27th October 2021

The reincarnation of ECTO-1 and Ghostbusters

Nearly 37 years after its spectral big screen debut, a true icon of cinematic motoring returns. Back in 1984, as part of a true blockbuster, it caused quite a stir and this year it will once again delight the young and the young at heart. Please welcome back the inimitable ECTO-1, and Ghostbusters.

At nearly 20 feet long and weighing in at around three tonnes, the car from the first two Ghostbusters films was a vital member of the spook-fighting team, and is still held in high affection by those of a certain age.

The latest instalment of the movie franchise, Ghostbusters Afterlife, was supposed to go on general release last year, but the restrictions of COVID mean it will now hit multiplexes this November. But, before we strap on our Proton packs (movie geek reference), it’s time to go way back to the Eighties.

The story behind ECTO-1, or the Ectomobile as it’s sometimes known, is pure Hollywood. Created specifically for the production, it was the brainchild of one of the film’s writers and stars, Dan Ackroyd. In early script drafts it was described as being somewhat sinister, painted all in black and fitted with ultraviolet strobe lights.

However, by the time design consultant Stephen Dane was tasked with creating the prop for the movie, the team had realised that a white car would look much better on screen. The car chosen for the job was something special – a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor conversion. Only about 400 of these highly modified vehicles are thought to have been originally built, using a Cadillac Commercial Chassis, fitted with customised coachwork to create an ambulance, or perhaps more appropriate for its ghostly purpose, a hearse.

Two cars were used for the first production, but only one was elevated to true supernatural status. The first was used as the ‘before’ car, shown ahead of its conversion, but it was the second that made a lasting impression as it exited the old fire station for the Ghostbuster’s first job.

Covered in mysterious equipment and proudly sporting the now famous no-ghost logo, the car had received hundreds of hours of work to prepare for its part. However, despite all the attention to detail, it was still a prop and so a little temperamental.  

The car’s 6.3-litre V8 engine was originally rated at around 320hp but, with all the additions piling on the pounds, it was somewhat ponderous to drive. There are several stories of the car breaking down in the middle of Manhattan, during filming in New York in 1983, as well as stars Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray running errands between takes. There’s even tell of the car causing chaos just after the first film’s launch. As part of the promotional campaign it was driven by a ‘Ghostbuster’ in costume around New York City. This proved too great a distraction for other drivers and resulted in a number of accidents.

Over the years several replicas of ECTO-1 appeared – some better than others in recreating the car as it appears in the film. However, the original was far from dead, and was brought back to working life as part of an extensive restoration project to coincide with the launch of an official Ghostbusters video game in 2009

It had languished on a studio back lot in California and time had not been kind, with a lot of rust and many parts needing refurbishment or replacement. However, once in the hands of Cinema Vehicle Services, ECTO-1 was reincarnated in better condition that it had probably ever been before. It even received the seal of approval from Dan Ackroyd during a visit to the workshop once the work was completed.

Bringing the story bang up to date, Ghostbusters Afterlife’s trailers show a car that looks identical to the original, but is in fact a recreation in the spirit of the original - using exactly the same model of 1959 Cadillac. For the new film, the car was required to indulge in some heavy stunt work and some extreme driving, so the production team decided to start again and leave the original safe in storage. Although it looks neglected, the new car has been built to perform, and features a more powerful and modern engine, better gearbox and enhanced suspension.

You can check the new film’s trailer out for yourself now, complete with the new ECTO-1 in action, before you ask the all-important question: “Who you gonna call?’

See the trailer here: https://youtu.be/btXw45yCAdI

Were you a fan of the original film? Let us know in the comments below!