, Audi’s RS4 in the previous generation guise was perhaps the perfect all-rounder with a high-revving atmo V8, epic all-wheel-drive grip and a big boot for all that cop kit, but it wasn’t the most barmy cop car to roll on Aussie tarmac.
That title has to go to this car - the Giocattolo (below). This insane mid-engined, very low volume Aussie-made machine that took the Alfa Romeo Sprint as its basis and added a 2.5-litre Alfa V6 midship.
Later, supply problems meant the switch to a true blue 5.0-litre Holden V8.
Only 15 were completed with one example enjoying a tenure in police livery. Probably best to keep these monsters out of the hands of all but the professionals.
Okay, full disclosure: The police wouldn’t have dreamed of taking on one of these manic machines and the one you see here was dressed up as a publicity stunt by the car’s maker and was strictly confined to the track.
Of course, Aussie cops didn't have to go far to find the ideal highway patrol cruiser. The Holden VF Commodore SS-V and this HSV Gen F2 GTS offered an excellent mix of performance, range and practicality and terrified many drivers through their rear-view mirrors. Any wonder why police forces around the country are hanging on to them aslong as they can.
The UK is a nation of car lovers and there are few better petrolhead barometers than the cars necessary to catch them. In the mid-1980s the Poms recruited a Ford RS200! This incredible car was an homologation special as part of the now outlawed Group B rally series.
At the time it was motoring nirvana and is still wickedly fast as a point-to-point car to this day thanks to a mid-mounted turbo four-cylinder that pumped out 186kW and a kerb weight of just 1050kg. It's amusingly seen here having pulled in a Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth - another car the UK police have previously used.
At one point, the early 1990s Ford Escort Cosworth was the most stolen car in the UK. I guess that’s why the English police bought one of its own.
Also a rally homologation special but this time for Group A, the ‘Cossie’ was an icon to tuners and Ford fans all over the world. Some loved it, others loved to hate it, all respected it.
When technology and time superseded the Cosworth, the police moved on to other blisteringly quick turbocharged all-wheel-drive kit, including this Subaru Impreza WRX - another car made famous by rally success. That grip and poise translated to excellent pursuit potential on the public road.
There can be few production cars as capable of evading unwanted attention than the incredible Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. That’s why the ol' Bill wanted it on their team. With such an affordable bang-for-buck price tag, this model was the perfect car for the UK police to go after fast crooks without attracting criticism of over-spending tax-payers money.
But it’s fair to say the budget did get blown a little with this next acquisition - a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Actually, like many of the most expensive cars in this series, this Fez was on loan as part of a road safety campaign and its job was to attract attention without having to break a sweat chasing criminals.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Keen to show off the engineering excellence of England’s cottage sportscar industry, one police force dressed up an example of the ultra-bantamweight Ariel Atom. But even that was outdone.
By this. The Caparo T1 is still one of the fastest ‘road’ cars to date, let alone to have been recruited into law-enforcement. With a Menard 3.5-litre race V8 developing 429kW and a kerb weight of less than half a ton, this is the fastest police car on track to date.
There have been enough iconic US law enforcement machines to compile an encyclopedia all of itself so lets stick to some lesser-known and more surprising examples from America’s history.
The Mustang hasn’t always been the sharp, high-performance sportscar it is today. There once was a time when it resembled little more than a boxy, two-door with the performance to match its dower looks.
Don't worry, it got better.
What the hell is a Bricklin SV-1? said everyone who ever saw one. With its unapologetically 19702 wedge styling, you’d be forgiven for thinking this low-volume US-made sports car was all about performance at the cost of everything else.
Actually, with a prominent safety cell, roll-over protection and high-impact absorbing structures front and rear, its designer Malcolm Bricklin touted it as safe first and foremost. SV-1 stands for Safety Vehicle.
Unlike the Mustang above, at least when Chevrolet made its partnership with Michigan State Police, it was with the striking Camaro RS. It’s photographed here with a slightly quicker looking F/A-18 Hornet of the Blue Angels air display team.
Unsurprisingly, American cars feature heavily throughout police car history so how about this for a bit of balance? When sold in Europe this B2 Audi was the 90 quattro, in Australia, the 5+5 but in the USA it was the 4000.
S versions got front drive and a 1.8-litre engine but the CS got quattro four-wheel drive and a 2.2-litre five-cylinder. Perfect for snowy police duty in chilly parts of North America.
