It’s the end of an era.
It’s become nearly as iconic a police car as the Ford Crown Victoria is to the US and the Lamborghini Gallardo to Italy, but now one of the last Australian-made Holden Commodore police vehicles is retiring.
After four years of faithful service with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the silver 2018 SS-V Redline will be preserved for generations to come at the new AFP Museum in Acton.
For 44 years, Australian-made Holden Commodores have been used by police officers in the ACT. Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan spent his first policing roles behind the wheel of many and said the car held a special place in the heart of Australians and Australian police officers.
“It was an iconic Australian purpose-built vehicle that was made for our conditions,” he said.
“It was a vehicle that could handle the harsh driving conditions of the country, from the straight highways of the Nullarbor to the windy roads of the Snowy Mountains, it was a vehicle built to handle Australia’s unique climate and road system.”
The Holden Commodore VF Series-II SS-V Redline launched in 2017 for $57,190, equipped with a 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8. There’s no competing with that noise.
With Holden dead and collectors keen to get their hands on the last models, used prices have shot up to between $59,400 and $64,800, according to Australian car valuation website Redbook. Average kilometres range from 80,000 to 130,000.
“This one has just over 100,000 km on the clock, and the engine has been replaced so it will easily last for another 25 years plus,” Chief Police Officer Gaughan said.
Police-specific additions include a speed radar system on the dashboard, a radio, and a gun holder on the floor in the back seats.
“It’s been a traffic vehicle in high-speed pursuits, serious traffic accidents, and serious crime, brought many people into custody, and kept the streets safe.”
Senior Constable Greg Harlovich was the primary driver of the Commodore and said he was lucky to have been allocated such a great Australian-made vehicle.
“I was genuinely sad to have to hand this car back, but I am pleased to know it will be around for others to view long after I finish my career,” Senior Constable Harlovich said.
The modern ACT Policing fleet now consists of the Subaru Liberty, Subaru Outback, BMW X3, BMW 3-Series, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volkswagen Passat wagon, and Hyundai iMax.
These vehicles are leased by AFP through SG Fleet, who donated the last Commodore to the AFP Museum as it reached the end of the lease arrangement last month.
Andy Brown remembers a time before Holdens were associated with policing.
Andy retired from the AFP in 2017 but when he started with ACT Policing the weapon of choice was a Ford XD Falcon.
“When I graduated from police college as a 19-year-old, it was the best thing ever,” he said.
“It had a single blue light on the roof, and a single rocker switch and a radio inside. In those days, the police also paid the car manufacturer extra to remove the radio so the drivers wouldn’t get distracted by music.”
Today, he said almost all officers hold a qualification for urgent duty driving – or “driving fast to get somewhere” – but pursuit requires additional training.
“This is where you’re deliberately trying to apprehend a vehicle or person, and that’s a different level of expertise.”
Then there is also personal protection driving, used in escort situations where evasive action might need to be taken to save lives.
No matter the situation, it is monitored from headquarters by 24/7 pursuit control. As soon as a driver declares a pursuit, they must pass on information about speed and traffic, lighting and weather conditions to the controller.
“The controller then has the authority to terminate the pursuit, and the driver has to pull over, turn the car off and say that the pursuit has been terminated,” Mr Brown said.
“In pursuit driving, not only are you thinking about the drive, but also the event you’re driving to. It’s an exhausting experience. It’s an incredible power and privilege but it’s not used wantonly.”
As a long-time car lover, ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentlemen welcomed the Commodore to its new home at the AFP Museum.
“The Holden Commodore was a vehicle built for Australians, by Australians and has served our police force well for many decades, so it’s great that the last Commodore will stay in the ACT for years to come.”
ACT Policing will also permanently retire the Tango-51 call sign allocated to the vehicle as a mark of respect for the last vehicle of its type, and its long-time driver.
The car and number plate will go on display at the newly announced Museum of Australian Policing in Acton when it opens, possibly next year.