1978 Superior Cadillac Ambulance.
One of only 30 last-generation Superior Cadillac ambulances made, this big hightop Cadillac has seen its share of the joy of birth and the tragedy of young death in its years of active service in Pennsylvania in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Cadillac ambulances had served the sick and injured for decades and was the standard by which all other ambulances were measured. However a "perfect storm" was brewing in the mid 1970s that would spell the end of Cadillac ambulances. New federal regulations for medical care in ambulances were being adopted and, at the same time, automakers had to downsize their vehicle offerings for to meet fuel mpg standards. These two factors combined to lead the move to truck and van based ambulances.
Superior marketed their 1977, 1978 and 1979 downsized ambulances as "transport" ambulances designed more for transfer work than heavy-duty accident scene detail. Most were more than just transporters; they picked up right where their predecessors left off, whether on the scene of an auto accident or a cardiac arrest at the local A&W. These cars saw plenty of emergency duty in their lifetimes!
This was the first Superior ambulance delivered in 1978, and went to Excelsior No. 1, Eureka Hose Company No. 4 in the borough of Olyphant, Pennsylvania. This was the second ambulance built by Superior in 1978, but the first delivered. Wolfington Body Company of Exton, PA handled the deal with Eureka Hose Company. Following its service in Olyphant, the car moved to Shippenville and Elk City, Pennsylvania for a few more years of service. [Delivery picture, all lettered in gold leaf and ready for its first run! Credit: Dr. Roger White]
The clock was ticking though. Only 18 more Superior ambulances were produced before Cadillac ambulances passed into history with the close of the 1979 model year. Check out Wikipedia's article on the history of ambulances here.
PCS member Dr. Mickey Spivey of Tennessee was the first collector to own the car. Fellow PCS member Kent Dorsey owned the car for several years after that, before the car moved to PCS member Gary Bright's garage in Flora, IL in late 2010. I'm honored to be the next custodian of this ambulance, following Gary's untimely death in June, 2011. The first time I saw this ambulance in person was at Gary's visitation. It was proudly displayed under Frank & Bright Funeral Home's carport, just as Gary would probably have wanted it.
Time has taken its toll on these ambulances. Almost 40 years after the last Cadillac ambulance was produced probably fewer than half have survived. Visit the Northand Archives for photographs of some of the other ambulances.
Originally Omaha Orange and White, the car was repainted its current color scheme of red and white sometime in the early 2000s.
It is fully equipped (in 1978 terms) with piped oxygen, Rico suction, dual batteries, an electronic and a mechanical siren, ditch lights, loading light, lighted front sign, Federal 184 Power Light beacon ray, dual spotlights, front and rear tunnel lights, buzzer/indicator light system, Cole-Hersee battery switch to control the dual batteries, dispensery cabinets in the divider, driver's side #2 door, and rear door that are covered in Golden Ash Formica, high intensity light over the cot, Ferno locking cot bar, Ferno Washington #30 ambulance cot, squad bench seating, grab handles and rails near the cot to steady the attendants while they did their work, IV hardware in the ceiling, rear heat and air conditioning, a Modura rail, and basic first aid medical equipment.
One of the more unusual features of this car is the driver's side of the car doesn't have a window in the rear compartment wall while the passenger side does have a window. In professional car terms, if you're looking at the ambulance from the driver's side, it's a landau; from the passenger side, it's limousine style.