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Hot Pursuit

Hot Pursuit
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HOT PURSUIT
By Lance Lambert

I admit it; I’m a police officer wannabe that thinks cops, and the cars they drive, are cool. This may be due, in part, by my father being a 25 year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department. During my childhood he would occasionally pick me up from school, or drop me off at a friend’s home, in various police cars. A few times I was allowed to push on the horn ring, causing the sirens to howl on these 1950’s era cruisers. My passion for old cars, police cars included, is probably due, in part, to this early exposure. For this reason I was very excited to attend an event that was specifically for emergency vehicles.

The local chapter of the Emergency Vehicle Owners & Operators Association (EVOOA) has a yearly event, held this year in Ellensburg, WA, at which the owners of decommissioned law enforcement vehicles gather to kick tires, compare cars and drive them like they are in hot pursuit. Several law enforcement agencies participate and several active and retired officers are EVOOA members. I was invited to attend with the understanding that I might consider featuring the 2009 EVOOA National Convention on the “Vintage Vehicle Show”, an internationally broadcast TV show that I produce and host. The 2009 convention will be held in Port Townsand and promises to be as much fun as this year’s event.

So what do the EVOOA members do at these gatherings?

The first night was a meet, greet and eat function where food, laughter and stories were enthusiastically shared and devoured. I felt totally accepted by the membership, perhaps due to my numerous stories of being a passenger in various police vehicles over the years, sometimes voluntarily.

The second day started with several cars gathering at the local State Patrol office for the beginning of a caravan to a nearby police driver training facility. Included in the lineup of “Black & Whites” was a Los Angeles Police Department 1956 Chevrolet, King County Sheriff 1966 Plymouth, California Highway Patrol 1967 Dodge, Seattle Police Department 1968 Plymouth and a Washington State Patrol 1990 Chevrolet. We were greeted at the driving facility, located at the Ellensburg Airport, by two Ellensburg police officers whose job it was to instruct us in the proper way to navigate the course. We first rode as passengers as they drove around the orange coned course in contemporary Ford police cars. Unfortunately for us, and a wise decision by them, we were not allowed to drive these cars. We were, however; encouraged to take the various “antique” police cars through the course.

My driving began in the California Highway Patrol 1967 Dodge. The first problem was the steering. This was a real arm buster that required arms better developed than mine. The second, and larger, problem was the horn ring. This danged thing was always in the way as I tried to muscle the steering wheel one direction or another. The owner stated that this was the way the car was equipped when it was a commissioned pursuit vehicle. Somewhere in the world there are a few police officers with early arthritis resulting from constant collisions with this ring of terror. Returning the car and commenting about the difficulty in steering resulted in an offer to drive Washington State Patrol 1990 Chevrolet. What a giant difference! This state trooper car had no similar horn ring, was much easier to maneuver, and was also much more powerful.

An officer offered to take me along as he drove through the nearby high speed course. The first time through was driven slowly as he explained what common mistakes are made during high speed driving; corners taken too wide or too tight, and frequently, too fast. Then he went through the course incorrectly to illustrate improper driving. There was a lot of tire howling and he stated that the more howling the more the car is trying to go sideways rather than straight ahead. Then he went through the course the correct way. It was almost like he had done this before! The car filled with excited and nervous laughter as I was tossed from side to side and the shoulder harness proved its usefulness.

After the track action we were given a great presentation by a group of firefighters who fly helicopters in their efforts to extinguish forest fires. Then the caravan drove to several tourists stops, visited an impressive private collection of restored 1950’s non-police cars and finished with a barbeque at one of the EVOOA member’s home. Included with the burgers were lots of stories shared between the members about past police vehicle related adventures. I, of course, shared with them my newly acquired driving skills that will, no doubt, result in me being asked to become an emergency vehicle driving instructor.
I’m sitting by the phone waiting for the call.