We’ve been amazed by the various modifications applied to Cadillac vehicles. We’ve seen El Camino-ish luxury truck conversions, flower and funeral cars, and low riders. While these were not only cool but also practical, there was another way that Cadillacs were altered to create a highly useful vehicle. Did you know that there have been several Cadillac ambulances built? Our research has uncovered a unique history of Cadillac ambulances that merits retelling. Here is the history of the Cadillac ambulance.
Cadillac’s commercial chassis
According to Wikipedia, the Cadillac division of General Motors built a commercial chassis from 1931 through 1979. The chassis took the form of an incomplete vehicle that could be purchased by coachbuilders to create a variety of different functional rigs for commercial use. The exclusive Cadillac D platform is the inspiration for the chassis. The first chassis was inspired by the Series 355 until 1936. Through the progression of time, the chassis modeled after Series 75 through 1979. By 1980, the chassis discontinued, but there were several decades of production of this specialty chassis that allowed for a line of unique rescue vehicles.
Fanwood Rescue Squad Cadillac ambulances
Fanwood Rescue Squad, has preserved the history of their interaction with Cadillac based ambulances for their operations. The squad has a history of three decades using the Sayers and Scovill adapted Cadillacs. The squad began using the vehicles in the early 1970s. The body was box-shaped and modular to accommodate room for the patient, the care provider, and the necessary emergency gear. Their vehicle of voice was a standard 1971 Sayers and Scovill Cadillac ambulance. In 1977, they added a second Caddy to the fleet. Fanwood owned a 1951 Sayers & Scovill Cadillac, a 1956 Sayers & Scovill Cadillac, a 1961 model year, a 1966 version, and a 1971 model.
1971 Cadillac Medic I Fleetwood ambulance
Auto Week, describes the Cadillac Fleetwood “Medic I” ambulance, built-in 1971. This vehicle was built by Hess & Eissenhardt’s Sayers & Scovill. It is a rare collectible because it is one of the two high-top ambulances that the coachbuilders released in 1971. It is currently owned by a collector in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Like most of the others, it was built on a commercial chassis sold by GM’s Cadillac division. This ambulance received its power from a 472 cubic inch 7.7-liter GM V8 engine referred to as a “Q-code.” The engine was powerful with 365 horsepower with 500 lb-ft of torque. The Q stands for the Quadrajet carburetor installed. The engine was matched with a Turbo Hydra-Matic three-speed transmission. The fuel economy was fairly wretched achieving just 10 miles per gallon. Although it’s not too bad considering the powerful car weighs approximately 7,500 pounds. This is the vehicle originally owned by the Fanwood New Jersey Rescue Squad. It was in service as an ambulance until 1989. The current owner used it at his Florida medical center before retiring it to his private collection space.
The Gold Cross Collection of Cadillac ambulances
Gold Cross is another historical organization that recognizes the collectibility of old ambulances. The collection goes back in time to the Cunningham Horse Drawn Ambulance Wagon circa the 1880s. It’s followed by Ford’s 1921 Model T ambulance, 1929 Ford AA Model as seen in the film “Fried Green Tomatoes,” a 1937 LaSalle, and many others. The collection also features several Cadillac ambulances as follows.
1946 Cadillac ambulance
This Cadillac ambulance was bought in 2010 by the AJ Miller Company. The vehicle was previously used during the 40s and 40s by an Ontario Canada rescue squad. It was purchased by the Miller family then donated to the San Diego Auto Museum.
1951 Superior Cadillac ambulance
Gold Cross EMS features the 1951 Superior Cadillac ambulance that was bought from an Ogden City owner in 2010. It had been in service until the mid-1970s, then turned to surplus city property. The ambulance was eventually auctioned off. The new owners used it to display at parades and other community events before stored in a garage for 30 years.
1964 Cadillac Superior ambulance
Another edition of the Cadillac Superior ambulance is the 1964 model year titled the Crown Royale edition. This was a custom-built vehicle that was originally used for the Foglesong Funeral Home of Germantown, Ohio. After going through a few owners in the funeral business it was sold to a chemical plant rescue team, then transferred to a collector in 1981, who sold it to yet one more collector living in Georgia. it was purchased by Gold Cross in 2011.
1970 Superior Cadillac Hightop Ambulance
Gold Cross maintains a complete history on the 1970 Superior Hightop they purchased. It was sold new in 1970 for use in the Eureka and Ely, Nevada rescue squads. It was acquired by a member of the rescue squad in the 1980s. The Caddy was stored in the garage and kept for special occasions including parades and other community events. It was bought by Gold Cross sight unseen and added to the collection.
1958 Cadillac ambulance
Gold Cross EMS also acquired a 1958 Cadillac ambulance. This vehicle is a coach-built version turned out by Miller & Meteor. The group acquired it from a collector in Missouri. This ambulance provided life-saving rescue service in Arizona and New Mexico. The ambulance remained in operation until well into the 1970s era. It was bought from an owner in west Texas in 1994, then sold by the Missouri collector. He, in turn, sold it to Gold Cross EMS in March of 2012. This example is one of the first examples produced by the Miller and Meteor company. At this point, the ambulance is a highly collectible piece.
