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2401 Crow Canyon Rd
San Ramon
Business Phone(925) 973-2700
Fax(925) 838-2925

The San Ramon Police Department’s classic 1952 Chevrolet “Police Vehicle” has a unique history all of its own. It all began with an idea by Sgt. Bill Abbey (retired in 1998) back in 1987, to create a unique display vehicle for the San Ramon Police Department and at no expense to the City of San Ramon. One of the police department’s vendors contacted Sgt. Abbey in the late summer of 1990 about a recent vehicle find in San Ramon. A home on Westchester Drive was sold and the former owners had left a vehicle abandoned in their garage. The vendor had been contacted to tow the vehicle away by the new homeowners.

1952 Chevy Police Car

The 1952, black, 4-door Chevrolet had last been registered for road use in 1962. Apparently the engine had “blown up” and it was subsequently parked in the garage. The vehicle was in very poor condition, so a lot of time, energy, and work would be needed to get it in running condition again. The vehicle was donated to our Police Department and the work began. A little bit of polish brought the paint job back to a respectful finish, so no additional painting work was required at that time. We also had several fundraisers and solicited donations for the project, since we knew funds would be required to complete the work on the vehicle.

The original engine (216 c.i.), transmission and rear-end were not only seized up, but were deemed to be unsatisfactory for any type of current driving and reliability uses. Through personal contacts, a wrecked 1975 Chevrolet Camaro, 6 cyl. (235 c.i.) vehicle was located that still had all sound drive train components. The wrecked vehicle was donated to the police department and towed to Sgt. Abbey's home. A lot of off-duty time was put into removing the old engine, transmission and rear-end and then replacing it with the 1975 Chevrolet engine, transmission and rear-end. The cooling system was also updated to a newer, high pressure system, including a heavy-duty truck radiator equipped with electrical fans. Once the changeover was complete, the vehicle fired immediately at the key’s first turn.

The next concern was to locate photos of 1950’s police vehicles. Research was done and various photos were located showing how the police vehicles of that era were equipped. We contacted many emergency equipment vendors and started the search for the necessary 1952 emergency vehicle equipment. Some equipment were located in the eastern part of our country and needed to be purchased; some were located in old abandoned equipment stockpiles (other police departments) and donated to our project. The “growler fender siren” was located on an abandoned 50’s style police boat that was wrecked and being salvaged in Texas. So, the search for parts was nationwide.

Once all of the parts were located and on site, the 52’s top was painted white (making it a classic “Black & White” police car) and the rest of the emergency equipment installation was started with donated time and material. About the same time, San Ramon Police Reserve Officer Jim Vance donated enough funds to replace the vehicle’s interior (carpeting, headliner, door panels and seats). We have attempted to keep the “classic 50’s” look of the police vehicle, while making it functional for modern police work if ever required. Our 1952 Chevy was beginning to fully come together in the fall of 1993. The emergency vehicle decals are the same decals originally used on San Ramon’s police vehicles when we incorporated in 1983. Four 15” white sidewall tires were located and also donated for the project by a local tire vendor.

Our vehicle saw its first event as a “lead attraction” in December 1993 when it starred in the City’s Annual Christmas Parade. Since then, the vehicle has been displayed at over 175 events, many of which are statewide, as well as local events. The idea, which began in 1987, continues on today, with new upgrades being planned and implemented to keep our 1952 Chevrolet rolling and a credit to the legacy of historical police vehicles and the San Ramon Police Department.