JOPLIN, Mo. — A true Ghostbusters fan could identify an “ECTO” if they saw one pass them by on the street.
But, if you saw this custom-made ECTO, built by a local Ghostbusters super fan, would you associate it with the popular films?
For those who grew up in the 80’s or 90’s, the Ghostbusters logo alone brings up childhood nostalgia; however, if you’re not familiar with the Ghostbusters movie franchise, Joplin Resident Steven Vaughan would be the ideal person to fill you in!
Vaughan, who considers himself to be an ultimate Ghostbusters fan, made the movie franchise part of his every-day life, by turning his own car into an ECTO.
As Vaughan excitedly explained, “ECTO-1 is the name of the official vehicle used by the Ghostbusters in their movies, and is also the name that appears on that car’s license place. In fact, a lot of people think the vehicle you see in the films is a hearse, but it’s actually a 1959 Cadillac ambulance that is repurposed for the special task of ‘catching ghosts’ by the Ghostbusters.”
Though not a 59′ Cadillac ambulance, Vaughan says it took a lot of time (and money) to customize his 2009 Chevy Impala to look similar to the vehicle you see in the movies.
“I did it not only because of my personal love of the Ghostbusters franchise, but more importantly for someone who’s very close to me and has been an important part of my life since I was little.”
Growing up, Steven Vaughan became what he is today: A Ghostbusters fanatic.
He was able to share his love of Ghostbusters with his beloved grandmother, Helen, who is also a fan.
The two would often watch (and re-watch) the movies together and quote lines from the films.
During Vaughan’s late teenage years, his life would take a dive into depression.
What helped him survive, Vaughan said, was his Grandmother’s love and the movie franchise he’s so passionate about.
“If it wasn’t for how my parents as well as my grandma raised me, and the overwhelming support I get from them, I wouldn’t be the man who I am today.”
Over the last few years, Vaughan began thinking of ways he could show his grandmother just how much he appreciates her.
That’s when he decided their shared love for Ghostbusters, can be shared with the world.
First, Vaughan joined the fan group and non-profit organization, “Ghostbusters of the Ozarks.”
And then, Vaughan decided to take his Chevy Impala and turn it into the best ECTO he could.
All paid for out of his own pocket, Vaughan said turning his car into one worthy of the Ghostbusters franchise cost him several thousand dollars, but considering what he gets in return, Vaughan said it’s a price that was well worth it.
“Anything I can do to bring out the inner child in someone, and bring out those same feelings of being happy that Ghostbusters and my grandma gave me, I try to give the same exact feelings to others. I know how it helped me, and so if someone is going through the same kind of things I went though – even just a little bit of me being there and brightening someone’s day can make all the difference, so for me that’s what it’s all about.”
It took many different elements for his vision to come together including decals, a lot of fabricated parts, paint, a satellite dish from an RV and green flashing lights.
Dressed up in full costume (proton pack and all) Vaughan takes his ECTO to events all over the Midwest, including local theaters for the premier of the latest movie in the Ghostbusters Franchise, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which debuted last year.
“Whenever people see it out and about, the usual response from people is, ‘I love your car,’ ‘Can I take a photo with it?’ And I’ll usually switch on the lights for them because most people don’t know that my car can be lit up,” he laughed. “People really love it at parades. I went to the Joplin, Neosho, and Springfield Christmas parades in 2021.”
You’ll also find his transformed vehicle at local events, especially around Halloween, but don’t be surprised if you see it at your local grocery store, as the car serves as his daily drive.
“Occasionally, I will have people walk up to the car and they think it looks interesting – they don’t say that it’s bad or anything – but they will ask me, ‘Are you a taxi cab?’ I even had one person come up and ask, ‘Are you law enforcement?'”
Although Vaughan has made lots of smiles and life-long friends from the transformation of his car, the one person Vaughan wanted to share his creation with, unfortunately is unable to enjoy his hard work.
His grandma, Helen, now has advanced Alzheimer’s disease and isn’t mentally aware.
“It feels tough, not knowing her reaction to seeing it; her knowledge of where I am in my life now. But I know for a fact that she would be proud and that it would make her smile. That’s how I keep the memories that her and I built together, living on. To give the same joy and love to those who need it most – I, in turn, give those same memories that I made with my grandma during my hard times, to those who may be suffering. I know she would be proud, and I live to make her and my parents proud.”
As Vaughan grows older, his love of Ghostbusters grows right along with him.
Also growing older is his 2009 Chevy Impala ECTO, with 216,000 miles on the odometer.
So, what’s in store for Vaughan’s next car? His answer shouldn’t surprise:
“With my next vehicle, I would love to do the same thing! But, of course, I would have to start from scratch. This time around there would be a lot more changes I would make since I now have the knowledge of doing it, that would save me a lot of time and hassle versus the first time I turned this car into an ECTO.”