It’s a hidden gem for car enthusiasts, the Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato in Rome. In the EUR area, far away from the Italian capital’s famous city centre, one can admire the cars the Italian police drove during the last century. Lots of Alfa Romeo’s and Fiats but also an American Jeep and even a Ferrari.
The first gem is parked right by the entrance, a black Alfa Romeo 1900 Super from 1958. ‘This car gave the Italian highway patrol their nickname Pantera,’ says Tommaso Franco, who shows me around the museum. ‘Because of the black, catlike body, the yellow fog lights and the high maximum speed, the Alfa easily reached 180 kilometres per hour, which was very quick at the time. Criminals talked about the Pantera that was chasing them. With great awe.’
The Alfa was very well equipped for its time, besides a powerful engine and an aerodynamic body, this 1900 super also had a bulletproof windscreen and bullet protection for the tyres. This car is the beginning of the collaboration between the Italian police and Alfa Romeo that lasts until today. ‘The police was looking for fast, reliable cars and so they called Alfa.’
Not far from the 1900 Super the Giulia is on display, maybe Italy’s most famous police car, it’s a star in many 1970s police movies. The boxy model is still Tommaso’s favourite. ‘In this car I did my driving courses.’ Especially the stability and the grip are legendary. ‘With a top speed of 175 km per hour the Giulia isn’t super quick, but there a very little cars that stick to the Tarmac as the Giulia does,’ Tommaso smiles. And in fact in the seventies many criminals changed their BMW’s or Benzes for an Alfa, because getting rid of a police Giulia was almost impossible.
The tour through the museum is based on decades and passes along sixty vehicles, both cars and motorcycles. What strikes me is the fact the Italians police changed the colour of their cars several times. Right after World War II Italian police cars were red, in the 1960s and 70s greenish grey, only in the 1980s Italian police cars got their current blue paint.
Tommaso doesn’t know why the Italian government painted its police cars red after World War II. ‘I do know that every vehicle they could find was used as a police car,’ he says pointing out a red Willy Jeep. ‘This Jeep was left behind by American troops, if we’d scratch off the red paint we’ll find the white US Army star.’ In the 1960s Italy changes the police colours into greenish grey, a colour ‘that stands for friendly authority and was chosen to reassure the people’. The police as your best friend, is the idea. In this part of the museum, the 1960s and 70s, there are two other gems of thecollection, an Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint and a Lancia Flaminia. The brutal force of Alfa’s six cylinder engine versus Lancia’s elegance. Tommaso’s eyes start to twinkle as he opens the Alfa’s door. ‘Sit down, please.’ The fifty-year-old leather seat of the 2600 Sprint fits like a suit and is, seen its age, remarkably firm. ‘A great car with a fantastic engine,’ Tommaso gloats. ‘Only the breaks are very 1960s. Very scary.’ The 2600 Sprint was the fastest car the Italian police had at the time, until… until the minister of Internal Affairs asked the head of police whether he needed something.
‘A car faster than the Alfa,’ he answered. The result of that answer is on display in a special corner of the museum, a black Ferrari 250 GT/E 2+2. Lancia’s elegance and Alfa Romeo’s sports genes compressed into one the most beautiful Ferraris of all time. All of a sudden the very talkative Tommaso remains silent, in front of so much beauty one can only stand in respectful, silent admiration.
Only to see the Ferrari the Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato is worth a visit, without dismissing all the other beauties on display.
Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato
Via dell’Arcadia 20
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 09.30 – 18.30