1972 Miller Meteor Cadillac ambulance
EMS 1, describes the 1972 Cadillac ambulance used by the Virgina Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad, also known as Rescue 14. The squad owned a 1972 Miller Meteor Cadillac ambulance.The vehicle had previously been used as a hearse. The rescue crew transformed a car that was used to transport the dead to one that would be used to help save lives. The inside was not as roomy as the vans used for ambulance service but it was stylish. The cockpit was styled with plain vinyl bench seats, manual window handles and a black dash. It was fitted with a large Federal Interceptor console that featured the siren switch. The large windows allowed the crew a good range of vision. Although the passenger section was not as large as the vans, the cockpit was spacious and comfortable. The rear passenger area was transformed into a miniature hospital featuring first aid supplies, a radio for conversing with ER doctors, onboard oxygen and spine boards. The ambulance was also modified with ceiling hooks for holding two additional stretchers with room for up to four patients at one time. It was also equipped with racks of resuscitation drugs and a defibrillator.
The 1972 Miller Meteor was powered by a 472 V8 gas-burning engine. It generated 365 lb-ft of torque supplying plenty of acceleration when necessary. The brakes weren’t rated as the best around, but the ride got a thumbs up. It was, after all, a Cadillac luxury vehicle. This was thanks to the classic active air suspension of the Cadillac. The ambulance went over bumps in the road a lot smoother than current ambulance models. The handling wasn’t that great, given its length and weight. It would drive wonderfully in straight lines but the heavy onboard equipment and the straight line tall room made the handling manageable but nothing to rave about. Slower turns became a requirement for patient safety and safe handling of the vehicle.
The 1972 Miller Meteor was equipped with a three-speed automatic transmission with a build that would handle the big block power. It was based on a Series 75 limo chassis. It’s a collector’s item but it doesn’t fall into the category of being ultra rare. There were quite a few of them made. The top speed was 80 for teh 345 horsepower engine with a rear wheel drive drivetrain and a curb weight over 6,000 pounds. It was a behemoth.
The 1973 Superior Cadillac ambulance
Mcall, highlights a 1973 Superior Cadillac ambulance that is currently owned by Nicos Elias. The collector added this ambulance to his Caddy Hearse and his 1964 Cadillac convertible. The 1973 Caddy ambulance is equipped with a 472 cubic inch engine that generates 375 horsepower with ample acceleration of 525 lb-ft of torque. This is the same model that was featured in the film “The Ambulance” in 1990.
Cadillac ambulances: a thing of the past
EMS Classics discusses the last of the car-based ambulances before they converted from a car chassis to a truck based vehicle. The last was built in 1979. Cadillac wasn’t the only car to be modified into an ambulance. Other major brands included Pontiac and Oldsmobile. The reason for the decline in their popularity was because of EMT needs for extra interior space and the need to accommodate more life saving equipment. The US Federal Government stepped into the scene in 1977 with a mandatory downsizing for all passenger cars. This meant that the ambulance chassis’ were required to be built smaller. This new requirement seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for car based ambulance. The requirement for a shorter wheelbase meant that the Cadillacs would no longer be a viable option. The Caddy chassis was going in the opposite direction for what was needed by EMTs. Doge, Ford, and GM trucks and vans were more suitable options to use for ambulances.
The end of an era and the remains
There were three manufacturing companies that built Cadillac ambulances. These were S& S, Miller-Meteor, and Superior. The chassis downsizing mandate devastated their businesses. Superior bult the least number with ten vehcles in 1977, 1978, and 1979. With just 30 in their lineup, finding a Superior Cadillac ambulance is more rare than the others. Miller Meteor created 21 ambulances in 1977 and just for in 1978, before calling it quits. S&S had not built any of the downsized vehicles at all. It was the funeral coach business that kept them going for just a few years more until all three of the coachbuilders went out of business.
Known Cadillac ambulances still in existence
There was a total of 55 of the downsized Cadillac ambulances built. These rolled out as 1977, 1978, and 1979 model years. Three of them were bough by Canadian ambulance services.Drumheller, AB hospital bought a 197 Superior Transport Cadillac and traded it to Crestline in 1982. The ambulance was sold to Bloomfield’s ambulance in Hague SK then sold to Ringdahl Ambulance sales in Fergus Fall, MN. It was purchased by an ambulance collector from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and remains in his collection. A 1978 Superior Transport followed a similar trading of hands and eventually ended up in Healey, Alaska. A 1979 Superior Transport was bought by the Winkler, Manitoba fire department, then sold to a collector from Winnipeg, and later sold to an ambulance collector in Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1990. There are 52 other downsized Cadillac ambulances out there with Canadian parties interested in knowing their whereabouts.
Does Cadillac make an ambulance? The precise answer is no, they do not, nor did Cadillac ever manufacture an ambulance. What they did do was to build the commercial chassis units sold to coachbuilders who did build Cadillac ambulances. Every example that you see of the Cadillac ambulances were manufactured outside of the factory by private coachbuilding companies. There were three main coachbuilders in business, but by 1979, they had all gone under due to new federal regulations that downsized the specs on the longer wheelbase vehicles. These events signaled the end of Cadillac ambulances and ended a very wonderful era.