For those of us classified as Generation X, the iconic Ectomobile seen in the Ghostbusters movie franchise is one vehicle that is easily identified. While we may not know it by its real name, the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor (or by the Ectomobile), we know its shape and décor. We know that when there is trouble in the neighborhood, the Ghostbusters will come flying around a corner, ready to take on the ghosts and ghouls.
Combination Cars and the Cadillac Commercial Chassis
The 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor is what is known as a combination car. Combination cars were often built on the Cadillac Commercial Chassis but customized by other coachbuilders. These combination cars were primarily used in smaller towns as a hearse or ambulance, with the ability to switch between the two roles with relative ease.
The main coachbuilders to customize combination cars included Superior, Hess & Eisenhardt, Cotner-Bevington, and Miller-Meteor. Most combination cars had (or may feature) the following characteristics:
- Flashing lights, either mounted or concealed (some cars used rotating roof beacons that would either flash yellow in processional mode or both red and yellow in emergency response)
- A siren
- Two-way radio
- Gurney (stretcher)
- Foldable seats on one side in the rear where the first-aid person can sit with a patient on the way to the hospital
- Cabinet where first-aid supplies would be stored
The Ghostbuster’s Ectomobile was a Cadillac Commercial Chassis with an ambulance-framed body.
The Meteor Motor Car Company in Piqua, Ohio, was purchased by Wayne Works in 1954. Meteor was responsible for building professional cars such as limousines and ambulances. In 1956, Wayne also acquired A.J. Miller’s professional car building company in Bellefontaine, Ohio, specializing in making hearses and ambulances models. The Miller Co. was soon combined with Wayne’s existing professional car subsidiary, Meteor, forming the Miller-Meteor division.
The Ghostbusters and the Ectomobile (Ecto-1)
The Ectomobile (also called the Ecto-1) is an iconic limo-style end loader combination car that just about every Gen X can identify from a mile away. The ambulance conversion of the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor was used in the 1984 Ghostbusters movie and all the other Ghostbusters fiction. The original vehicle design is credited to Steven Dane, listed as a Hardware Consultant in the movie’s credits.
In the 1984 movie, Stantz pays $4,800 for the car, claiming that it needs a massive number of repairs. Today, this would be the equivalent of almost $12k. After the necessary reconstruction, the Ectomobile graces the streets of New York City, carrying around the Ghostbusters and their ghost-capturing equipment. One feature of the Ectomobile included a pull-out rack utilizing the ambulance’s old gurney in the back, which contained their proton packs. Many different gadgets were also mounted to the top of the vehicle, but the function of these was never revealed in the movies.
Three Cadillac Miller-Meteors were used for the filming of the original Ghostbuster’s movies. The first was a black model, leased for the movie’s opening but was never converted for filming. The original color of the Ecto-1 was black, but filmmakers decided that a black car would be too hard to see in the night shots. They changed to the white model, and the third model was purchased when the second one broke down during the filming of the second movie.
The company eventually purchased the originally leased vehicle and converted it for touring. The other two currently sit on the backlot at Sony pictures. They have undergone a full restoration after years of deterioration. The Universal Studios’ “Spooktacular” stage show featured an Ecto-1 replica that a man in Tennessee built. The replica sold at the Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2010, for $80,000. Another replica was made by Peter Mosen and bought by George Barris, a designer and builder of notable Hollywood cars (the Munster’s Koach). There is one more replica on the books, residing in Roscoe, Illinois, at the Historic Auto Attractions museum.
Other Ecto-1 Versions (Through the Years)
Even though the iconic car is and will always be associated with the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor, but over the years, the Ghostbusters have had other options for their ghoulish-crime fighting.
- In the 1984 computer game, players can choose from a 1959 hearse, a VW Beetle, a station wagon, and a high performance/low capacity sports car
- In the second movie, Ecto-1a is upgraded, adding more technical equipment, the logo to the hood, and sports stripes of yellow and black along either side
- A new Ecto-1 model based on a 1984 Cadillac de Ville appears in the 2016 reboot, introduced as a hearse that Patty Tolan gets from her uncle’s funeral home
- Ecto-1b can be found in the video game and is similar to the “a” model but has the addition of the Super Slammer Trap and enhanced capacity ghost trap
- In the Ghostbusters|Transformers crossover, Ectotron is a Cybertronian who can transform into the Ecto-1. He was introduced in the comic released by IDW Publishing and released as a Transformers figure by Hasbro and Takara Tomy as a GameStop and Hasbro Pulse exclusive
- Ecto-2 is featured in the 2016 reboot as a white Ghostbusters motorbike; in the comics and cartoons, the Ecto-2 is depicted as a small open-topped two-seater autogiro
- Ecto-3 has been featured as three different vehicles:
- A motorized unicycle and sidecar that slips into the Ecto-1’s rear fender in the Real Ghostbusters
- A time-distortion jet-like vehicle invented by Egon in the comics that is renamed Ecto-4
- A go-kart-like vehicle sold as a toy
There are so many different types of cars that have been used in movies, television shows, crossovers, comics, video games, and so on. Ghostbusters has become more than just a Generation X movie made in 1984 – it is a brand. Ghostbusters and the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor will forever hold a place in history, now and in the future, for generations to admire (even if the special effects scream the 1980s)!