The Automobiles Goes Back to Basics in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”

When you think of iconic movie vehicles, there are a few choice examples. You have the “Back to the Future” DeLorean time machine, several iterations of the Batmobile, and the Ectomobile. The Ectomobile, or Ecto-1, has gone through plenty of remodels in the Ghostbusters franchise. With the last installment, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” coming out last year and Sony Pictures announcing a fifth Ghostbusters sequel at this year’s CinemaCon, there’ll be a lot more to see from the classic Cadillac Hearse.

The Ecto-1 has been in the ghosthunting business since the first Ghostbusters movie in 1984. When the original film was under development, the production team was working on two identical Cadillacs; one to practically use during shooting and one to use as a prop during shooting. The original lasted the whole movie but stopped working during “Ghostbusters II,” forcing them to use the second one as a replacement.

The second model was aptly named Ecto-1a, refurbished with some upgrades, including a new paint job, logo, and digital scrolling announcement boards running across both sides. It was used for the remainder of the second movie and again for the all-female Ghostbusters reboot in 2016. 

When Ghostbusters: Afterlife rolled around in 2021, eagle-eyed Ghostbusters fans noticed something: the original Ecto-1 model returned. Gone are the upgrades of the second film and in are the rust stains and dusty exterior of being stored in an old barn. Trevor Spengler (Finn Wolfhard), the grandson of the late Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler, finds the original Ecto-1 when his mother (Carrie Coon) moves their family to their grandfather’s farmhouse in Oklahoma. Along the course of the film, the new generation of Ghostbusters finds that this model has a gunner seat–a possible nod to “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon that aired in 1986.

It is to note that Sony Pictures did not actually use the 1984 Ectomobile in this film. Instead, Production Designer François Audouy said that found alternate 1959 Cadillacs to convert into the iconic hearse. Much like the first film, they built two separate Ecto-1s to use for Afterlife

The original Ecto-1 was restored by Cinema Vehicle Services in North Hollywood. They fully stripped it down, got new parts, installed a new motor, reupholstered the interior, and gave it a fresh paint job. They even re-did the gurney that rolls out the back. 

The Ghostbusters Youtube Channel posted a featurette of the restoration process, which even includes Dan Aykroyd visiting the shop and taking the Cadillac for a spin. After cruising down memory lane, Aykroyd gave a final seal of approval. Between the original restored vehicle and the updated models used in the newer (and upcoming) films, there’s no doubt that the Ectomobile will live on as one of the most iconic vehicles in Hollywood history.


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