Back in 1982 when Ford introduced the Mustang SSP (Special Service Package), the negative effects the Malaise Era we so often discuss had on performance meant that law enforcement agencies were basically begging carmakers to give them something that would not only sustain triple-digit speeds like the Crown Vic, but also be able to accelerate accordingly. And the upgraded Fox Body Mustang 5.0 that was the SSP didn’t fail to deliver, while the example sitting on the dyno here continues to do so after more than three decades.
After the police was unsatisfied with the performance of a Chevrolet Camaro Z28 following a test in 1979, the cops turned to the Blue Oval. And, in 1982, the SSP Mustang entered service.
Based on the 302 Fox Body (that’s right, the engine was actually a 4.9 rather than a 5.0 as advertised), the not-that-heavy muscle car could hit 60 mph in the low-6s range, which was more than enough to run with the big boys in those times. And, following a further upgrade, these ‘Stangs packs 225 hp, those getting even better at the velocity game.
Compared to the 5.0 Mustang civilians could buy, the Special Service Package, which later served as a base for performance iterations found in showrooms, included moderate improvements. We’re talking about oil and transmission coolers, improved plumbing, a heavy-duty alternator and calibrate speedos, so the cops were perfectly aware of your speed—the original cars came with 140 mph instrument, but the dashboard went up to 160 mph after 1989.
And, as far as the chassis is concerned, the floor pans were stiffened, while heavy-duty suspension was installed.
Ford built about 15,000 SSPs, with these being deployed by various federal, city and county police forces from around the Country, as well as in Canada. Depending on each agency’s needs, the Mustang could come with either an automatic or a five-speed manual, while other small changes could be made, with production continuing through 1993 when the American auto industry had evolved to a point where more performance offerings were easily available. However, a limited number of cars continued to arrive at agencies, serving as undercover vehicles.
This 1989 SSP Mustang still has it
Like most SSPs, the 1989 unit sitting before us is a notchback (the fixed-roof Fox Body could also be had in hatchback form, remember?).
Still using the Florida Highway Patrol livery from back in the day (minus the decals for obvious reasons), this pony has been further upgraded by its owner Jared Ferrel, who happens to work for Texas-based aftermarket developer Late Model Restoration.
As such, the 302 under the hood features an alphabet cam from Ford Racing, P cylinder heads, FRPP shorty headers, 24 lb injectors, a Trick Flow Heat intake manifold, an SVE radiator and Flowmaster mufflers, along with a 4.10 final drive.
Now, the said specialist recently strapped the 33-year-old SSP Mustang to its dyno. And, given the said custom work and the proper maintenance, as well as the 93-octane juice in the tank, the Ford delivered respectable results: 257 hp and 294 lb-ft (399 Nm) of torque.
And while young drivers might be unaware of the Mustang’s history, enthusiasts who had to stay out of its reach back in the day certainly get “that” special feeling when this SSP Mustang cruises down the highway.