Every group of hard working, blue-collar, pop culture icons needs a proper vehicle. The A*Team raced in a custom painted 1978 Chevy van to the scene of ordinary folks getting screwed. Michael Knight argued with the teacher from Boy Meets World who was trapped like a possessed soul in a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Scooby-Doo and his pals solved mysteries using the awesome power of marijuana in their custom painted "Mystery Machine."
The Ghostbusters, however, set the standard in style by converting a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor into the paranormal extermination transporter known as the Ecto-1. As we learned last week, Dallas has a local Ghostbusters franchise in operation with movie-grade reproductions of uniforms, proton packs and ghost traps. Now, they want to complete their collection by building an equally authentic looking Ecto-1.
"[The Ecto-1] is such an icon and just looking at the thing makes you happy," said Thiago Nascimento, one of the founding members of the Dallas Ghostbusters. "So just imagine building one."
The group started a fundraising campaign to get the money they need to build a drivable Ecto-1 complete with all the wires and whistles that made it such an iconic movie car. They only need $3,000 for their project and they've set up a donation site at GoFundMe to raise the money. That's not a bad price for a car with its own ectoplasmic containment unit.
Nascimento said that this project has been in the works since 2008 when they started trying to find the perfect model that could match the distinctive style of the Ecto-1.
"We've had this car since 2008," he said. "So we're just raising money to just help us push the project along. We've already invested our own money and time. We've always toyed with the idea because we've had friends say that we should do a fundraiser and how they'd love to help throw some money at it. So we thought why not? People keep offering to help."
The vehicle that writer and star Dan Aykroyd, a very knowledgable mechanic and noted gear head, chose to use for the movie is one rare puppy. Only 2,500 of the Ecto-1's models were ever produced. Nascimento and his crew have been scouring the Internet, junkyards and even some funeral homes to find the right car.
"We even looked for cars through the National Hearse Association," Nascimento said. "You don't even want to go into their group and tell them 'Hey, we want to buy a car and turn it into an Ecto-1.'"
The one they've settled on is a 1960 Cadillac ambulance that's only off by one year and has the wrong coach builder compared with the original, but only the sharpest eye of the most ardent Ghostbusters fan would notice the difference. They also have a mechanic who can get the thing running again so they can focus the put the majority of their money into all the proper tubes and props on the car to make it look like the organized mess on wheels in the film.
"That stuff adds up in a heartbeat," Nascimento said. "I'm hoping we don't have to spend that much because we still have to get it into a body shop."
Getting the car to run again is the easiest part of this job. Their goal is to make it as close to authentic as possible from the lights and sirens on the roof to the long tails on the rear brake lights.
"As an artist, this is just some other form of expression for me," Nascimento said. "I get to learn so much about so many things on these projects whether it's building cars and combustion engines or hearses and how they are made. It's very educational and artistically, I'm expanding my work. It's extremely satisfying and very fulfilling."
Of course, they eventually get hit the big question that always seems to come up when someone talks about building their own movie car whether it's the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters or Dennis Hopper's Pontiac GTO from The Last Ride.
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"As many times as I've heard that, I have a stock answer for anything we do as Ghostbusters fans," Nascimento said. "It's a line from Ghostbusters II. When they walk into the mayor's office, the valet asks them if they have a proton pack that they can give to their little brother, and Egon says, 'The proton pack is not a toy' and I guess he's right. These were things we wanted as kids. Now that we're grownups and some of us are not even grown-up yet, it's like Star Wars fans with light sabers. It's building the childhood dreams that we've always had and now that we have the resources and the ability to make it happen, it's like a dream that we're living."
They won't be allowed to rent out the vehicle for events because of copyright laws but the goal of this project isn't to make money off building an Ecto-1. Nascimento said it's meant to become something that will instantly slap a smile on someone's face whether they are hanging out a car show, geeking out at a fan convention or simply walking down the street and wondering if they are actually looking at the Ghostbusters driving around downtown Dallas.
"It's always a communal thing," he said. "It's never one person who owns an Ecto-1."