This car is the one that says ‘police car’ to me more than any other. Growing up in the 1980s, the Rock Island Police Department drove black and white Diplomats. And when Officer Friendly visited our school when I was in first or second grade, he was driving one of these.
The Dodge Diplomat initially appeared as a corporate cousin to the new, Seville-sized and very Seville-like 1977 Chrysler LeBaron. The car itself was essentially a 1976-80 Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré with fresh sheetmetal, plusher interiors, and more upscale aspirations.
Designated M-body from the Aspen/Volaré’s F-body, it was initially available in coupe, sedan and wagon vesions. But as the ’80s dawned, the newly-minted K-car took precedence as the volume model, and the Diplomat became sedan-only, all the better to take advantage of its popularity as a taxi cab and police car. 1981 was the last year for the coupe and station wagon.
For most of the ’80s, the Diplomat, along with its near identical sibling, the Plymouth Gran Fury and cross-town rivals, the Chevrolet Impala and Ford LTD/LTD Crown Victoria, ruled police fleets.
From ’82 to the final year these were available, 1989, these were essentially the same. ’89s, however, were one of the first Chrysler Corporation models to gain a driver’s side air bag. The equally long in the tooth Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon got them, too! Civilian versions were always available, right to the end, but not commonly seen.
The M-body Chrysler Fifth Avenue, with its huge padded formal top, wire wheel covers, and Corinthian leather (or button-tufted velour!), was the retail darling.
In 1984, however, a more upscale Diplomat (even the uplevel Diplomat Salon well nigh screamed ‘police car’, despite whitewalls, full wheel covers and vinyl roof) was introduced, the Diplomat SE.
Utilizing the Chrysler Fifth Avenue’s ‘upside down’ headlamp doors and parking lamps, the Diplomat SE had a much plusher interior as well. Though it never really outshined the Broughamtastic Fifth Avenue sales-wise, it was a nice upgrade from the non-fleet version.
In fact, only the SE was shown in dealer brochures from 1985-89. Though the Salon was still available, it didn’t merit photographs in the brochure anymore, though it did get a single, small photo in the ’84 brochure.
Our featured car today is a remarkably clean and tidy 1985 Dippy, with the police package. Per the ad: “This vehicle has an original 28,500 miles. (May go up slightly ) ( Never used in police service ) Power windows, locks, rear defrost, coldest a/c I have ever felt and still charged with r 12 as far as I can tell.” While the car certainly looks good, I’m automatically wondering about the mileage, as these still had a 5-digit odometer.
I’ve seen so many sale ads on old cars, and they almost always say things like “55K original miles!” But of course, unless the car has a six-digit odometer, once said old car hits 100,000 miles, it will reset back to all zeroes. Doesn’t mean it’s true in this case, but without a full service history, who knows? It certainly looks to be in excellent condition. I thought it odd that a police Dippy would have power windows, but a friend of mine told me it was actually pretty common back then.
I always liked the looks of these. While they weren’t truly full-sized like the Ford and Chevy police packages, it was still a nice package, and certainly popular. The RIPD used them right up until late 1990, when they were replaced with the redesigned 1991 Chevrolet Caprice. The big Chevy dealer in Milan, Bob Erickson, had all the decommissioned black and white Diplomats for sale on their lot shortly afterward, and I remember seeing them every once in a while in traffic. The last time I saw one of those ex-RIPD Diplomats was probably around 1995-97.
Anyway, it’s currently on Atlanta craigslist, and also on the electronic bay. Now, true factory police Diplomats and Gran Furys don’t exactly grow on trees in The Year Of Our Lord 2019, but 15K seems high to me. But it’s still a real time capsule and a cool ’80s vintage Mopar! Thanks to Jason Augustyniak for alerting me to this machine!