A Detailed Look At The Ghostbusters Car: The “Ecto-1” Ectomobile

Ghostbusters is a timeless classic film that has spawned multiple sequels and reboots. Many fans love the Ghostbusters car, a rapid-response ghost-busting vehicle. The converted Cadillac is called the Ectomobile or Ecto-1. It is one of the most memorable cars from movies, of all time. This fictional station wagon had a fascinating story, and the car used in the original movie survives to this day.

The Ghostbusters car is based on a 1959 Cadillac

Ectomobile replica vehicle owned by a Ghostbusters fan. The Ghostbusters car, known as the ectomobile or ecto 1, is based on a 1959 Cadillac ambulance, a hearse in the movie. The original film car survives to this day and will appear in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. | Marc Piasecki/Getty Images
Ectomobile replica vehicle owned by a Ghostbusters fan. | Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

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In the 1984 paranormal comedy film, Ghostbusters, a team of parapsychologists battle ghosts haunting New York City. Dan Aykroyd wrote the script and starred alongside Bill Murray. 

During the movie, the team decides they need a dedicated Ghostbusters car to respond to supernatural emergencies. Dr. Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) arrives at their base in a 1959 Cadillac hearse and announces, “Everybody can relax; I found the car.” 

To the shock of Venkman (Murray), Stantz admits the 25-year-old vehicle needs “suspension work and shocks, brakes, brake pads, lining, steering box, transmission, rear end… maybe new rings, also mufflers, a little wiring…” To make matters worse, Stantz says he paid $4800 for the jalopy.

The original Ectomobile at Sony Pictures Studios. The Ghostbusters car, known as the ectomobile or ecto 1, is based on a 1959 Cadillac ambulance, a hearse in the movie. The original film car survives to this day and will appear in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
The original Ectomobile at Sony Pictures Studios. | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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But they fix up the long-wheelbase wagon and paint it white. Then, they decorate it with their logo and number. They also install a siren, a roof-full of gadgets, and a ladder. Next, they convert the ambulance’s pull-out gurney into a rack to hold their ghost-capturing proton packs. Then, they use the unique Ghostbusters car to respond to ghost sightings and hauntings all over the city.

The resulting vehicle is nothing short of zany. It is easily one of our favorite 80s movie cars. It has four headlights, a station-wagon body bracketed by 1950s fins, steel rims, and worn-out chrome. The Ectomobile’s NY license plate reads “Ecto-1”. It was a central piece of both 1984’s Ghostbusters and 1989’s Ghostbusters II.

The Ecto-1 Ghostbusters car began life as an ambulance

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In Dan Aykroyd’s original screenplay, the writer specified that the Ectomobile was a converted 1959 ambulance. His vision was of a black car topped with white and purple strobe lights imbuing it with a “purple aura.” But much of the movie takes place at night, and the film crew decided that a black Ectomobile would not show up on screen very well. For this reason, they decided to paint it bright white.

The film crew eventually purchased a 1959 Cadillac series 62. It had been converted into an ambulance by the Miller-Meteor company in Piqua, Ohio, which built limousines, ambulances, and hearses. 

Ectomobile replica vehicle owned by a Ghostbusters fan. The Ghostbusters car, known as the ectomobile or ecto 1, is based on a 1959 Cadillac ambulance, a hearse in the movie. The original film car survives to this day and will appear in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. | Marc Piasecki/Getty Images
Ectomobile replica vehicle owned by a Ghostbusters fan. | Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

The picture-car department decorated the Cadillac and installed all the prop gadgets on its roof. The crew also leased a black Cadillac hearse for Stantz’s jalopy’s pre-restoration scenes. Unfortunately, during the filming of Ghostbusters II, the original Ghostbusters car “died.” The team scrambled to buy another, more reliable model to complete the movie. After both films wrapped, Universal Studios purchased the original, leased jalopy to convert into a third Ectomobile for display purposes.

The Ectomobile appears in Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The surviving Miller-Meteor converted Ectomobile appeared in multiple museum displays and drove in various parades. But, by 2009 it needed, “A lot of work.” So, Sony Studios gave the Ghostbusters car to Cinema Vehicle Services to restore. The team fully refurbished the classic movie car.

The Vehicle Services team stripped the car back to metal, installed new sheet metal where needed, and repainted the entire vehicle. They hunted down new trim or refurbished the old chrome. They even bought a fresh windshield from a parts car in South Africa. Finally, the restoration team updated all the rooftop gadgets with modern bulbs and electric motors.

The Ectomobile will reprise its role–along with Murray and Aykroyd–in the upcoming sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife. In the movie, Ecto-1 appears abandoned in a barn, but still runs well enough to drift across a wheat field. For this sequel, the film crew upgraded the Ghostbusters car with a slide-out “gunner’s seat” and even swapped a modern Chevrolet LS V8 engine into the Ectomobile. This supernatural comedy also stars Paul Rudd, McKenna Grace, Carrie Coon, and Finn Wolfhard. It was directed by Jason Reitman. Ghostbusters: Afterlife hits theaters on November 19th, 2021.

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