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1949 Article Sedan Delivery Wagons as Patrol Jeeps

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images, Old News Articles

This April 16, 1949, article in the Portland Press Herald highlighted critic complaints about several new sedan delivery wagons purchased for use as police vehicles. There was some concern that these new patrol vehicles would be unable to catch modern hot rods. In response, the police chief reminded his critics that this was an experiment.

You will note that there is a black blotch covering a small portion of the second part of the article, but I don’t think anything important is lost with it there.

Clipping from Portland Press Herald - Clipping from Portland Press Herald -


5 Comments on “1949 Article Sedan Delivery Wagons as Patrol Jeeps

  1. Barney Goodwin

    As one who has retired both as a street cop and municipal service manager, let me provide some random insights here and in no particular order: In the early days of law enforcement – pre and post war – departments had to double up on responsibilities depending on the size. When I read that they needed a vehicle to serve as an ambulance, I took this as the key takeaway here. The days of “Throw-n-Go”. In a larger department, paddy wagons were in use to free up transports by patrol officers who then could stay on their beat. Some depts. still use them today. This wagon could serve that purpose. Concerning pursuits, the comments by the chief and “traffic inspector” show it was a liability issue then as now. The W wagons I know would be unsafe chasing someone at slow speeds even. Better to slow down the officer through training and discipline. And, unfortunately, it’s often about economics and budget. In the mid 70s – early 80s police administrators thought it was a brilliant idea to use Ford Fairmonts, Dodge Aspens and Chevy Novas for patrol cars to save on gas. What they saved on gas they lost on Workman’s Comp from officers dropping with bad backs from riding in these things all day. I was there and saw it. And finally, (and I’ve seen this too), Was the owner of the Willys dealer a close friend of the chief or mayor? Sometimes that is “more important” than the budget or safety of the officers.

  2. David Eilers Post author


    Thanks for the insights. I would have never thought about the back injuries just from bad seats. That said, driving/riding in cars has always irritated my back more than riding in a truck, jeep, or motorhome. Cars tend to lay me out a little bit more, while trucks get me to sit up. That’s one reason I’ve enjoyed the Jeep Grand Cherokee seats; they’ve always felt very supportive back-wise and prop me up in a truck-like way.

  3. Colin Peabody

    Mr. Goodwin makes excellent points about the use of the Willys Panels as police vehicles. I suspect the “dual purpose” mode was the impetus for buying the Willys products. They certainly weren’t made for speed and with their high center of gravity, their ability to take corners very quickly would lead to tipping over. Ambulance transport and paddy wagon duties would have been their best usage. In my early days in the mid 1960s, as an Arizona highway patrolman, local morticians were the ones who provided ambulance service in Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac station wagons primarily designed for the transport of dead bodies, where no first aid was administered other than what the highway patrolman administered at the scene. Those wagons had low rooflines, making it difficult for more than one patient and no room for anyone else who might have given medical care.
    The smaller compact cars of the 70s were more suitable for in city use than out on the interstates and two lane highways and most probably did lead to back problems of the officers who drove them, while wearing the gunbelts and protective gear they had to wear. Entry and exits were always a problem in the smaller cars. The police package equipped 75-77 Novas were the best handling, dependable and quickest of the compact cars.

  4. Mike

    In my humble, somewhat distorted opinion, The local Willys Dealership, had as they say in NJ, “A hook in the police dept.” Nothing new there, still happens today.

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