By James Moore
The year is 1972, and the Methuen Police Department has just taken delivery of a shiny new Dodge Polara. While this may have been 51 years ago, it doesn’t mean the spirit of the Polara has been lost.
In fact, you may have noticed one shiny black Polara with a single blue light on the roof, a period-correct police radio under the dashboard and blue and white Methuen Police emblems on the doors.
“I found an old negative photo,” Officer Aaron Little said. “It was a 1972 Polara in a junkyard that had been rear-ended.”
Little is the curator of the Methuen Police Department’s historical police collection.
Immediately, he had the idea to replicate the cruiser.
“You usually see 1950s cars (as police cars). You don’t see ’70s cars often; it was unique,” he said.
Little explained, “They only did one year of the ’72 body; it was the space race look.”
As a result, the probability of finding a solid Polara was already limited. Nonetheless, Little was determined and began his search.
What he did not expect was to find was a 1972 Dodge Polara a short 32 minutes away in Peabody.
“It was on craigslist, and she (the owner) was a Lincoln police officer,” Little said.
When he originally acquired the car on behalf of the Methuen Police Department, it had a mere 70,000 miles on the odometer.
Despite this, the Polara was dropped off at the Greater Lawrence Technical School, where students in the automotive and auto body programs performed the restoration of the classic sedan.
Little noted the car had one little rust spot on the door and required a few minor things like a new, upgraded carburetor. He said MPD paid about $4,000 for the car, while the labor was free.
To recreate the look of the classic Methuen police car, Little took inspiration from an interesting source: “I actually found an old Methuen Police sticker stuck to a piece of wood.”This is where the design for the police decals came from. Accompanying the decals is a period-correct, single blue police light that does, in fact, function.
Alongside the police light is a police siren. However, the exterior of the car was not the only thing that was redone.
“The seats were reupholstered, so it has new seats and new carpets,” Little said.
A period-correct two-way radio was also installed to maintain historical accuracy.
Powering the car is a 360 cubic inch V8, which is the smaller of the two engine options available.
The car can be seen at city events such as the National Night Out where it has been a major hit, as well as parades.
But for now, the 78,000-mile Polara sits in front of Methuen Police Station looking like it’s quite capable of a high-speed chase.
When winter rolls around, the car does not sit outside and rust.
“That car place on Merrimack Street (Exotic Car Club of America) stores it for free in the winter,” Little said. The facility – operated by Jim Smith – boasts dry, secure underground storage.
While it may not be 1972 anymore, the Polara is certainly a blast from the past and is sure to turn heads, both young and old, for decades