Interestingly, this next concept was not developed as a general show car and then later dressed up in uniform. The Carbon E7 was designed and intended to only serve as a police car from the outset - much like a Geely London Taxi.
A former police officer and former Ford executive formed the Californian company and, if successful, the E7 would have been the world’s first purpose-built police car. Unfortunately the company failed to produce a production version despite some promising contracts and it folded in 2013.
And we’ve saved the best for last. Many Americans proudly watched this mighty law enforcer cruise by not realising it was Australian as Skippy marking a pig-skin at the AFL Grand Final.
The Chevrolet Caprice patrol car that saw widespread service in the US was developed by Holden'engeneering team in Victoria and built in South Australia.
As one of the world’s leading high-performance car providers, you might expect some seriously cool cars patrolling Germany's autobahns, and you would be quite right.
Porsche’s 356 B Cabriolet is a universal classic revered by fans from the day it rolled out as a new model in 1964. But how unbelievably cool is this version that was prepped as a police car in the same year?
Although this car is very German in origin (and the Polizei on its bonnet suggests is a German-serving version), 12 were bought by the Dutch police as highway patrol vehicles too.
BMW’s E36 M3 is still a potent and rewarding driver’s car to this day but a handful were converted into police cars in the 1990s.
While Australia was only offered the Coupe and Convertible, the Europe and UK four-door sedan made for the perfect practical and ballistic autobahn-storming model.
If you don’t already love German car culture and the nation’s attitude towards speed then how about this? Each year, the 'Tune it! Safe!' car show invites participants to show off responsibly modified cars.
When the German police gets involved (and they are proud supporters and advocates) this is what results …
Running since 2005, the safe and reliable tuner’s event showcases some incredible car art. And all of it is road-legal and responsible.
And while you might expect Italy’s pride to get in the way of good engineering sense, the military police once took delivery of a very British Lotus Evora S.
That said, so did the English cops.
The Swiss might be more known for impartiality rather than octane-hunting rev-heads, but they still have a couple of notable automotive police appearances to their name.
While much is celebrated about the later 1970s 323i, the Swiss were among the first to welcome BMWs game-changing 3 Series into its police stables. This is the very early 320, which was powered by a carburettor version of the four-cylinder M10 engine in 1975.
The model went on to define the high-performance executive sedan segment and the rest is history.
While a number of police forces have initiated examples of BMW’s i8 hybrid sports car into the ranks, the Swiss took its i3 baby brother instead.
You might have spotted a blue-lighted version of the Renault Megane RS flying around French streets, but the diamond badge’s relationship with the gendarmerie started many years ago.
Way back in the 1960s, an Alpine A110 served as a pursuit car, then the brand once again picked up its badge when the A310 launched in the 1980s.
Some predict the police will once again join forces with the Renault-owned brand now there’s a new A110 homage in town. We think so too.
And the godfather of Renault hot hatches also once pulled on a uniform with the 1976 Renault 5 Alpine Turbo you see here. Along with these little feisty numbers, the GT Turbo and mid-engined 5 Turbo sparked a generation of affordable turbo hatchbacks.
Last and possibly most, Japan’s police forces can brag some of the most eye-opening law-enforcement models throughout history and not all of them from native manufacturers.
In the early years of the legendary 911, four examples of the entry-level 912 were acquired by the Japanese police to help curtail illegal street racing. The cars were retrofitted with loudspeakers, better rear-view mirrors, lights and increased safety through reinforced seats and belts.
The Porsche had a Japanese partner in the force with a beautiful generation-one Nissan Silvia (CSP311).
However, the high-performance German coupe and Japanese duo wasn’t enough to stop the street duelling and it was followed by a succession of potent cars marked in the striking black and white, to try and keep up with the advancing amateur racers.
Not long after, this Nissan 240Z signed up, an R31 Skyline joined the fight later still. Not that you can immediately tell their brand with the original maker’s badge replaced by the Japanese national police gold star emblem.
Other brands have lent high-performance hardware to the Japanese crime-stopping effort. Mitsubishi served with its technologically sophisticated 3000GT.
Mazda had a run with its FD RX-7 adding iconic rotary power to chase racers with sequential twin turbocharging and a very capable chassis.
Add to that a Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R, and you've got some seriously legendary Japanese metal prowling the streets.
But this is a comprehensive collection of the marked law-enforcement vehicles that we know of around the planet. When you're out on the road anywhere in the world, behave.
You'll never know if that hot car behind you is one of the incredible police cars that doesn't give away its identity until it's too late.
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