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Classic Sheriff's Car Catches the Eye

Classic Sheriffs Car Catches the EyeFor automotive purists, the mechanics are a thing of beauty and simplicity

BENNINGTON - If you happen to drive by the Bennington County Sheriff's office on Route 7, a relic from the past could likely catch your eye.

Passersby have been drawn to an antique car out front - specifically, a 1950 Ford set up as a vintage police cruiser.

"People think it's great," retired Bennington County Sheriff Gary L. Forrest, who purchased the car nearly three decades ago, said Friday. "They love to see how things used to be."

The cruiser has been a real hit with motorists driving by, according to Bennington County Sheriff Chad Schmidt.

"There are a lot of people who drive by and stop to take pictures," said Schmidt, who has a clear view of the cruiser from his office. "It's definitely something people enjoy."

The car began its life as a passenger car, Forrest said, and he purchased the car with Captain John Zink in the mid 1980s with the intent to show it in the annual Bennington Battle Day parade.

Apart from the cosmetic changes and additions, along with general maintenance, "it was in the same shape it's in right now," Forrest said.

The pair found vintage parts from the 1950s and '60s, including a siren, a radio and a radar unit.

Forrest reupholstered the interior himself. One friend painted pin striping and another over the years regularly tuned up the engine.

The old Bennington County Sheriff Department location was on Lincoln Street, a dead-end, Forrest noted. So with no traffic to see the car, it was garaged and taken occasional to car shows and parades.

It was recently taken out of the garage and parked out front of the department on Route 7.

The cruiser is vastly different from the sheriff's modern-day fleet. Today, the department uses mainly Chevrolet Impalas, some Ford Crown Victorias and is about to take delivery of two new Ford Explorer Interceptors.

"There's a big difference between what we have today and what we had then," Schmidt said.

An oversized steering wheel makes up for the lack of power steering. The key to keeping cool in the summer without air conditioning? Windows.

And today, laptops are standard in all of the department's cars.

But for automotive purists who have gasoline in their veins, the Ford's mechanics are a thing of beauty and simplicity. Its 3.7 liter flathead six cylinder engine, factory rated at 95 horsepower, still has the original 6-volt electrical system.

"When you open the hood on this car, you can tell exactly what's wrong," Forrest said. Individual parts are straight forward and visible and any homegrown mechanic could do maintenance in their own driveway.

"But if you were to open the hood on your own car today, you'd scratch your head."

sourceEdward Damon
sourceCompliments of: The Bennington Banner