Salina When master trooper Craig Davis started work at the Kansas Highway Patrol in 1989, blue and gray Crown Victorias with a single red light on top were the vehicle of choice for the agency.
Eventually, the patrol moved to single-color cars equipped with sleek light bars, but now Davis is back in a blue and gray.
"This is a traditional highway patrol car," Davis said recently, as he admired his new ride. "This is like a blast from the past.
"My first blue and gray Crown Victoria was a 1990 that had a light on the top like that one. These are identical to the old blue and gray cars, right down to the red spotlight."
The 2011 Crown Victorias feature the exact technology setup of other highway patrol cars.
"The only difference between this new car and the old one is the light on top, paint scheme and red light spotlight," said Davis, who is based in Salina. "We have the same video and computer system. Basically, all but the appearance is the same."
The new cars were issued to 14 troopers across the state to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kansas Highway Patrol. They will stay in the patrol's fleet until they are retired at 49,000 miles.
Lt. J.L. Riedel, with the Kansas Highway Patrol, said the cars are a good way to commemorate the anniversary.
"When you see this car, you know what it is," Riedel said. "There is no mistaking this vehicle, especially when you had 500 across the state that were blue and gray with the cherry on top. When this vehicle showed up at the scene of a traffic crash or a bar fight, you knew who was on scene. That physical appearance said a lot."
Riedel said he was "lucky" to get an older blue and gray car when he joined the patrol in 1994.
Riedel said he didn't want to offend other troopers, but he felt the car couldn't have gone to a better trooper because of the history associated with the car.
"It has gone to one of our hardest working troopers and someone who came on driving a blue and gray," Riedel said. "He (Davis) is someone who knows the tradition with this vehicle, setup and markings."
Davis also owns a 1986 Dodge Diplomat with a similar paint scheme. He bought the car from a police car collector in New Mexico who was liquidating his collection.
"It was actually from a trooper in Salina who had retired," Davis said. "This is a similar car to the one I started out in. I started in a 1987 Grand Fury that looks exactly like it, which is why I wanted it."
He only drives the Diplomat in parades and to "get the cobwebs out."
Davis said the anniversary car's paint scheme and the single light are being used only on the cars distributed this year. However, other features of the anniversary car are being used on all patrol cars.
Instead of having large Kansas Highway Patrol screen prints on the side of the car, troopers now will have a single shield. Also, the back of the cars will be printed with the words "Highway patrol."
"They are just using the shield now to save money," Davis said. "It is cheaper than a screen print that takes up the whole side of the car."
Davis said people who have seen his new car have shown support.
"People going by my house give me a thumbs-up," Davis said. "My kids love it, and my wife, who was a dispatcher for years, grew up knowing the paint scheme on the car."
He said the only people who haven't commented on the car have been people he has pulled over.
"Nobody I have stopped has actually said anything," Davis said, with a laugh. "Since they are getting a ticket, they probably don't care what it looks like."
The anniversary cars are among the last Crown Victorias the Kansas Highway Patrol will own, because Ford stopped making the cars in 2011.
"I heard a rumor that the KHP got the last batch of Crown Vics," Davis said.
Even though many troopers have switched to Dodge Chargers and other patrol vehicles in recent years, Davis said he prefers the Crown Victorias.
"I will miss them but I know a lot of guys who won't," Davis said. "The Charger is an awesome car. It has the Hemi so it can get up and go, but the durability of the Crown Vic is good. They can take a beating. They are a workhorse."
Riedel said the anniversary cars are a great tribute to the Crown Victoria.
"They have been a faithful police car for many years," Riedel said.
Davis said the paint scheme of his new car is one that was recognizable to everyone across the state for years — and people are still noticing it.
"If it was up to me, they would all look like this," Davis said.