Building the Ghostbusters movie 1959 Cadillac Ambulance, aka ECTO-1
It was time for a change. My Gato submarine/Japanese subchaser build was stalled, and I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm for plunging back into 1/700 scale ships, or even 1/72 scale aircraft. We were in the checkout line at Michael's craft store one day when my eyes fell upon this in the discount rack: Marked down to $10, the iconic car from the landmark Ghostbusters movie. It was ... a car (my first) ... it was (comparatively) big ... it was kind of (well, totally) goofy ... and it looked like it might actually be ... fun? Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, yeah.
To be specific, ECTO-1 is a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Futura Duplex limo-style endloader combination car (ambulance conversion). Just so we're all clear on that.
The model itself is a decent overall representation of the vehicle, and captures the iconic lines of the Cadillac ambulance fairly well. There are quite a few simplifications and compromises with the added Ghostbusters gear, however - some induced by trying to make it a composite Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters 2 vehicle, and some by the limits of plastic injection model-making. Most of that I fixed with either scratch building or scraping it off with an X-acto knife. Some things, like the smooth "moon" hubcaps instead of the correct fluted Cadillac hubcaps, I decided to live with to keep costs under control.
One of the first things I had to tackle was converting the ECTO-1A back into the pure ECTO-1 from the original movie. In the photo at left, the red arrows show where I had to shave/sand off the brackets for the electronic signs on -1A. The short yellow arrows indicate holes for -1A parts that have to be filled, and the long yellow arrows are notches where the very large -1A equipment racks went, which also had to be filled and sanded smooth.
Converting the equipment rack on top of the car back into something more closely resembling ECTO-1 required a lot of scratch building - starting with sawing off the molded-on bits that didn't belong so they could be replaced with homemade (better) bits. It's a good idea when doing this kind of surgery to make a copy of the instructions and carefully mark what comes off - and more to the point, what stays on - so you don't end up creating even more work for yourself. And don't ask me how I know this ...
The large siren on the front of the equipment rack is another example of a cardinal rule of modeling: NEVER throw extra parts away. The back half of the siren is the drop tank from a 1/72 scale Japanese Rufe fighter kit, cut to the appropriate length, with a styrene disc on the front, rounded along the edges. A grid-pattern decal from Archer Dry Transfers simulates the grille on the front.
The Proton Pack each Ghostbuster lugs around have that cobbled-together look that the entire movie has, and each turned into a little model in and of itself. Even though they are going to be inside the vehicle and not readily visible, I decided to go as all out as I could in this scale. The 'bits' that went into each Proton Pack:
1 small round magnet from the bottom of a vinyl shower curtain;
Various bits of styrene strip, rod, sheet and tubular stock;
Pieces from the red spray straw on a WD-40 can;
Copper wire in six gauges;
Solder in two gauges, makes great flexible hoses;
Vinyl wire sheathing, 18 gauge;
Lead foil from a wine bottle cork for the pack straps;
Thin piece of holographic Christmas wrapping ribbon for the one data cable.
Yes, I know I could probably have gotten the proton packs 3-D printed; heck, someone probably already does. But I'm old school, and why take the easy way out when you can invest hours of toil and innumerable amounts of frustration by making it yourself?
Painting was an adventure. Yeah, you're thinking, "How hard can a white car be?" and the answer is, "Plenty hard, if you want it to look nice." I only partially succeeded, but consoled myself with the fact that in some scenes in the movie, ECTO-1 looks kind of grubby.
The windows were tricky. The glass comes as one single unit that fits up inside the chassis, which is a godsend since otherwise there would be 12 separate pieces of 'glass' to attach. But ... studying movie and fan tribute ECTO-1 builds, I noticed that most of the windows are lightly tinted - except for about a 8-inch wide horizontal band in the center of each window, wrapping from the driver's side window, down the left side, around the rear window, back up the other side and ending at the passenger window. THAT was going to be fun to mask. Which I proceeded to do, after dipping the entire window assembly in Pledge Floor Gloss (Future) to make it clearer and stronger.
Then I got out my can of special-order Testors Gloss Custom Transparent Black to tint said windows, and discovered that the directions said to "spray on inside of clear model window parts ..." Sigh. Off came all the laboriously-applied Tamiya tape, and the blue painter's tape on the large areas. Which left patches of adhesive residue. Which smeared when I tried to remove it. Which required removing residue with Windex. Which also removed the Pledge Floor Gloss treatment. Which meant starting over from ground zero (insert muttered bad words here).
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This page was last updated Feb. 17, 2022.