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Top 10 cop cars of all time

  • Story Highlights
  • Officers laud the Dodge Charger Hemi's performance and versatility
  • Italian Police often drive the Lamborghini Gallardo
  • Paul Anderson found police cars to smash up in Blue Brothers film
  • Detectives drive Daytona Spyder 365 in the first two "Miami Vice" series
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By Craig Howie
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(AOL Autos) -- Ever get the feeling the cops are driving a much cooler car than you?

Peter Falk's Liutenant Columbo drove a Peugeot 403 to match his famously disheveled detective persona.

Peter Falk's Liutenant Columbo drove a Peugeot 403 to match his famously disheveled detective persona.

For decades drivers have seen police officers cruise past in supremely cool cars from supercharged Mustangs to upgraded AMC Javelins and beyond, while modern police units often consist of high-powered Dodge Hemis and, in one incredible instance, a Lamborghini.

Cops or detectives portrayed on TV and in the movies are no different, often driving fatter rides than the drug-dealers they pursue. But which are the coolest cop rides of all time, real or fictional? Let's take a look.

Dodge Charger Hemi

One of the original muscle cars favored by Blue Mountain moonshine and marijuana smugglers to outrun the boys in blue in the 1970s got a swift turnaround a couple years ago with Dodge's earth-shattering introduction of the new Charger, its Hemi engine and its use by police forces across the nation.

Officers generally compare it favorably with standard Crown Victoria vehicles and laud its performance and versatility (which I can vouch for having tested the stock R/T last year); upgrades for police use one include steering, brakes and idle-time chip.

Almost all are 5.7-liter Hemi variants, which put out a whopping 368hp and top out at 170 mph. AOL Autos: Dodge Charger

'Knight Rider's' Ford Mustang GT500KR

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Forget David Hasselhof's Speak-n-Spell-voiced Trans-Am, we're talking serious muscle with Ford's monstrous Ford Mustang GT500KR that featured in last year's ill-fated reworking of "Knight Rider," a model I also ragged around Los Angeles port about this time last year (and was very careful not to attract the attention of harbor authorities).

The most powerful stock car Ford has built, the Shelby variant seethes and stomps its way to a mile a minute in about the same time as a Corvette but shades it for fun thanks to its astonishing 480lb-ft of torque at 4500rpm and solid-axle rear suspension that allows the back end to fly out on fantastic cop-car action sequences.

Trivia: K.I.T.T., the 1980s original smartcar, stands for Knight Industries Two-Thousand. AOL Autos: Ford Shelby GT500

Italian Police Lamborghini Gallardo

Want to make the 424 miles from Turin to Rome in under three hours? Italian police long ago caught on to the race-driver fanaticism of its citizenry thanks in large part to Ferrari -- and perhaps less so to Fiat -- and its polizia made sure they could keep up earlier this year by springing for a Lambo, perhaps the most incredible police vehicle on the planet.

Alongside undeniable performance, this specially equipped supercar offers real-time wireless image-and-voice transmitting equipment and a natty cooler for storing crime scene evidence.

Initial reports suggest the Gallardo's reliability stands up to punishing police driving habits on Italian autostradas surprisingly well. AOL Autos: Lamborghini Gallardo

Steve McQueen 'Bullitt' Ford Mustang GT

Long before the Cooler King was the main man to seek out at tailgate parties, Steve McQueen took the nickname and turned on a whole generation to the muscle of the Mustang in his 1968 GT 390 Fastback that bounced and careened around the streets of San Francisco, California, in perhaps the era's coolest film, and one which regularly tops the charts of best car chase captured on celluloid.

The film pioneered cutaway shots of McQueen, an avid rally driver, as he put the big-block pony through its paces in the 10-minute scene but, unusually for the King of Cool, the main star here was his car. Ford released a limited-edition Bullitt commemorative model in 2008. AOL Autos: Ford Mustang

Green Hornet 1966 Chrysler Crown Imperial

With some suggesting a movie remake of the 1960s cult series is in the works, attention now focuses on what will take the place of the "Green Hornet's" 1966 Chrysler Crown Imperial, famously driven by Bruce Lee (in his role of Kato).

