GhostBuster: Afterlife Director Gave Ecto-1 a Badass Engine Swap to Save the World

The longer we wait for the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife film, the more we get to learn about what to expect from this new one and the previous Ghostbusters films. The Ghostbusters franchise has a die-hard cult following, and with that comes a deep love for the film’s props. This is why when the new trailer showed the barn-find return of the legendary Ecto-1 – one of the most memorable movie cars – fans lost their heads with excitement. But the old Cadillac Ecto-1 got a killer engine swap for the next world-ending ghostly apocalypse. 

screen shot from the trailer for the new Ghostbuster: Afterlife film showing the Ecto-1 drifting through a barley field
The Ecto-1 drifting in a field | Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The new Ghostbuster: Afterlife is a film for Ghostbusters gear heads

In the YouTube video here, Jason Reitman, Ghostbusters: Afterlife Director and Co-Writer, puts words to the feeling that many fans share about what made the original Ghostbusters film such an iconic piece of cinema

“My connection with Ghostbusters always had to do with this ephemera. It was the packs, it was the traps, and it was the car,” Reitman gushed over his love for the films. He goes on to say, “ A lot of this film for me was the thrill of what it would be like to discover all these things in your home.” 

Understanding Reitman’s love for the Ghost-busting gear makes the trailer for this film make perfect sense when he set out to do justice to the original props that definitely included the iconic Ecto-1. 

The Ecto-1 needed a LS motor to better save the world

The original Ecto-1 in the first Ghostbusters film
Original Ecto-1 | Ghostbusters

For whatever reason, one of Reitman’s earliest ideas for the film was a sequence of the Ecto-1 drifting through a wheat field. Reitman wanted to mirror the original film by using as many practical effects as possible. Part of this meant getting the Ecto-1 running hot enough to fully tear ass in a wheat field (it was actually barley). 

The way the production went about this was the same any hot-rod builder would do; rebuild the old Cadillac from the ground up and give it an LS engine. In this case, Reitman dropped a crate LS engine into the now, very-rippable ghost hunting rig. As he says in the video, after a full day of ripping donuts in the barley field with the Ecto-1, they could smell burning barley from the Ecto-1’s tomfoolery. 

Aside from practical effects, there was also plain practicality that needed to be considered in the Ecto-1 engine swap. In Ghostbusters II, Ecto-1 was in pretty rough shape and regularly sputtered and broke down. It eventually broke down on the Brooklyn Bridge for so long it got a ticket. Aside from the powerful fun of an LS swap, maybe Reitman just didn’t want his Ecto-1 to break down.

What is the history of the original Ecto-1? 

the original ecto-1 in a state of disrepair
original Ecto-1 | Ghostbusters

According to MotorTrend, ​​the original Ecto-1 was converted by Miller-Meteor at the company’s Piqua, Ohio, plant that used the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado tail fins and other style cues to make this ambulance hearse that would prove to be eternally linked to Ghostbusters. This design only made it to 400 production cars, making the base car a rare number indeed. 

Originally, Ecto-1 was supposed to be based on a 1975 Cadillac ambulance, and it was meant to be black with purple lights. Needless to say, we are glad that the Ecto-1 design we know and love made the cut over the other. 

After the Ecto-1 spent years sitting and rusting in an LA backlot, fans eventually caused such a fuss that it got a full restoration and is now preserved. The plot point of the Ecto-1 being a discarded barn find is really not all that far off from its actual history. However, something tells me the LS-swapped Ecto-1 might not see the same fate as the original.