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PALM LATITUDES

BOTTOM LINE : Siren Call

June 11, 1995|Michael R. Forrest

The lot adjacent to Tony Griego's shop looks like a traffic jam out of a gangsta's worse nightmare: Spread out bumper to bumper, in ominous black, white and red, are canine cars from the Highway Patrol, cop cars from Compton, Huntington Beach, Downey, Beverly Hills, South Gate, the IRS, DEA, INS and USC. Not to mention ambulances, a Seal Beach lifeguard truck and what his wife, Joanne, calls "a couple of mean and stupid German Shepherds."

Tony and Joanne Griego own Pursuit, one of the two largest outfits on the West Coast that transform ordinary sedans into law-and-order tools. Griego chose the name "because that's the cops' most fun thing to do," he says.

Tony and the 13 employees of his Buena Park company install gun racks, sirens, computers, cages, spotlights, automatic door openers and lights for departments throughout Southern California--though not for the city of L.A., which has its own shop. Pursuit converts about 700 cars a year, most costing about $3,000, he says. For considerably more money, they've even done James Bond-type cars for an unnamed client that included hidden lights, hidden strobes, hidden microphones, a hidden tape recorder and nail-drop and smoke-screen devices.

Tony slips into one of the cars and turns on the strobes and the siren, and he smiles. "The fun of playing with them never goes away. A siren is beautiful, satisfying music." Getting out, he pats the car on the hood. "Sirens are friends," he says. "They're friendly sounds."

Sure, it seems as if he's maybe too much into his job. You'd think that so deeply felt a passion might strain a marriage, but his wife is as nuts about police cars and sirens as he is.

On their Hawaiian honeymoon, they visited police stations and fire stations and took pictures of themselves in front of the vehicles. Walk into their house and you'll see toy police cars on the carpet and the furniture. Car photos line the walls. Open a hall closet and you'll find boxes filled with car parts. They have a police-car-shaped cookie jar; lift the lid and--surprise--a siren wails.

"I love 'em," Joanne says. "When we first dated he would tell me if it's a 'wail'or a 'yelp'or a 'high-low'--that's the one that sounds like a donkey, ee-aw ee-aw. I begged him to let me quit my insurance job so that I could work with him. I like to go sit in the police cars and fire engines and look at the gadgets and listen to the sirens."

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