December 1, 2008

Bruce MacMillian of West Hartford, Connecticut, got frustrated hunting a Fox-body Saleen to share with his oldest son (turning 15 in December). Prices and availability were not the greatest in the Northeast. When he ran across a '92 5.0L SSP coupe (no rust, a North Carolina car) for sale on Craigslist, he changed horses in midstream. He wrote, "I was aware of the SSP cars, and the stories behind them intrigued me."

Bruce has owned an '03 GT and a heavily modded Redfire '05 GT; he presently owns an '07 Shelby GT (which he is sending to the Tasca Shelby Mod Shop in Rhode Island for installation of a supercharger).

The thing is, the '92 SSP was a fun project car and in his price range at four grand. During a trip to Massachusetts, Bruce and his wife took a side trip to see the SSP. "We pulled in and there it was, parked in the driveway in the mud by the side of a house." The owner couldn't be there to show the car but gave Bruce permission to look it over. The door tag revealed the SSP status of the vehicle, as did two buck tags on the radiator core support under the hood. One listed "Police" for the DSO.

Bruce got out his digital camera and took pictures of the car as it sat. He also snapped images of details, including the tags. The odometer showed 188,000 miles. The dashboard was in the back seat. Apparently, the current owner had changed the heater core. "I got back in the car and my wife was like, `There's no way you are buying that,' and I'm like, `It's pretty cool.'"Of course, despite the bad looks, the SSP was a great Rare Find overall, primarily because the entire car appeared to be 100 percent rust free. "I got home and was thinking about it, so I called [the owner]. I said the car was pretty rough. It's a little rougher than I thought." Bruce bartered the owner down to three grand and took the car. The engine fired up and it sounded and ran great. Once Bruce had the car, he was very curious to figure out where, if, and when it had been in service.He said, "I had no idea if it was in service, but I bought it anyway. I spent probably a month and a half tracking down where it had served before I started tearing it apart. The North Carolina state police highway patrol helped me a great deal." They ran the title and discovered the car belonged to a Roy Carpenter, chief of police in Stem, North Carolina. Bruce Googled his name and the town and found a phone number. He left a message and was surprised to receive a call back. The chief was very friendly and helpful. He recalls the chief saying, "Boy, what is my car doing in Connecticut?"

The chief told Bruce how he ordered the Mustang, including all the equipment. This included the K-55 radar, "Wigwags" on the front headlights, strobes behind the front grille, and little strobes in the back window that looked like speakers. Of course, none of this equipment was still with the Rare Find, but Bruce has been tracking down the parts. There was, of course, a police radio and a scanner and an old bag-style cell phone. Maybe the most interesting "extra" was a German Shepherd that rode in the back seat with Carpenter. Roy asked if Bruce found dog hairs in the back seat. Bruce said yes. On disassembly, Bruce also found one of Roy's business cards under the carpet.

SSPs are hot 5.0L coupes. They had reinforced floorpans, a heavier-duty suspension, and even special silicone hoses for durability. Bruce believes these heavy-duty features made SSP cars candidates for race cars. This SSP has an automatic transmission as well as 3.55 gears in the 8.8 rear axle. It's a "kick" to drive on the street. It still runs great, despite the 188,000 miles.

Carpenter retired in 1999. His department was disbanded and taken over by the local Sheriff's office, and his unmarked police car was sold. Bruce is putting it back to original, as an unmarked car.

NOTE: Please send Rare Finds leads to jerry@jerryheasley.com. We're looking for the classics and later models: Mustangs, Fords, Mercurys, and more. Always take pictures of the car as it is found if possible. Make sure your digital images are large/hi-res for print use. Instead of emailing pictures to Jerry, try his new photo drop site at http://drop.io/jerryheasley. The page will be self-explanatory.