Ford Mustang SSP - For Special Service
More Than A Decade After Production Ended, Interest In Mustang Police Cars Is Still Strong
Mustangs have typically been cars for owners to enjoy as enthusiasts, but in the '80s and early '90s, Fox-body 5.0s were involved in important business. They were a key component for law-enforcement agencies around the country.
From 1982 to 1993, Fox 5.0s were used as police, or "official," cars for dozens of institutions nationwide, from state highway patrols to local city police forces to the U.S. Air Force, and even the FBI. About 35 states, including California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida, used Mustangs for various types of work.
What makes a Fox-body 5.0 a cop car? In general, Mustang police cars are different from regular 5.0s, mainly because of Ford's development of what's now known as a Special Service Package. These cars are also known as Special Service Vehicles (SSV), but today are more commonly referred to as the SSP.
In short, SSP 5.0s aren't average 5.0s, but some things about them are average. That is, many components in an SSP Fox-body are exactly the same as in all other 5.0s. We'll explain what makes an SSP Fox unusual, as well as try to dispel any ideas about SSP cars coming with fantasy parts such as engine upgrades, significant suspension advancements, four-wheel disc brakes, or anything else you may have heard.
Other first-rate resources on SSP Foxes include The Official Ford Mustang 5.0 Technical Reference & Performance Handbook by Al Kirschenbaum (available through Bentley Publishers, www.bentleypublishers.com), www.evoaa.org (click on Mustang Special Service Registry), and Mike Riley's www.sspmustang.org. Webmaster Riley put together an informative site that has a multitude of additional info on SSP 5.0s. It has an FAQ section, a gallery of cars, other feature articles, technical info, and even a cars-for-sale section. If you have questions about the cars or the site, write to Mike at email@example.com.
'82-'93 Special Service Package Particulars Standard EquipmentWith the supposed exception of one hatchback, all of the approximately 15,000 SSP 5.0s produced from 1982 to 1993 were the coupe/notchback body style with a trunk. This was an advantage for the Mustang compared to the '82-'02 hatchback Camaro since many agencies required their cars to have lockable enclosed trunks separate from the passenger area.
Standard components in SSP 5.0s varied only slightly in the 12 years these cars were made, but most came with the following equipment:* Glovebox trunk-release button relocated. Location varied. We knew of one '90 California Highway Patrol 5.0 where the button was located near the gauge-cluster bezel to the right of the driver. Others were located on the driver side.
* Oil-to-water sandwich-style engine oil cooler.
* External automatic-transmission-fluid cooler (on cars with AODs).
* Aircraft-style hose clamps.
* Heater-hose restrictor sleeve.
* Single-key locking system (doors, trunk lid, glovebox, and ignition switch all worked with one square key, eliminating the small round key or larger oval-shaped key also used).
* Specially reinforced front-seat backrests.
* Reinforced floorpans under front seats.
* Deleted underhood sound-absorber pad.
* Certified calibration speedometer ('82-'88 cars had the 140-mph unit, while '89-'93s had the 160-mph version).
* Black sidewall performance tires (see wheel and tire section for details).
* Fullsize spare tire and wheel.
OptionsIn addition to the SSP option, several others were available. Sometimes referred to as Dealer Special Order options, they included:* Silicone-rubber (blue) radiator hoses.
* Paint-stripe delete.
* VASCAR two-piece speedometer cable (second cable allowed VASCAR system to function, which determined speed difference between two moving cars and calculated another car's speed).
* Spare-tire-cover board.
* Radio noise-suppression package, consisting of special shielding on electric fuel pump, heater-blower motor, and windshield-wiper motor.
* 130-amp alternator.
* Inoperative interior courtesy-lamp switches. (In the previously mentioned '90 CHP car, the lights did work. They were turned on by moving the dashboard-light dimming wheel all the way to bright, then clicking through the detent to turn on the lights. This option kept the lights from coming on when the doors were opened).
* Door molding delete.
Body And Interior
SSP Mustangs were available in all standard production colors, and unmarked cars were ordered in a wide variety of standard colors. As mentioned above in "Standard Equipment," SSP cars came with floorpan reinforcement plates under the rear of the front-seat frame's fasteners. These welded-in lateral steel braces stiffened the floorpan and spread the seat load over a larger area.
Some SSP Mustangs were ordered with power windows and locks (though all the CHP cars we've seen had crank windows and no power locks). The '90 CHP reference car we've mentioned had crank windows and no power locks, but did have power-operated outside mirrors with the switch in the center console. Some states such as Oregon and Colorado even equipped cars with a rollbar.
Electrical And Cooling Systems
Mechanical subsystems in SSP Mustangs were upgraded for the rigorous duty of police work. This included electrical equipment and a number of updates for cooling components. The main electrical upgrade was one of two high-output alternators eventually made optional at different times of production. Beginning in 1987, a high-output Lestek unit was optional and was rated at 135 amps. It was used along with a Motorcraft external voltage regulator. For the '92-'93s, the Lestek component was replaced with a lower-cost Motorcraft 130-amp unit that also had an internal voltage regulator. A unique cast-aluminum bracket was used to mount the Motorcraft alternator to the engine. The optional noise suppression package was another upgrade mentioned above.
Cooling was also addressed with the SSP componentry. Upgrades were standard or optional for cooling of water, engine oil, and transmission fluid. Though the radiator was standard as used on all 5.0s, a unique fan clutch was used on SSP cars for improved cooling effectiveness. Silicone rubber coolant hoses were available as an option, though there was some debate as to whether they were any more durable than the standard hoses.
An engine-oil cooler became available in 1986 and was reportedly standard. It mounted between the engine-block filter pad and oil filter, thus it's referred to as a sandwich-type unit. Its presence required the use of a shorter oil filter to allow it to fit the cooler with adequate clearance.
SSP Mustangs equipped with an automatic transmission came standard with a transmission oil cooler. This unit was mounted on brackets fastened to the radiator core support forward of the A/C condenser, which was carried in front of the radiator.
There were no significant revisions in this area. There were no horsepower-enhancing modifications to any SSP Mustang 5.0L engines or durability upgrades to the T5 transmissions or 7.5- and 8.8-inch rearends. The trans-oil cooler for AOD-equipped cars was the only upgrade that pertains to the drivetrain in SSP 5.0s.
Suspension, Brakes, Wheels And Tires
All SSP Mustangs had standard front disc and rear drum brakes as found on all other V-8 Fox-body Mustangs. Contrary to rumors, there were no brake upgrades whatsoever from the factory for SSP-optioned 5.0s.
The story is almost the same for the suspension: Everything is the same as in all other Fox 5.0s, except for one thing. During the '92 model year, Ford began installing revised rear upper control arms with stronger upgraded bushings.