What is a Special Service Mustang?

    Mustangs were built by Ford, from 1982-1993, for use as Law Enforcement Vehicles. The original Special Service Mustangs (not "Severe Service") were specifically requested in 1982 by the California Highway Patrol for use as high-speed enforcement-class vehicles. Ford provided CHP with a few test examples, which were rigorously evaluated by them, and the rest is history. Starting in 1983, the SSP Mustangs were offered to agencies other than the CHP, and many agencies also ordered them. The cars continued to be made until 1993, when a redesign from Ford did not include a Special Service Mustang offering. Some 15,000 or so Special Service Mustangs are said to have been produced, but Ford hasn't confirmed that number.

    The "SSP" terminology commonly associated with these cars comes from the "Special Service Package" that Ford offered for the Mustang. This package was not a traditional "Police Package", commonly ordered on the LTD and Crown Victoria Police cars, as the SSP Mustangs were marketed by Ford for use as high-speed, traffic enforcement vehicles (and the package did not meet Ford's Product Acceptance Standards for regular Police Packages). An example of this can be found on the insert included with the 1983 Special Service Mustangs, located here. The basic Special Service Package was a Domestic Special Order (DSO-Fleet order), and included many items intended to increase the Mustangs' durability in service, as well as convenience items for law enforcement operations. The package content varied over the production run from 1982-1993, and could also be modified by adding additional, optional items that were offered by Ford (special-order items in addition to what was included with the regular package). Two-piece VASCAR cables, ordered by FHP, are one example of these additions. Special Service Mustangs have been seen in many different configurations, and the cars varied since an individual agency could order optional content, including adding or deleting additional features to the standard package offering.

How can I tell if my Mustang is an SSP?

   Unless you find a buildsheet or get an original Eminger Invoice, there isn't one piece of information that will conclusively identify an SSP. If you are lucky enough to find a buildsheet in your car, it will list the agency that originally ordered the car and the options it was originally equipped with. Otherwise, there are lots of other factors to consider. The DSO listed on the door data tag will help, as the presence of a 6-digit number indicates that the car was special ordered. A CarFax report may also help, as many of these cars show up with initial registrations that took place when they came out of service (ie. the first registration in State X at 95K miles). Also, you may be able to find inspection data in some states, such as Florida and California, which may give an idea where the car served. California has an online system where you can enter the VIN of a possible SSP (within the last 10 years or so) and see if it was emissions inspected. It was also list the car's license plate, which will help derive the unit number. Florida has a POLICE title designation on any police car that rarely gets removed, so any SSP can be checked online with Florida's DHSMV to see if a record still exists. The mere presence of SSP-specific equipment, such as the remote decklid release and certified speedometer, are good starting points to note, but still must be compared with the DSO in the door and/or the DSO buck tag.

What does DSO mean?

   DSO stands for Domestic or Dealer Special Order. On regular-production Mustangs, the DSO is only a 2 digit code, which is the District Sales Office that ordered the car. All Mustangs have this 2 digit code on the door data tag (or Vehicle Certification label) on the inside face of the driver's door. All special-ordered Mustangs, whether or not an SSP, have a 6 digit DSO number, with 4 additional numbers following the Sales Office code. The first 2 numbers still stand for the Sales District, but the additional numbers were the Dealer Special Order number. If a dealer special-ordered 5 Mustangs for a promotion in a non-stock paint color, say a Thunderbird Blue, all 5 Mustangs would have the same 6 digit DSO code, ie. 24-0327, where 24 is the Tallahassee Sales Office and 0327 the special order number. All SSP Mustangs were dealer-only special order units, and thus also have the same six digit DSO code format. If a particular state, such as Florida, ordered 50 SSP Mustangs in a given year, that order would have the same DSO code and the cars would have been comparably equipped. Larger orders have been seen filled via different 4 digit DSO numbers, and the numbers also varied when batches of cars with different options were ordered, such as with the 1993 Florida Highway Patrol's unmarked cars.

How can I tell where my SSP served?

   Carfax records may help show a pattern of inspections, if the car served in a area where they were required. Contacting the agency sometimes helps, as you may be able to find someone there with access to records or who knows the person your car was actually assigned to. I found an Officer's business card under the back seat of my 1983 Colorado State Patrol Mustang, and was able to call CSP and speak with one of the two Officers assigned to my car, who still works for the Patrol.

How can I tell what my SSP's Unit Number is?

   Different states numbered their vehicles differently, so it all depends what kind of car you have. Florida Highway Patrol put their unit numbers on the roof of the cars, and the license plate was also the unit number. Additionally, FHP also wrote the unit numbers on the original titles of the cars when they went to auction. An original copy of the title of an FHP Mustang, after purchase and when it was re-registered, should have the unit number written on it. California Highway Patrol unit numbers were usually written with paint pen in the driver's door jambs, so if the original door is on the car, there's a good chance the unit number is on there as well.