Bladder Problems

Phoenix has spent $1.5 million to install fuel bladders in police cruisers and they can't pass emissions tests

The Fuel Safe tank bladder was used by Ford in its 1995 and 2000 limited-edition versions of the Ford Cobra, the beefed-up, tricked-out upgrade of the Mustang. In press releases, Ford calls those cars "race cars," implying that they were built only for the track.

Ford's Cobra denials are absolutely absurd, says Gary Adams, an operations manager for Fuel Safe.

"That vehicle passed California Emissions Standards with our bladders in them," he says. "They have already made our product street legal. It's clearly not that big of a deal. It is just totally crazy that they're arguing against doing it."

Ford also has received no warranty complaints on the Fuel Safe tank, Adams says.

Our public works employees can't figure out Ford either.

"They like to tell us those [Cobras] don't exist," Lopker says. "We kept reminding them of the fact that they were street legal and they kept ignoring us. I mean, it has come to the point where we don't know what else to do with Ford."

The only real recourse is to stop giving the bastards any more of our city money. More on that later.

So, frustrated with Ford, the city turned to Fuel Safe for a solution.

Now, Fuel Safe's engineers are frantically devising a little cork and tube to run vapors to the Crown Vic's carbon filter. Adams said last week the company was only days away from an easy fix they plan to give the city for free. The installation of the device will take about 15 minutes, he says.

"We definitely can do this," Adams says.

Once Phoenix gets the parts, Lopker and Leonard say, they'll run the Crown Vic through the emissions test again.

"At this point, we are still dedicated to making the bladders work," says Leonard, who notes that the city has had no fires in cars equipped with the bladders. "We still feel these are the best solution to making our officers safe."

That said, though, it is purchasing crunch time for city officials who need to buy about 120 new police cars to replace the fleet's oldest vehicles. But they're not sure Fuel Safe can come up with a solution and, since Ford has been such a pain to work with, officials are seriously looking at other car companies to supply new police vehicles.

The city might buy some Chevy Impalas, which are smaller than the Crown Vics. Officials also would have considered alt-fuel Crown Vics, but the police argue that the alt-fuel tanks take up too much space in the trunks. Many cops want Chevy's new cop Tahoe, but the vehicle is unproven as an everyday police vehicle.

The really tough question will come next year, once Fuel Safe has made the Crown Vic safe and clean again. At that point, the Crown Vic, with the Fuel Safe modification, very likely will be the most effective and safest cop car on the market.

Then, like a domestic abuse victim who keeps returning to her attacker, Phoenix might have to get back in bed with Ford.

But consumers aren't confronted with such dicey, complex purchasing issues. Knowing now what Ford will do to save money, I simply plan to never again give them any of mine.

E-mail robert.nelson@newtimes.com, or call 602-744-6549.

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