1957 Ford Police Interceptor

Greg Zyla
Q:  I was reading about Herb Wederman's 1957 Ford Fairlane 500. When I was growing up I lived in Southern California in the city of Arcadia. On Friday and Saturday nights we would cruise Pasadena, mostly Colorado Blvd. At the time my dad had a 1957 Ford business coupe, and it was a 2-door with the center post and no frills. It was one real sleeper!

My dad said the 1957 Ford business coupe had a 270 Police Interceptor engine in it with two 4-barrel carbs and a 3 speed transmission on the column. Sometimes he would let me drive it on the weekends, and we tore up Colorado Blvd. (Glad we were never pulled over).

I have no pictures or data on the car, but I was wondering if you could tell me something about it? How long were the 1957 Ford Police Interceptors around, how many were in regular passenger cars?

Thanks for your help, Len.

A: Len, there’s good reason you can’t find much on the Police Interceptor in literature from that era. Similar to the Chevrolet Z-11 option in 1963 and the L-88 Corvettes in 67-69, Ford didn’t promote this engine or even offer it as an option unless you knew ahead of time you could order one in the 116-inch wheelbase 1957 Business Coupe. Evidentially, your dad did.

The Police Interceptor “E-Code” option included the dual 4-barrels on the Thunderbird 312 engine.  The engine was rated conservatively at 270 horses thanks to an aggressive cam, better breathing cylinder heads, solid lifters, bigger valves and stronger connecting rods and crank. Additionally, a “Racing” version was also available, featuring an Isky E-2 flat tappet camshaft and lifters with a longer duration and dual valve springs. This Isky Cams setup pushed the horsepower up to 285. (Maybe your dad had this one?)

This special Police Interceptor engine came as a result of then Ford chief Robert McNamara, who pushed for better NASCAR racing engines to compete with Chevy and Chrysler, thus hurrying the special engine into production. However, because all of the 1957 Ford family literature had already been printed, the engine option isn’t listed in most all of the already printed ’57 Ford coupe and sedan literature. However, it does appear as an option for the 1957 Thunderbird.

When NASCAR outlawed dual carburetors for its race cars, Ford quickly eliminated the dual 4-barrel engines from the Fords and Mercurys, and no dual 4-barrel engine appearing on the option list in 1958. It wasn’t until 1962 when the 406 engine became available with dual quads that the option came back, this time for enhanced performance on the nation’s dragstrips. This engine would grow into the 427, which dominated many a drag race and, with one 4-barrel, took a top five at Daytona in 1963’s 500.

Today, a 1957 Ford 2-door post with the 312 dual fours is one of the top performance cars of the era and a welcome addition to any car collector’s garage.  Thanks for your letter.
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