In 1967, Police Officer Ted Saraf stepped into the Pasadena Police Department and fell in love with his first patrol car.
A Dodge Coronet.
It was a massive beast, with brakes that didn’t always work and seat belts that no one liked to use because they got tangled in their gun holsters.
Saraf and his partner wore helmets for protection and when they found themselves in a pursuit he recalls bouncing so hard in the Coronet their heads would hit the roof of the car.
“The first time I saw this car all I thought was “whoa”,” he said. “It had everything you can think of to make it safe. Big engine. Big horsepower. Sure it had lousy breaks, but after a few times you would figure out how to maneuver it.”
Saraf has dozens of memories to share from his 30 years on the PPD, where he landed shortly after he came back from active duty in the military. He worked patrol, was a motorcycle officer, worked in crime scene investigations (CSI) and then made it to the Department’s Auto Theft unit where he spent 18 years.
As a self-proclaimed car enthusiast, the Auto Theft unit was the perfect fit.
He enjoyed piecing together the clues to find stolen cars. Keeping his eye on chop shops, calling into dispatch if he saw a suspicious car on the road. He was also a part of the Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention (TRAP), which is Los Angeles County’s regional, multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency taskforce that investigates, prosecutes and tries to deter vehicle theft and vehicle fraud.
“I loved helping people find their cars. It was fun and at that time we had higher success rates, it was about 80 percent. And people were always happy to get their cars back,” he said.
In 2008, nearly 10 years after retiring from the Pasadena Police Department, Saraf began to think back on that Dodge Coronet from his rookie years. He had finally reached a place in his life where he had time, energy and the funds to restore a classic car.
On a Friday afternoon, a friend of his told him about a 1968 Dodge Coronet on eBay for $3,500 in Texas.
By Monday, Saraf was in Texas and the seller was showing him the car in his backyard.
It was a little dusty, slightly worn and there were chickens living in the front seat. But aside from that, Saraf could see this Coronet, with its front seat with two sets of springs and a rare high performance air conditioner – was “the” car.
He paid $2,500 for it and drove it to the neighboring City of Dallas where he had it shipped back to his home in the San Gabriel Valley. Once home, it took four months, constant supervision and a great restorer in Pomona to help turn back the clock on this car.
The end result, was a mint condition Dodge Coronet.
“I saved up for this project” said Saraf. “When you’re young, you don’t have this kind of money in your pocket to get something like this done. But as you get older, you establish yourself and you can afford things like this for yourself and buy these kind of cars.”
Saraf has always enjoyed collecting or having cars that showed some personality. In high school, he was the proud owner of three Chevy’s, a 1949 Business Coupe, a 1955 Post 210 and a 1957 Bel Air. He and his wife both share the passion for driving, restoring and knowing the history of vintage cars and they have a 1970 Porsche 911 S Targa that they take on spins around the neighborhood.
It cost him $38,000 to restore the Coronet and since that time in Texas, Saraf has spent countless weekends enjoying the car. He’s also actively involved in the Southern California Classic Car Scene as a member of a group of retired law enforcement officials who call themselves “The Badgers.”
The group brings together retired police officers and fire fighters from Hermosa Beach, Lakewood, Ontario, Cerritos, Torrance and Santa Clarita, who all have a love for restoring classic public safety vehicles. Amongst their line up, you have a 1985 Chevy Malibu, 1980s Mustang, 1968 Plymouth Belvedere (Detective car), 1955 Chevy Diplomat, 1969 Dodge Polara and a 1968 Cadillac Ambulance.
Saraf, who is also a member of the Burbank based group “The Road Kings” has attended hundreds of car shows, has won dozens of awards and has been in Pasadena’s Rose Parade.
He makes an annual appearance at the Pasadena Police Department’s Father’s Day Car Show, held on Father’s Day for the last 18 years, including this year’s event held this Sunday, June 16th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Paseo Colorado.
“People love to see these old law enforcement cars,” said Saraf. “They always want to know what kind of car it is, the history of it, where I found it and what it was like to drive it when I was a cop. It’s always fun to share the story of these cars. “
The Pasadena Police Department’s Father’s Day Car show will be held Sunday, June 16th, for more information, click here.