Officer Snyder sits tucked behind a row of maple trees, next to an old cemetery with a dozen gray, faded tombstones.
The trees camouflage the white Ford Crown Victoria, which sits there, quietly idling.
His black radar ?gun? is jammed between the dashboard and the window, looking like an old lantern and singing like a nightingale, while traffic passes on the Interstate.
Suddenly, and without warning, the numbers on the unit start rolling like the dials at a gas pump as a late-model Buick screams by in the north-bound lane.
The cruiser explodes from its hiding spot and before the driver can lift his foot off the gas, the Indiana law man is glued to his bumper in a kaleidoscope of flashing lights.
Officer Snyder is 33 minutes into his 3-11 p.m. shift and already he has his first live one. The driver, an 18-year-old male, is on his way home from work.
So he says.
As excuses go, this one is pretty lame. Over the years, the officer has heard them all, from: ?I?ve got to go to the bathroom? to ?My twin sister is having a baby,? to ?I wasn?t speeding, I was just going fast.?
On any given day, Officer Snyder reels in between three and five would-be NASCAR drivers; on a ?good day? it might be as many as 10. For the year, it can be anywhere from 250-300.On this day, it was five in 90 minutes. What?s more, no one tried to out run him. For one thing, you can?t out run a radio. For another, the cars have specialized police performance packages designed to chase down just about any lead-foot.
As Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) said to Jake (John Belushi), in the move The Blues Brothers, ?It?s got a cop motor ... it?s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks.?
Today?s patrol cars are light years away from those early law-enforcement vehicles, which consisted of a horse and a wagon.
The cost of an average ?paddy wagon,? with a nag and related police carb, cost around $2,000, according to police historian Monty McCord. By comparison, a fully loaded police interceptor today will run a department around 25 grand.
With the invention of the gasoline engine at the end of the 19th century came the first horseless patrol vehicles. First the motorized bicycle, or motorcycle, followed by the police car, which was really a horse-drawn wagon powered by a motor.
Then came the Roaring ?20s and organized crime. Suddenly, crime fighters required more speed and greater safety. Carmakers were quick to respond, providing vehicles with bullet-proof glass, metal plating ? and machine guns.
But the cars were expensive and when money became tight in the 1930s, the law looked for something cheaper. They found it in the 65-horsepower flathead V8 of 1932 produced by Ford. With a top speed of 75 m.p.h., the cars were fast enough to chase down most anything on the road at the time.
Ford had cornered the market.
By the mid-?50s, however, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Plymouth had joined the chase, so to speak, as automakers began the fight to see who could create the biggest engine and the most horsepower.
During the next several decades, it was not unusual to see patrol cars powered by engines with massive displacements, ranging from 383-440 cubic inches in Dodge patrol cars to Ford?s 429 V8. The cars would go down in history as some of the most powerful to ever prowl the Interstates.
Today, the vehicle of choice, by far, is the Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor. Other players include GM with its Impala and DaimlerChrysler, which is back (after a lengthy absence) with the Dodge Charger packing ?Hemi? V8 power.
But ?the big dogs,? according to Lieut. David Halliday of the Michigan State Police are Ford and Chevy.
Police cars, says Halliday, are completely different from your run-of-the-mill family machine. They must be rugged and dependable, since most operate around the clock, seven days a week.
In most cases, it?s the durability that?s important and not flat-out speed (remember the radio?). Among the additions are engine-oil and transmission coolers, larger radiators, batteries and alternators, stiffer suspensions, performance tires, and brakes that can pop the fillings from your teeth. Engines are mostly stock.
According to the Web Site policecars.com, each year close to 50,000 new police cars are sold to law enforcement in North America. Most rely on the yearly evaluations conducted by the Michigan State Police, before making their decisions.
The MSP evaluations are conducted on the latest batch of cruisers from participating manufacturers. Each vehicle is subject to six major tests, including vehicle dynamics, acceleration, top speed, braking, ergonomics and fuel economy.
?We?re kind of like the Consumer Report and Car & Driver of police cars in the U.S. and Canada,? says Halliday, who has been evaluating cars since the mid-1980s.
?We now get about 30,000 requests for information (on tested vehicles) world-wide annually.?
So, what happens to police cars after law enforcers such as Officer Snyder are done with them?
Unlike horses, which are put to pasture, cruisers, many with 100,000 miles on the odometer, are auctioned off to the general public and to cab companies, ready to turn another 100,000 miles.
After all, they?ve got a cop motor, cop tires, cop shocks.