By Stacey Doud
Richard Borisenko, the owner of a 1937 Dodge D-7 police car, lives in Cleburne, Texas and has interesting stories to tell about the vehicle. He has made appearances all over the state with the antique car. The Grapevine Source was fortunate enough to interview him and take photos of the car at the Grapevine Public Safety Building.
“I sold a house and I had some money from that sale, and the whole time I’d been looking at this police car, but I didn’t really care at that time about the police part,” Borisenko said.
He has never worked in law enforcement, so sentimentality was not an issue.
“I was in trouble with the police a lot when I was younger. They helped me out by letting me sit in the back seat,” Borisenko laughed. “After that, I met a man who was a minister and I turned my life over to Christ, and completely did a U-turn in my life,” he said.
So why did he buy this antique police car?
“This car was on my mind, but I didn’t care much about a police part, so I contacted people about taking the siren out and taking the light off. They said I’d have to do steel, not Bondo [a quick-fix for vehicular blemishes]. I’d have to do some welding and things like that,” Borisenko explained. “So, at night, I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning, thinking about that car, because I really liked the body style. I thought it had a lot of class,” he added.
Borisenko ended up calling the owner of the vehicle to see what could happen.
“I called the guy up and said that I’d like to see that car. He wanted a lot of money for it, and I would text him with what I’d give him for it, and he wouldn’t even respond because what I was offering him was so low. I finally got a hold of him and said that I’d like to see it. He asked me when I could come look. I lived in Arlington at that time and he was on the other side of Waco. We figured it out and I drove down to his garage,” Borisenko explained.
“The car was pretty rough looking. All of the windows were broke out. The hood was white. The trunk lid was white. It had no obvious chrome on it whatsoever. So we drove down the road, and it drove real good, so I thought the car had good potential,” Borisenko said.
They were able to make a deal, and Borisenko became the new proud owner of a 1937 Dodge D-7.
“When [the owner and his help] dropped off the car, the guy said, ‘I need to get this get out of here before I get emotional,’ because I think he used that car in parades and different stuff, even though it was in rough condition. It was after they left that several people came by to look at the car. One was a Tarrant County Constable that helped in the convoy to get the car to me. His girlfriend was really excited about the car, and then after that, several people came by and liked the car [in its original condition]. I think that was the minute I changed my mind and decided to put it back into the best shape a 1937 police car could be. I don’t change my mind often, but this seemed like a big Divine message,” Borisenko said.
“I took all the chrome off – the chrome that was on it was painted black. I took off the bumpers. Every day, I did something new. I had it re-chromed, painted the hood black, painted the trunk lid black, had an air conditioner put in it with the help of some friends, had the inside reupholstered and put lights all underneath the car,” he explained.
“I had a lot of trial and error when fixing this car up. I’d put hubcaps on that didn’t look right, so take them off and put new ones on until it looked right. I got some 1937 papers [auto manual] after they sold me that car, so I had a frame of reference. I tried to make it as authentic as I could,” he added.
The engine in the car is not original. When Borisenko bought it, it came with a .318 Dodge engine in it. The whole lower chassis was replaced with parts from 1970 because 1937 Dodge parts are difficult to acquire.
“I went out to Gas Monkey – they had a show out there – and I won several things. I ran into a guy that had a ’38 Dodge pickup and he told me that he had given up. I asked him why and he said that there were no parts out there. So in 2014, I spent over $8,000 on eBay buying what I needed. I really didn’t need a whole lot of stuff, but it got pricey,” Borisenko said.
The car has won numerous awards, but Borisenko is not too concerned with that. A true servant heart, he just wants folks to enjoy the car as much as he does.
He spoke about the Dodge Brothers emblem that is original to the car. “Take a look at the emblem – it has a Star of David on it,” He said. “Can you imagine that in 1937? I’m very careful with these emblems because, if I can even find more, they are about $700 apiece.”
Borisenko has been offered $90,000 for the car – twice. He’s turned both offers down because, “I don’t believe anybody can do what I’ve done because there are no parts out there. That car is solid steel. There’s no fiberglass and it’s no kit car,” he said, with a bit of pride in his eyes.
“People often tell me, ‘I bet you never get pulled over.’ I say, ‘Man, I get pulled over all the time!’ When they ask why, I tell them it’s usually because [the police] want to take a picture of my car. Then they want to hear the siren. I warn them that it is loud, but they want to hear it anyway. They always say that it’s louder than any police car they’ve got!” Borisenko said with a chuckle.
The car is even popular just driving down the road locally to the supermarket.
“Sometimes I think I need to put a sign on the car that says, ‘Not Responsible for Whiplash,’ because people whip their heads all the way around when I drive by. I think they’re shocked to see an 81-year-old car going down the road.
“I saw a guy that was broke down on the side of the road and he was driving a brand new car. I went by and I thought, ‘Man, I’m in an 81-year-old car and this guy’s broke down in his brand new vehicle.’ It was sad and kind of a metaphor for how cars are made today versus even fifty years ago,” Borisenko said.
He has had some fun with the car, crafting props for it.
He has two mannequins, which he calls, “dummies,” that occasionally ride in the back seat. The windows of the car are tinted, so it is difficult to see into the car from the outside.
“Sometimes people jump or scream because they don’t expect anyone to be in the back seat,” he said with a laugh.
He also has some wooden Tommy Guns (with fake shells) and a cowboy hat that seem to transport him back to the Bonnie and Clyde days.
Since Borisenko is now a Cleburne resident, he keeps Cleburne Police Department magnets on the sides of the car (complete with “bullet holes”), though he has used Johnson and Tarrant County signs in the past.
“Johnson County [the county where Cleburne is located] has been very supportive. They always offer me a chance to gas up for free,” Borisenko said appreciatively.
As our interview was winding down, several Grapevine Police Officers asked permission to take pictures of the car, and Borisenko was happy to oblige.
“I’d like to thank law enforcement for their support. I went through Fort Worth one time, and a few officers saluted me. I thought, ‘You don’t need to be saluting me. I need to be saluting you!’ I appreciate them with all my heart.” Borisenko added.
The car and Borisenko will be making an appearance outside Globe Life Park in Arlington on Friday, September 13, which is the Texas Rangers’ Police Appreciation Night.
To inquire about appearances, email Richard Borisenko at 37Dodge@att.net.