We get it. A Miller-Meteor-bodied Cadillac ambulance/hearse has all sorts of intrinsic flare, fit into the mid-1980s fetishization of the Fifties, and in the long run made a great choice for the vehicle of choice for the original Ghostbusters film, given the countless replicas that have appeared since. And once the die was cast, the sequel had to follow suit.
But – and be honest here – was the Cadillac really the most appropriate choice for a bunch of geared-up New Yorkers negotiating New York streets? No, it was not. And on that point we’re seemingly in agreement with illustrators Benton Jew and John Bell, who both offered alternate versions of the Ecto-1a that was to appear in Ghostbusters II.
Jew, for instance, envisioned a Checker Aerobus. This was smart. Like the Miller-Meteor, an Aerobus would have offered plenty of space for the ghostbusters team and their equipment, especially if they’d have gone with with a station wagon version rather than a sedan version, as Jew’s drawing proposed. But the Checker would have offered a far more rugged chassis able to handle New York’s roads, better parts availability (even though Checker production ended in 1982, Checker cabs were still in service at the time), and a deeper connection to the Big Apple. Stantz could have conceivably picked up an Aerobus for even less than the $4,800 he spent on the Miller-Meteor.
Or take Bell’s proposal, which employed a Lincoln Town Car. It’s not clear from the drawing whether it would have used a stretched sedan chassis or a limousine with the middle cut out, but both sedans and limousines were in widespread use in New York City at the time. As with the Aerobus proposal, the Town Car would have made more sense than a Miller-Meteor on a number of fronts: parts availability, relative ruggedness, and widespread availability. However, a new-ish Town Car would have cost much more than an Aerobus or an old Miller-Meteor (a 1988 Town Car sedan started at about $23,000), wouldn’t have come in a station wagon version, and likely would have been of less utility value than an Aerobus or Miller-Meteor.
In the end, neither the Aerobus nor the Town Car made the cut. As Stephen Dane, who oversaw the design of the original Ecto-1, told Daniel Wallace for “Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History,” from which the above two renderings came, “It was five years later so I basically took my old drawings off the heap and added more detail to them. The look had been established for the first one, so it was just kind of pointing people in the right direction.”
Dane did say he wanted to add some NASCAR-style sponsor logos to the Miller-Meteor that became the Ecto-1a, but in the end settled for a few added bits of hardware like the scrolling dot-matrix signs seen on Jew’s Checker-based concept.
As for the 1983 Cadillac used in the most recent Ghostbusters flick, we find it a perfectly reasonable choice.