Officer James L. ("Jim") Underwood shows Harley Davidson "suicide shifter" to children.
The town bought the first police car, a maroon Ford two-door sedan in 1946. In 1961 the force had a Chevrolet and a Harley Davidson. The motorcycle was called a "suicide shifter" because the gears were by the gas tank and to shift gears the officer had to take his hands off the handlebars. Eventually the force had two patrol cars.
The police department was given a VW in 1970. The police officers were not fond of the VW as the townspeople found the car comical. It was a tough, reliable little car and could not be destroyed. Its great maneuverability made it useful for pursuits in town, but it was not much good for pursuits on the open road.
Note:Images courtesy of Frances Garst, Data Processing Operator at the Blacksburg Police Station, Lieutenant Gary Teaster, James L. Underwood, and the Blacksburg Police Department