The 1977 Pontiac Trans Am (The Purple Police Car) was brought to Winthrop Washington in 2005 by former Winthrop Marshall Chris Matson as a loan from the Tonasket Police Department. The car was donated by Tonasket citizens and completely restored by local businesses. For ten years, it was used by the D.A.R.E. Program for outreach events related to positive law enforcement at local schools. The car was also displayed in diverse local events, where it was praised and awarded several ribbons over the years.
After Marshall Matson received the vehicle, the Winthrop Police Department displayed it in parades, car shows and events. When not being exhibited, it sat at the police station’s parking lot. In 2010, the city decided to formally purchase the vehicle at the reasonable amount of $1,000.
It was Marshall Dave Dahlstrom’s idea to park it at the entrance of Winthrop in 2010 – only during non-winter months. Its main purpose is to support the law enforcement service provided by real police patrols and the electronic speed device placed across from it. No doubt about it: Many newcomers who drive into town think that a real patrol is waiting to catch motorists who go over the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit. Drivers can be seen braking from the 60-mile-per-hour highway speed when they see the purple car with the light bar on top. One cannot help but feel nervous, confused or amused by the ludicrous image of Officer Pedro emerging from the front seat, and cannot help wondering if it’s all real or not.
Of course, Officer Pedro is not a real person. No one, not even the most devoted police officer, could manage to wear such warm clothes plus a western hat in a car with the windows constantly rolled up through the summer. Plus those eyes cannot be real, or we’d be living in zombie land. The whimsical dummy was made by artist Nikki Radwick, who suggested placing big-eyed Pedro in the car in order to have a greater impact. And it worked.
In fact, marshalls Dahlstrom and Matson once had to take the souped-up car for a short but intense ride. A few years ago, while taking the purple beauty to a local old-automobile parade, the officers had to chase and stop a speeding car in a parking lot and issue a ticket. One cannot help but wonder if the driver regretted the consequences of his actions, or if he was amused by the campy look of the vehicle that had just intensely pursued him.
Nowadays, the purple police car and Officer Pedro are one of Winthrop’s many tourist attractions. Visitors not only from Washington but from across this country and even international ones can’t help but stop to take pictures of the magnificent Pontiac. As Julie Muyllaert, co-owner of Winthrop’s Methow Cycle & Sport, pointed out, it would be interesting to place a webcam near the vehicle to see people’s actions and reactions to what could now be considered one of the most interesting and striking landmarks in the area.
Unfortunately, not everything is seen through a rose-colored windshield and apparently not everyone likes dependable Officer Pedro. The car has been vandalized a few times. On one occasion, someone scratched its top with a knife pretty badly. But not only civilian non-sense is there to blame. Serious effects caused by time and weather are responsible as well.
There had been talk of restoring the vehicle and maintaining a presence that satisfies both a law enforcement need and an important tourist attraction. It’s unknown if that ever happened.
Winthrop Marshall Dave Dahlstrom
Drivers who come through the western entrance of Winthrop face two speed controls: The electronic speed device and Officer Pedro in his souped-up, purple Pontiac
Officer Pedro watching traffic