The story begins in the late Fifties with the promotion of a bright young officer, Kees Vogel, to head of Dutch traffic police. In the postwar boom, like Germany, the Netherlands was developing rapidly: towns were being rebuilt and expanding, and new dual carriageway roads were under construction to link them. As car ownership increased and traffic patterns changed, Vogel realised that the new motorways required different policing from the traditional urban model.
He set up a separate highway division, the Rijkspolitie, for which one of the first requirements after appointing and training officers was vehicles. The Dutch force’s traditional Renault Dauphines, Opel Kadetts and VW Beetles had been acquired for the urban work, which was the policeman’s lot until then, and were hardly suitable for sustained motorway mileages, so Vogel looked east for inspiration. There, certain German forces, notably Baden Württemburg in the south and Nordrhein Westfalen on the Netherlands’ eastern border, were using Porsche 356s for autobahn patrols. This would be the route the Rijkspolitie would take, and it would copy the German model exactly, from open cars to the style of uniform worn by the occupants.
The 356s would also be predominantly white, but instead of the green flash of the German vehicles, Dutch cars would have the orange of the House of Orange, the national colour. Officers would wear white coats and aviation-style headgear topped off with orange helmets. As the Germans had, the Dutch too chose the 356 Cabriolet. The belief was that in open cars, crews had better visibility and could make more obvious hand signals to motorists.
In extremis they could even deploy firearms more easily. The orange-hatted policemen were also clearly visible to motorists. This was typical of the intelligent policing that Vogel sought, deterrence considered more effective than entrapment. Indeed, to join this division, officers had to be “married men with two children”: a man with family responsibilities was thought likely to be a wiser driver and make better judgements in fraught situations. A measure of Vogel’s esteem with his bosses was that he was able to persuade them to spend government money on Porsches. Only 15 years after the war, there were still certain sensitivities among those who had lived under German occupation.
Because the official Porsche and VW importer, Ben Pon, had had dealings with the Germans, the cars were all brought in via another car dealer. The first six, delivered in autumn 1961, consisted of 356B 1500 Cabriolets. In all, the Rijkspolitie would take 45 356s, the final ten built in spring 1966 long after series 356 production had ceased. It was a measure of the importance Porsche attached to this business that it accepted the order, and also an acknowledgement that the new 911 was available only as a Coupe, and the Dutch wanted the open car. The Porsches soon built up a following: the ‘pilots’, as their drivers were called, appreciated the 356’s steering, agile handling, dependability and brakes, and they were excited about the prospect of driving the flat-six 911. Initially, for cost reasons the Rijkspolitie men had to make do with the 912: these were the first Targa-top Porsches with the plastic rear window, which quickly became opaque.
The basic model with steel wheels and a simplified specification was supplied. Each car had a bold two-digit number on its bonnet – the individual call sign of that Porsche. Zuffenhausen delivered the 912s and later 911s with additional electrical connections to enable the police to fit their solid state radios and other electronic equipment. Besides dashboard fittings, the Rijkspolitie devised a plywood cupboard installed in the 911’s rear compartment. This distinctly home-made feature rather suggested the budget had been entirely used up on everything else, but it served its purpose for the stowage of torches, gloves and smaller tools that did fit in the boot, which was already filled with traffic cones, warning triangles and other police paraphernalia.