‘I had one exactly like this’

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CHURUBUSCO — Retired Indiana State Police Trooper Frank Kessler picked up a car magazine from Walgreens, and was sitting in easy chair reading it when his day went from ordinary to extra-ordinary.

He called to his wife, “You’re not going to believe this — come look at this car.”

Kessler spotted a 1971 Mercury, an Indiana State Police squad car that he drove in his early years as a trooper. It was for sale in South Dakota.

“It’s one of the only Mercurys left that we know of,” Kessler said.

Originally it was restored by a trooper who retired from the Bloomington post. He moved to Florida, where he eventually sold the car in an auction, which is why it ended up in South Dakota.

“He made a lot of phone calls and got a lot of information,” Jera Kessler said. “It all came together. It was meant to be.”

Kessler purchased the car and had it delivered on a flatbed truck without seeing it first. He has repaired some mechanical issues and cleaned it, but said it was in good condition when he got it.

“For me there’s a lot of personal history. It reminds me of the early days when I was on the department,” Kessler said. “I also think it’s an important piece of department history and I thought it was important to preserve that.”

Kessler purchased the car in November 2017 and the Churubusco Charity Car Show Saturday was the first time it was on display for the public. He plans to participate in several more.

A pair of handcuffs hang on the handle of the spotlight and there’s a police radio and radar detector mounted on the inside, just as if it were in service in the 1970s.

The Indiana State Police bought about 1,000 of the 1971 Mercurys for patrolling the highways. It is believed to be the only surviving vehicle from 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974. When it was in service, it was capable of speeds up to 140 miles per hour, “much to the dismay of some muscle car owners who made the mistake of choosing the interstate to try to outrun the ‘Mighty Mercs,’” reads a sign Kessler posted with the car.

Kessler has permission from the Indiana State Police superintendent to drive the vehicle on the road.

Interested in the history of the Indiana State Police? The free Indiana State Police Museum in Indianapolis has several old squad cars and equipment dating back as far as 1933.

For more information, visit in.gov/isp/museum.htm.

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