In the decade since the nationwide photo contest started, Wyoming Highway Patrol has yet to bowl over voters as the state with the best-looking cruiser.
With only a few days left before the contest deadline on July 31, the WHP is going all out pushing one of its patrol vehicles, a forest green Dodge Charger. Its official photo featuring the cruiser backlit by the waning rays of a Wyoming sunset isn't likely to end the losing streak.
As of July 21, of the 358,528 total votes cast, Wyoming had received a paltry 2,732, putting the Cowboy State in 33rd place.
"Best looking" is most certainly subjective, and Wyoming has the fewest people of all 50 states who can cast a vote in the contest. But did the WHP it a little too conservative with this year's entry?
What’s Wyoming About It?
Besides Wyoming’s sparse population, another hurdle could be the photo does little to convey the unique beauty and features of the Cowboy State.
Instead of parking the cruiser near Devils Tower, Squaretop Mountain or Yellowstone National Park to make the entry photo truly Wyoming, the sunset seems more like a stock photo that could’ve been taking anywhere.
Some noted Wyoming “car guys" contacted by Cowboy State Daily were reluctant to call this year's WHP entrant a dud. First, forest green is a unique color and the Dodge Charger featured in the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s official entry photo has a rich and well-respected pedigree.
The Charger was first released to the public in 1966 with a 318 cubic-inch V-8 engine and a three-speed, three-on-the-tree, transmission. The base price was $3,146. It would do zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds and got about 15 miles per gallon.
No car guy who casts shade on the venerable Charger could expect to maintain his reputation in the car community. And not wanting to be on the wrong side of the law is a strong deterrent for people who might drive a little faster than posted speed limits from time to time.
Wyoming Highway Patrol did not respond to Cowboy State Daily's request for comment on the contest. The agency's Facebook page shares that the contest is an opportunity for Wyoming to show support for WHP's efforts in maintaining public safety.
"Voting in such contests can help generate positive recognition for law enforcement agencies and foster a sense of pride within the community," according to a WHP statement accompanying the post. "If you're interested in participating, cast your vote for the Wyoming Highway Patrol for having the best-looking police cruiser."
All 49 entrants in this year's contest can be viewed online.
Kentucky, a top vote-getter and perennial winner of contest, has a slight lead this year with 37,916 votes. Kentucky won the contest last year and in 2019, said John Bagnardi, executive director of the American Association of State Troopers. The association sponsors the contest and creates a calendar from the winning photographs.
For its 2023 contest entrant, Kentucky State Police wrapped a 2022 Dodge Charger with a blue-and-white paint scheme to match the markings of a 1978 Ford cruiser. The photo, taken on a field of slack coal with a coal pile in the background, provides a nice contrast and was captured at Blue Diamond Coal Co. in Hazard Kentucky, according to KSP.
Go Old Or Go Home
Several states used vintage cruisers as props in their entries, which caught the eye of Vince Bodiford, a vintage car owner, Cheyenne resident and publisher of TheWeekendDrive.com, an auto enthusiast website.
"For the record, I think the Wyoming entry is fine. It's a contender," Bodiford said. "That said, I think the ones that used vintage cars, like Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky and Mississippi, are celebrating history and being a classic car person, I think that's pretty cool."
Bodiford selected the Arkansas Highway Patrol as his favorite entry. The photo features an iconic 1970s-era Plymouth Fury and a new Dodge Charger painted in matching two-tone blue in front of the Arkansas State Capitol building in Little Rock.
Bodiford also pointed out that other states like Alabama, Maryland and Michigan used law enforcement helicopters to give their photos some punch.
The California Highway Patrol entry features a Chevy Tahoe completing a big, smoky burnout with helicopter in the background.
Other states staged their photos to be unique to them, like posing a large alligator in front of Florida’s cruiser, Indiana parking its entry at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Minnesota in front of a giant statue of Paul Bunyan.
Police cruisers come with an impressive array of features and options not offered to the general public. This makes them sought after once they are retired from duty, Bodiford said.
Police packages include heavy-duty cooling systems, heavy-duty brakes and suspension components, dual batteries and special chassis to accommodate the heavy-duty bumpers often used to push other vehicles.
The contest can be found on the Wyoming Highway Patrol Facebook page. At the page there's a second link to a Survey Monkey site that shows photo contest entries from all but one of the 50 states. Hawaii did not enter the contest.
The top five states as of Friday are Kentucky, California, Indiana, Georgia and Florida.