Ultra rare 60’s era California Highway Patrol car gets restored back to health

The past few episode of Jay Leno’s Garage have featured some pretty interesting cars that aren’t really of the norm as far as classics are concerned. There was the heavily tuned 1976 Ford Fairline. There was the incredible Ford Festiva-based Shogun pocket rocket. There was the 1978 Hongqi CA770, a car even Leno didn’t think existed until he saw it in person. And of course, there was the custom-built 1915 LaBestioni Rusty Two. By comparison, the latest car to make the trip to the garage is a lot more mainstream than the previous guests, but it’s still pretty exotic in the same vein as the others. This is the 1961 California Highway Patrol Dodge Polara.

Most people might recognize the car for its various depictions in period Hollywood films of that era, but the uniqueness of this particular CHP Polara is without peer. One of Leno’s guests for this episode is Morgan Yates, the corporate archivist of the Automotive Club of Southern California, and he basically told Jay that this particular CHP Polara is just one of two units that have been restored back to its pristine glory. That’s important because despite the number of Polaras the CHP ordered in 1961 – 1,200 total – the cars never spent a moment outside of the sun. They were beat up and driven to the ground to serve their purpose. Now, only two remain and this is one of them.

Soon after his discussion with Yates, Leno introduced Dave Skaien, the man responsible for the restoration of this particular CHP Polara. The two talk about the technical side of the CHP Polara at length, but the biggest takeaway in my mind was the collaborative effort that went into restoring the car to look good as new. As Leno pointed out, a restoration like this doesn’t come cheap and Skaien himself admitted that a lot of people contributed in the restoration, including one man who couldn’t be bothered to part with his Jones Motorola round speedometer for any amount of money until he made it available for the restoration of this CHP Dodge Polara.

The episode goes on at length about the car and it’s a fascinating story considering how it came to be, how it got used, and where most of it ended up. And as always, Leno gets the treat of driving the car at the tail end of the episode. At the very least, that part’s always worth checking out.


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