Cars We Remember column: Remembering those 1957 Dodge Hemi police cars used by the Missouri Highway Patrol
Q: Greg this is probably a weird inquiry of sorts so I guess a little history is in order I believe. In 1956 to 1960 I was attending college in Fulton, Missouri. At that time, the Missouri Highway Patrol (MHP) was using Dodge D-500 and D-501 patrol cars on the highways. I was told, by a fairly reliable source, that the MHP had procured approximately 600 of these cars for state-wide use, and, when a patrolman went off duty the car went with him and was not passed on to the next shift. I believe that the D-500 was a regular Hemi while the D-501 was the big Hemi with two four barrels.
At that time I was dating some University of Missouri students in Columbia and spent a lot of weekends there. On the US 40 Highway which went through town, there was a used car lot which always seemed to have several former Highway Patrol cars for sale, both varieties 500 and 501. I did stop one time to ask the salesman about the cars but the price for one of those Dodge Hemi (patrol cars) for a college student was out of my league.
The salesman did tell me it was the MHP policy that when a car reached a minimum of 25,000 miles it was traded in. I have no knowledge of whether this was true or not but he did say most of the cars did have relatively low mileage. With this knowledge of the vehicle’s background, and the popularity of the Hemi, I am quite surprised that I have never seen one of these vehicles for sale or, parts requested in publications like Auto Roundup or Hemmings Motor News. Perhaps the initial procurement was less than I was told and/or the procurement was not repeated. By the way, I am in the process of restoring a 1962 Chevy BelAir Wagon which is in my daughter’s barn in Fulton. It is indeed a rare bird for (non engine) parts, even repros. Not many wagons left as mine has only 87,000 original miles.
- Linn Schofield, Fulton, Missouri
A: Linn, thanks for your excellent letter about these powerful Dodge Hemi powered Police Pursuit D-500 and D-501 models. Back in 1957, the D-500 option was available on all of the full-size Dodge trims, from your Royal Lancer to the entry Coronet two-door. Still, few exist as you noted.
However, back in 1957 the Police Pursuit D-500 Dodge was very popular with law enforcement so much so that your Missouri Highway Patrol ordered 400 of them initially and a second order brought the total to 600, which you were told.
Additionally, there were actually three engines available in ’57 on the D-500 list including a 325-cubic inch Hemi V8 with 285 horses (single four-barrel Carter carb), a Super D-500 325-inch Hemi V8 with 310 horses (two Carter four-barrels) or a 354 Hemi with 340 horses and two four barrel carbs. This is the only year when two different size Hemi engines shared the D-500 option list. I was unable to locate any sales info on which of the D-500 engines made up the 600 that MHP ordered.
Although I’m not exactly sure about each state’s policy, many police departments did and still do allow the police and sheriffs to take home their cars when off duty. Also, your used car salesman was correct in that the police and highway patrol did turn over their cars after a few years and order new ones, with Dodge winning many of those fleet purchase agreements. I checked this week with the MHP, and they sell their fleet of current day Dodge Chargers once they hit 50,000 to 54,000 miles first to state agencies and then to the public if any are left unsold.
As for the 1957 D-501 engine, this was a very rare option and built solely for better performance at the NASCAR events. Supposedly, only 100 or so D-501’s were built in 1957 as they featured a solid-lifter 354-inch Hemi putting out 355 horsepower with two Carter four barrels. Only three are said to exist to this day and I would suspect the Missouri Highway Patrol did have access to some of these rare 501-optioned Dodges. As for the race cars, they were probably damaged beyond repair but if any exist, I’d bet they are not original and known as tribute cars.
I also remember that the 1957 and 1958 Dodges (and DeSotos, too) were great looking, very fast cars with those Hemi engines under the hood. I know personally how well these cars accelerated and that both single and dual four barrel versions existed. But as for the 501 engine, I don’t recall seeing one back then other than what I read about these special engines in the auto racing newspapers and magazines.
To summarize, the original 1957 D-500 came with a badge to the lower right side of the trunk indicating it was at the very least a 325-cubic inch Hemi V8 coming in either single or two four designs. If it was the 354 Hemi, also listed as a D-500 option, it came dressed with two fours and a hydraulic cam.
In ending, good luck with restoring your rare 1962 Chevy BelAir Wagon and please send us some photos when you get it finished. And you are correct about finding original or even repro pieces for those older wagons but it is well worth it as wagons and trucks are all the craze nowadays.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.