Ride Along with Jay Leno in an L.A. County Sheriff’s 1978 Chevy Nova 9C1

Cop cars have come a long way in the last 40 years.

byMax Goldberg|
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Whether it is a 2016 Ford Interceptor Utility of 1978 Chevy Nova 9C1, there is something inherently interesting about police cars. Between the striping, equipment, performance, and function, the humble cop car grabs the attention of nearly every car enthusiast. But while today's officers enjoy rides like the pursuit-rated 2016/2017 Ford Interceptor Utility with its 300-plus horsepower, steel wheels, heavy-duty alternator, and adaptive suspension, not all police cars are created equal. Back in 1978, the average cop car was less an object of desire and more a simple tool to get the job done.

Take retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office Deputy Bill Sanders' 1978 Chevy Nova 9C1, for example. The car was powered by a 195 horsepower, 350 cubic-inch V8, had bench seats and a lightbar the size of a dog house, and made more noise than a heavy metal garage band. Although it was an impressive squad car for its time, with lower than normal center of gravity and fairly progressive police specifications like disc brakes up front and drums in the rear, the car wasn't about to win any races.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office purchased Chevy Novas from around 1976 to 1978 before they transferred over to the Chevy Malibu. However, while LACSO was using the Chevy Nova 9C1 they were getting power steering, heavy-duty brakes, batteries, alternators, radiators, a push bar, takedown lights and everything else your average police department would desire. 

In the video below, we see Jay Leno interview Bill Sanders as they go over every inch of the old Nova before taking it out for a spin. According to Leno and Sanders, the Nova has a little pep in its step and allegedly chirps the tires as it enters second gear. Both men did remind the viewer that the patrol car is extremely uncomfortable.

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