While the angular and rectangular Black Beauty pioneered gizmos like infrared lights, rocket launchers and flipper license plate more associated with Bond's Aston Martin, it was always Lee and not Van Williams, the Hornet, who got the pleasure of tilting the car onto two wheels to get through narrow alleyways and other criminal hang-outs.

Keep your eyes out for the latest movie developments, which may or may not -- but should -- include the famous line: "Let's roll, Kato!"

1970s Pony Cars

Judging by the huge rims and lowered suspensions on the Chevy Tahoes currently patrolling Santa Monica beachfront, police departments often like to drop a hint of style and attitude in their rides, too.

In the 1970s, decade of Aviator sunglasses and massive sideburns, it was no different. Officers to this day talk about the series of high-performance police vehicles that includes Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Mustangs and the legendary AMC Javelin, all stock V8 power with upgraded brakes and steering that packed more muscles than Bubba in Cell Block D.

Most of these specially built units topped out near 150 mph and were especially prized for their straight-line capabilities while an officer in pursuit bumped and nudged his target vehicle in a bid to force them off the road. AOL Autos: Chevy Camaro

"Miami Vice" Ferrari Testarossa

The ultimate in machismo cool in its day, though now considered slightly cheeseball, Crockett and Tubbs defined 1980s New Wave slick with their boss combo of boats, 'Bans and Miami Beach swagger.

Though the Daytona Spyder 365 driven by the dynamic detectives in the first two series was a kit car replica of various Ferrari panels and equipment bolted onto a Corvette chassis, the twin Testarossas that feature in the later series were donated by Enzo Ferrari, a fan of the show (with an obvious gift for marketing).

The Testarossa would go on to define the Ferrari brand in United States in the 1980s, while a strange breed of setose men in linen suits with no socks can still be spotted in corners of Ford Lauderdale to this day. In director Michael Mann's 2006 movie, the Testarossa morphs into a suitably stylish F430.

Magnum PI 308GTS

As if Don Johnson wasn't enough 1980s for one list, we add Tom Selleck to the mix in his role as "Magnum P.I." without forgetting how much Selleck's silky mustache and coiff did for sales of his trademark targa Ferrari 308GTS in the States.

Mid-engined and with the smaller wheelbase common to Ferrari's of the period, 308s sold in record numbers for Ferraris and can still be seen on roads today, indicating that Scaglietti build quality can withstand some serious highway pounding that belies its lightweight fiberglass frame.

Selleck steered his on the mean streets of Hawaii, tracking criminals in his role as a private investigator. Not a police vehicle, you say? Selleck's mustache qualifies him as an honorary police officer in my book any day.

Columbo's Peugeot 403

"And one more thing..." wraps up our list with Peter Falk's Liutenant Columbo reveling in a dilapidated Peugeot banger to match his famously disheveled detective persona. France's finest prancing lion, a 1.5 liter four-cylinder that put out a mere 68hp, was a perfect fit with Falk's seemingly slow-witted persona that ultimately always got his man in the end.

Similarly, the 403, which Columbo delighted in driving the drop-top variant, was a vital cog in Peugeot's dominance of its domestic and European market with a series of idiosyncratic cars beloved by their followers but which remained a Columbo-esque mystery to their detractors.

I had the pleasure of driving an excellent Peugeot 307 cabriolet next to a vintage 403 at a motor show in Europe a couple years back, and felt a slight pang that I wasn't wearing a shabby raincoat to match.

Blues Brothers Interceptor Mashup

Everyone knows the Blues Mobile -- Jake and Elwood's 1974 Dodge Monaco in "The Blues Brothers" movie -- but few know where all the cop cars famously smashed to pieces in the film came from.

Paul Anderson, a journalist in Los Angeles, says it was his dad, also Paul, a Chicago, Illinois, police radio engineer who was tasked with fixing up the Dodge Polaras and Monacos wrecked in the film (with the Chicago city council spurred into action by the possibility of Steven Spielberg and John Landis coming to their city to make a big-budget movie).

He once recounted to Paul: "I just remember one day my boss, the lieutenant who always gave me a hard time, came to me and pointed to the auto graveyard where all the out-of-service squad cars were and said, 'See all those cars? Your job is to get them started.'

I said, 'Are you kidding?'" Paul adds: "[My Dad] had a savant-like ability to rescue beaters from near-death experiences. When the movie came out, he went to see it like everyone else and he could remember each and every one of those cars."

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