Dave Popovich, of Macomb Township, owns a 1992 Ford Mustang SSP that was used by the Georgia State Patrol from 1992 to 1997.

Dave Popovich, of Macomb Township, owns a 1992 Ford Mustang SSP that was used by the Georgia State Patrol from 1992 to 1997.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Behind the Wheel: Mustang SSP patrolled the highways of Georgia

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published May 16, 2018

Photo by Sarah Purlee

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 he orignial trooper who was assigned to the car, Kevin Thompson, signed the inside of the restored Mustang’s trunk, pictured above.

he orignial trooper who was assigned to the car, Kevin Thompson, signed the inside of the restored Mustang’s trunk, pictured above.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 Thompson poses with his son in his newly assigned Mustang SSP in the 1990s.

Thompson poses with his son in his newly assigned Mustang SSP in the 1990s.

Photo provided by Dave Popovich

Macomb Township resident Dave Popovich owns a car that encompasses two of his passions: police work and Mustangs. 

After a long career in law enforcement, it’s no surprise that Popovich was drawn to a police interceptor — specifically, a 1992 Ford Mustang SSP. 

“I love Mustangs, and the uniqueness of this car was too much to pass up on,” he said. 

The car is one of 20 police interceptors previously used by the Georgia State Patrol. It went into service in 1992 and was retired from service in 1997. According to Popovich, this special-edition Mustang was “built primarily for highway interdiction and traffic enforcement due to its high speed and maneuverability.”

Popovich purchased the car from a man in Georgia who is an expert on Mustang SSPs and who did a complete frame-off restoration of the car to get it back to its original condition. The car — painted in Ford’s custom Ultra Blue — is like a time capsule, Popovich explained. 

“The lights work, the radar works, the radio and antennas are correct, and all of it is installed as it was when this Mustang patrolled the interstates of Georgia,” he said. 

Popovich noted that the SSPs came equipped with heavy-duty brakes, a high output alternator, an engine oil cooler, a transmission fluid cooler and heavy-duty sway bars. However, the Georgia State Patrol added roll bars to protect troopers in case of a rollover accident. 

“Amusingly, since the Mustangs were too small for a conventional prisoner partition you see in modern police vehicles, in the event the trooper had to detain a prisoner, they would just handcuff them to the roll bar until another trooper arrived to take the prisoner to lockup,” said Popovich. 

What’s especially unique about Popovich’s Mustang SSP is that in Georgia, one trooper was assigned to one car, and each trooper was responsible for his or her car’s regular upkeep and maintenance. Popovich’s Mustang was driven by Georgia State Trooper Kevin Thompson, whose badge number serves as the roof number and graces the car’s Georgia license plate. The man who restored the car tracked down Thompson to show him his restoration work, and the officer signed the inside of the trunk, giving it a nice personal touch. 

“The trooper emailed me when he learned I was the new owner and told me to ‘Take care of her. She took care of me for years and never let me down,’” said Popovich. “He said that in six years, no one ever got away from the Mustang due to its power and handling.”

According to Popovich, the Mustang now has 122,000 miles on it and still runs strong. Unlike a lot of classics, however, this isn’t a car that Popovich can cruise around town in. Because it’s a police vehicle, there are restrictions as far as driving it on public roads. For instance, the emergency lights must be covered up. It’s also required to have a Michigan license plate, but when Popovich goes to car shows, he puts on the Georgia license plate for authenticity. 

Popovich noted that his is likely the only Georgia patrol car in Michigan. And overall, he said, the SSP Mustangs are quite rare, as “Ford only made approximately 14,000 of them from 1983 to 1993.” Most of those, he said, were sold in auctions, “wrecked in service or left to rot in junkyards, leaving very few surviving.”

Popovich takes the Mustang to parades and shows, including the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise and the Ferndale Emergency Vehicle Show. He said that “there’s kind of a cult following for these SSP vehicles,” and when people see it, they’re “floored.”

“They can’t believe what condition it’s in and that it’s the real thing,” he said. 


Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history or a special meaning to you? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at jsigouin@candgnews.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition.