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EMS Classics is a feature column I write for Canadian Paramedicine.

It is my attempt at giving the younger generation who work in EMS today, a snapshot into the history of ambulance service.

If you are interested in purchasing the images or the text copyright to any of the columns please email me at EMSClassics@shaw.ca

All proceeds are donated to the Paramedic Association of Canada Benevolent Society.

The almost-new Caddy arrives in Saskatoon

Photo Peter Adsten EMSClassics.com Column

My classic Caddy ready for the shows

Photo Peter Adsten EMSClassics.com Column
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Column 10 August/September 2007

A Dream Come True

In 2005 I attended the Professional Car Society meet, held in Denver, Colorado. The highlight of the meet was wandering through the parking lot and enjoying the sights of all the old ambulances, hearses and limousines on display. Also on display were all the back issues of The PCS's quarterly magazine THE PROFESSIONAL CAR, right back to the inaugural issue published in 1976. Upon returning home I checked all of my back issues of the magazine to determine if any were missing and needed to be reordered. Of course I couldn't thumb through the magazines without also looking at all the pictures of old ambulances, and that's when I came across the following article written in 1998 by Walter McCall of Windsor, Ontario:

"Did you catch that For Sale ad in TPC #86, the one for the brand new 1975 Superior Cadillac Hightop Ambulance that had never been used? Sound like one of those wonderful urban myths? Well, we can report conclusively that it's true...

In the fall of 1975, the American Ambulance Company of Detroit, Michigan took delivery of a fleet of 1975 Superior Cadillac Hightops. The word was out that the Cadillac commercial chassis would be downsized for 1977, and American Ambulance wanted to stock up on full-sized Cadillac ambulances while they were still available. One by one the '75s were placed in service replacing older vehicles. But American Ambulance proprietor Don McIntosh held one back. Weeks went by, then months, then years. Kept preened and polished, the black-over-white '75 Superior was never placed in service. Only rarely was it ever moved outside American Ambulance's garage on Trumbull St. in downtown Detroit, just a few blocks from Tiger Stadium.

In the company of fellow Canadian PCS members Len Langlois and Evan Butchers, we made the four-mile trek from our home in Windsor, Ontario across the Detroit River to American Ambulance. Don welcomed us at the door and led us into the garage. And there it sat awaiting our incredulous inspection. The Superior Coach factory inspection sticker in the lower right corner of the windshield was dated 11/5/1975. The odometer showed exactly 1,976 miles!

As expected, the '75s interior is immaculate. There isn't a tear or sign of wear on the red leather upholstery. There isn't a mark on the linoleum floor in the rear compartment. Everything's there, including the Federal 'Q' coaster siren on the roof."

Well, after reading this I thought surely this ambulance would have been sold during the past seven years but felt I should call American Ambulance anyway in order to dismiss it from my mind. To my surprise the answer I received was "Uh-huh, the old girl is still sitting here in the back of our ambulance shop".

I decided to take a quick flight to Detroit, thinking I would inspect the ambulance and would be able to determine right away that it was actually an old ambulance that had been reconditioned to look like new - not one with less than 2,000 original miles. But after I arrived and began inspecting, it quickly became evident this ambulance had only been driven a few miles - it actually had been sitting in the shop for the past 29 years! I decided to purchase the car and arranged for it to be transported by truck to Saskatoon.

I was not fond of the black-over-white paint scheme so I had it repainted red and white to match the red interior and to also match the original 1975 Superior sales brochure. The documentation that came with the ambulance shows it originally sold for $18,050 (that was a lot of money in 1975). The car has a beautiful ride - due to its hefty weight and long wheelbase. And it is no slouch on acceleration thanks to its massive 500 cubic inch (8.2 litre) engine.

Superior of Lima, Ohio built a total of 123 Cadillac ambulances in 1975, but it is safe to assume there are no others remaining that have less than 2,000 original miles on the odometer. My plan is to exhibit the Caddy at car shows and EMS events. It's fun to show and reminds me of the Pontiac and Cadillac ambulances I used to work in. For me, it's a dream come true!

Copyright 2007 Peter Adsten