March 17, 2004
BY JENNIFER DIXON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
An Illinois judge has ordered Ford Motor Co. to conduct a crash test on plastic trunk packs that were offered in Crown Victoria police cars to protect gas tanks from rupturing in high-impact rear crashes.
Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto, who sits in St. Clair County, Ill., also said Ford was deceptive in a company brochure that denounced trunk pack tests Dallas officials conducted last July.
In a ruling last Thursday, Cueto ordered Ford to conduct a 75-m.p.h. crash test on a trunk pack by May 15. The decision stemmed from a suit filed by St. Clair County and the City of Centerville, Ill., in which they claim Ford was negligent in designing the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.
In a statement, Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the automaker was confused by the judge’s testing requirement because the company did 75-m.p.h. tests in November with 200 pounds of police equipment in a trunk pack. The pack is a heavy plastic liner for storing equipment.
"The trunk pack prevented punctures of the police equipment," the Ford statement said.
Dallas crash-tested two Crown Victorias with trunk packs at 75 m.p.h. last summer. In one test, the car’s gas tank was punctured. In the second, it burst open, resulting in an 18-inch split.
Ford, in a brochure mailed to law enforcement agencies nationwide, described the tests as rigged in part because the trunk packs were loaded with objects not normally carried in police trunks.
At least 18 officers, including one in Dallas, have burned to death in Crown Victorias hit from behind. The gas tanks ruptured.
Last December, a Free Press investigation of the Crown Vic and two similar models, the Lincoln Town Car and the Mercury Grand Marquis, found that at least 69 people, including police, had died in fiery rear end crashes in the vehicles over the last two decades.
Several law enforcement agencies and communities have sued Ford in connection with fires in the police version of the Crown Victoria.
Trunk packs are one of several fixes offered by Ford for the police cars.