The year 2020 will mark the 85th anniversary of the Montana Highway Patrol, and to celebrate the, the MHP debuted a new car design on social media on Friday.
In contrast to the current black design, the new retro design is white with a 1985 MHP logo on the door.
Several of the new cars are already out on Montana roads, and around 50 of the anniversary cars are being deployed around the state.
MHP vehicles are assigned based on mileage. Once a trooper reaches 100,000 miles on a sedan or 150,000 miles on an SUV they are given a new vehicle.
The Montana Highway Patrol was created in 1935 as a response to Montana seeing a 74% increase highway fatalities from 1933 to 1934.
There are currently more than 200 troopers that patrol Montana’s highways, and around 300 vehicles in MHP's fleet.
As for the ever-present "3-7-77" markings on the vehicles (and on troopers' uniforms) the Association of Montana Troopers website provides some information, which involves the state's history of vigilantes and includes two leading theories:
- The most widely accepted theory today is that the numbers represent the dimensions of a grave: 3 feet wide, 7 feet deep, and 77 inches (6 feet 5 inches) long. The idea behind this is that if the “Road Agent” did not leave town within a given amount of time (3 hours, 7 minutes, 77 seconds), they would find themselves in such a grave.
- Another theory is that the numbers represent certain persons in the group from their earlier days in the mining camps of California. Most of the Vigilantes came from California and followed the gold from there to Montana. Many of the Montana miners had belonged to vigilante organizations in California where only numbers were used. This theory indicates that three prominent California vigilantes (3, 7, and 77) came to Montana and offered their expertise.