'Flashback:' It's a feat to maintain police museum's historic car fleet

YAKIMA COUNTY -- The Seattle Metropolitan Police museum's historic car fleet isn't housed in the Emerald City like most would think -- they actually call Eastern Washington home. We took the trek with Seattle Police Ofc. Jim Ritter to Yakima County for a firsthand ‘Flashback’ of these vintage police cars. “Many citizens and tourists around the Pacific Northwest have seen the police museum`s vintage patrol cars driving around and appearing at car shows, special events and parades for many years now. The police museum`s fleet maintenance facility in Yakima County is where most of the restoration and maintenance of these original police vehicles takes place.”

“Although many of the cars look new it takes a lot of work from dozens of people and businesses throughout the region to restore them to their original grandeur. A great example of one of the police museum's restorations is a 1978 original Washington State Patrol car with a Big Block 440, four barrel engine. This is really unique in it's the longest serving police car in state patrol history and in service from 1978 to 1988. Back during the time it was the fastest production vehicle ever made.” “Another special car is an original Seattle police vehicle from 1999. It's a Plymouth Grand Fury with a 318 engine and the old blue and white color scheme. What's unique about these is this was the biggest production run of police cars during the era. From 1981 to 1989 this was the only police car available." "After locating these cars, the police museum strips the interior, removes the engine and transmissions, sand blasts and paints the cars and replaces any other items that are in need of service. Once these cars are finally restored the biggest challenge is finding the original equipment that was issued during the era. This includes vintage police radios, sirens, spotlights, vintage light bars, vintage door decals and vintage exempt license plates some of which haven't been used in over 50 years." "At present time, the police museum`s fleet consists of 22 original patrol cars from 1949-2003. These classics are all donated to the museum and represent a variety of police departments including Seattle, Bellevue, the King County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Patrol, with our newest addition being a great 1980 Dodge St. Regis from the Tacoma Police Department." "The majority of these old police cars are very rare since most of the police production models were destroyed during the filming of the popular TV and movie chase scenes during the 1970's and 80`s such as 'Smokey and the Bandit' and 'The Blues Brothers'. A great example of this is an original 1977 Pontiac Lemans Enforcer used by the Washington State Patrol.” “Each individual patrol car that is discovered by the museum has its own unique story and some of these cars have been found as far away as New York, Nebraska and Arizona." "The only way possible to perform these restorations is from the generous donations of labor and materials from a variety of businesses that take pride in helping us with these projects. The Police Museum is instrumental in preserving the history of these vehicles for all to enjoy, so if you know of any original vintage police cars in your area or would like to donate your time or money please let us know at the website provided. I'm Ofc. Jim Ritter and this is Flashback.” To donate or if you have questions about the vehicle fleet or law enforcement history, email Ofc. Ritter at smpmuseum@aol.com To find out more about the museum, go to seametropolicemuseum.org