Rare 1949 Washington State Patrol car discovered

SEATTLE -- Washington State Patrol troopers affectionately called it the “Shoebox” for its compact profile.  Now, the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum is restoring a 1949 Ford sedan to its original grandeur.

It was kept covered in a garage in Westport for decades before being donated to the museum.  The unique black-and-white paint scheme was only used by the State Patrol for two years.  Back then, police didn’t even have lights on their roofs, just a 7-foot whip antenna for the radio.

Officer Jim Ritter, president of the Museum, said, “It’s ultra-special in that it was the first four-door sedan the State Patrol ever used and, even more important, that it was the first police package car ever manufactured in the U.S.”

It was built with heavy-duty brakes, a special suspension and a flathead V-8 engine with overdrive.

“I just spoke with an 87-year-old trooper last week who told me he could get this car up to a 110 mph," Ritter said. "This was the first car in 1949 that got up to 100 horse power, which doesn`t seem like much these days but back in ‘49 after World War II, that was a tremendously fast car.”

Maintenance records show it was assigned to the Ellensburg detachment.

Ritter says it’s a relic of a by-gone time.

“There was no cage at all in these cars," he said. "If they were going to transport a prisoner back in those days, they may just put the person in the front seat next to them with no handcuffs and transport them to the nearest detachment office. Law enforcement was very casual back then.”

Over the next year, volunteers will work on it in Ellensburg, where the museum does fleet maintenance on 16 other original police cars.  Once completed, it will be used for public education at various car shows, parades and community events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

If you would like to donate or help work on the restoration, go to www.seametropolicemuseum.org.