1973, the Belgian Gendarmerie became Porsche’s third police customer

1973, the Belgian Gendarmerie became Porsche’s third police customer

Between the late 1950s and the end of aircooling, the German and Dutch police forces ran Porsche fleets of several hundred cars. In 1973, the Belgian Gendarmerie became Porsche’s third police customer. The Gendarmerie operated as a civilian police force under a military command structure. Among its responsibilities was road policing. By 1970, Belgium had a motorway network that not only facilitated traffic flow, but criminal activity as well.

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The Gendarmerie drove the BMW 2002ti to chase wrong-doers, but the low-geared, 100bhp 2002 was just not fast enough. It cast about for a more potent vehicle and alighted upon the Porsche 911. The Gendarmerie was an autonomous body and wielded considerable influence: in 1973 and through Porsche importer D’Ieteren it ordered 20 911Es. These were Targas because the police believed with an open-top car they could give clearer signals to motorists.

This proved impractical, especially in the Ardennes where the rain comes down without warning and time was wasted installing the roof panel. Subsequent 911 deliveries were not only Coupes, but the more powerful 210bhp Carrera. Over the next few years the force acquired six more 911s, with the last, an SC, purchased in 1982 and making a total of 40. This photo, taken in autumn 1973, shows the first batch of Targas arriving at Gendarmerie HQ.

The Gendarmerie didn’t stint on its Porsches: a separate workshop was set up using D’Ieteren-trained fitters and the few officers selected to drive the 911s had to go on courses with professional instructors, which included circuit driving at Zolder. Those policemen lucky enough to get behind the wheel of the 911s loved them. There were drawbacks – larger officers found the seats uncomfortable, and the boot had limited space to fit police paraphernalia such as cones, lights and tools, but as a voiture d’intervention the 911 was unequalled. Mostly, only its highly visible presence was required to remind motorists to behave themselves and with a 140mph top speed, the Porsche usually had the measure of anything villains were using.

By the 1980s the Gendarmerie was in rapid decline. Charges of incompetence, lavish use of funding and the increasing political divide between French- and Flemish-speaking Belgium would see the force fall from grace and eventually abolished. The ‘extravagant’ 911s were replaced by the BMW 325i, which the force found lacked the authority of their Porsches. Those 911s not written off were all sold, some showing 250,000 miles. About half a dozen have been restored, mostly in private hands. Forty years on, many a motorist has subconsciously lifted their foot when one of these unmistakable 911s hoves into view.

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