Live Auctions

Running Ambulance Project: 1972 Oldsmobile 98

General Motors was a common source for large cars as commercial conversions in the 1960s/1970s. Like this 1972 Oldsmobile 98 which was professionally converted to an ambulance for use by the U.S. Air Force. It has benefitted from a lengthy list of mechanical work done more recently but is going to need cosmetic attention inside and out. Located in Sebastopol, California, this unusual project vehicle is available here on eBay where the bidding has only reached $1,275. But the seller set a reserve that has yet to be triggered.

This former ambulance was a product of Cotner-Bevington out of Blytheville, Arkansas. Between 1959-75, they were a builder of hearses, ambulances, and limousines based on Cadillacs, Buicks, Oldsmobile’s, and other large luxury cars. GM would ship to Cotner a commercial chassis which, in this case, was a 98 (or Ninety-Eight) without any bodywork back of the front clip, cowl, and windshield. Everything else would be custom-built. This unit was purchased by the USAF for use at a base in Texas. After it completed its military service, it was sold to a volunteer fire department and turned over once again before the seller acquired it.

Mechanically, the ambulance is stock-Oldsmobile, with a 455 cubic-inch “Rocket” V8 and automatic transmission, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, power steering, and air conditioning (its components are long gone). An extensive list of items that have been repaired or repaired to make it roadworthy again include new tires, hoses, belts, alternator, battery, brake parts, suspension components, and a litany of other things. An exhaust leak around the manifold still needs attention.

The body has its share of dents and dings along with some seriously worn paint (two-tone, applied for the fire department no doubt because the military version may have been painted black or dark blue). A spare hood comes with the vehicle. The floors are thought to be sound except in an area in the back. The original interior may be okay although the driver’s seatback has a tear in it. Paperwork from both Olds and Cotner will come with the transaction, as will a commercial jack as the vehicle is too heavy (5,000 lbs.) for a regular car jack. You’ll need a two-axle trailer to haul this beast.

A clear California title is provided, and the car is currently registered as Planned Non-Op, which means no back CA DMV fees will come due. This is one of those vehicles that you must ask yourself what would you do with it once you got it home. Restore it as an actual ambulance for show purposes or convert it into some sort of creepy Halloween novelty. What would you do?


  1. RGSmith1 Member

    “…who ya gonna call…”. I know – wrong year but I had to say it!

    Like 5
    • Mountainwoodie


      Like 4
  2. Howard A Member

    Of course, my own budget ambulance business, what’s the worst that could happen? 1st call,,, brrtt, pop, pow, ( engine sputtering), turning around to semi-conscious passenger, “don’t worry, this happens all the time, can you hand me the vise grips?”,,seriously, imagine the horrors this vehicle saw, from a time before paramedics, when survival was iffy. The ambulance, unlike the rolling emergency rooms of today, was merely a fast ride to the hospital. If you made it, you made it. This? Well, considering what I’ve seen people living in out here, I suppose it could be made into some kind of shelter, otherwise, any demo derbies or monster truck shows coming up?

    Like 4
    • wcshook

      Most likely it saw very few emergency runs with the Air Force. Drove it around some. After it was retired, from service, it most likely saw a lot more emergency service. There with the fire department, it probably didn’t get cared for as it should have. They may have parked it in a bay. In its hay day, there would have been EMT’s in the back. I personally was with a volunteer ambulance (and an EMT) around this time. Evidently, you have never had to ride in the back of the ambulances of today. They beat you to death. I know. I rode in one more than a few times. These rode like a cloud. Demolition derby? Only for someone without any appreciation for what used to be the standard of excellence.

      Like 11
      • Howard A Member

        What I meant was, this ERA ambulance saw it’s share of horrors. In ’72, our police dept. ( Milwaukee) used Chevy Suburbans for transport. There were no paramedics, and the jump seat next to the bed was for clergy’s administering last rites. I have never been in an ambulance, kind of amazing considering the life I led, and everything today is helicopter. And demo derby and monster truck promoters have no scruples, they’ll crush anything.

        Like 1
  3. Mark C

    Where I live there’s a good chance this would become a football tailgater special. I’ve seen some old ambulances converted as such. Otherwise, you’d have to be pretty creative to come up with a new purpose.

    Like 1
  4. John Eder

    I am the owner of this vehicle. It currently has over 2,000 views and almost 100 watchers on eBay, plus many questions about it from watchers. So…it ain’t over till it’s over…This is a rare, custom built vehicle. Would you convert any number of soon to be nonexistent cars into a clown car just based on a popular movie? I didn’t think so. This was an on-base, non-tactical ambulance. I rode in one of these in USAF basic training when I got really sick. I know a lot of people are put off by the thought of past occupants of ambulances, but if you appreciate workmanship and unique vehicles, then this may work for you. It has had a bunch of work done to it, making it driveable- all described in the eBay listing. As a USAF vet, my intention was to return it to its livery while on active duty. The reserve is stupidly low- a give away price, actually. I will never finish this project, and need to move on.

    Like 4
  5. DeeBee

    Looks like the perfect C&C conversation starter! Roll up and enjoy the crowd!

    Like 1
  6. Mike

    I like the vintage pic in dark blue. Looks really good in that color.

    Like 5
  7. CaCarDude

    I really like this vintage Olds. A couple good points right off.. it is on a Non -Op and it also is no longer a smog dog in CA being a ’72 vintage ride. I see this as a very cool long roof to bring back for the west coast surf crowd. Not a woodie but hey a great place to store your long board and a standout at your local Cars and Caffeine. Hope someone is able to save and enjoy this rare wagon.

    Like 4
  8. John Member

    Ah yes, the old days of “throw and go” like hell but they rode like a dream,
    smoooth, your right, the new ones, no matter the size ride..well, like a truck.

    Like 2
  9. martinsane

    I’d have a gob of fun tearing this down and putting it back together.
    I’d lose the ambulance theme, sorry guys and just shaggin waggin it with some nice accruements inside and drive it all the time.
    Oldmobiles sure are pretty and certainly deserve more love.

    Like 2
  10. bull

    That car would once again look ELEGANT back in dark blue. Lose the lightbar, right set of wheels with whitewalls, git the correct fender skirts and you would have a nice/fun/different vintage vehicle you could use for all sorts of activities.

    Yes I would put the Air Force markings on the door!

    Like 2
  11. Sam Shive

    Military Meat Wagon, Did anyone else notice the EM-50 In the E-Bay Pictures. Maybe he was going to make STRIPES 2.

  12. John Eder

    The USAF paint color is “Strata Blue”. It can be purchased from Gillespie Coatings or Rapco Parts- paint code is 25045. I have also read that PPG 17634 is very close. The door lettering is Insignia Yellow.

    Like 3
  13. chrlsful

    loose everything ambalance, military or work related (cept the pop top). Match the oem wheel covers but big tire. Nice rug or wood interior back there & use fer cruz. Even convert to lounge w/couch, etc back there? Run back curb/rd side doors up into the top a lill for ease of entry? Exchange back dors for full view?
    If more for workmen like loose side dors & just keep back ones, no back glass but there? I kinda like the sedan delivery, van, etc to have a lill glass behind the frnt passenger for intersection viewing.

  14. John Eder

    Restore to original purpose and configuration only. Someday, when all of these cars have been converted to Ghostbusters wannabes, tailgaters, a weird version of a 70s “shag wagon”, demolition derby victims, etc., all we will be left with are photos of them in books or pristine $40K versions in museums or private collections and then we will wonder to ourselves, “where did they all go?”. Would you do any of those things to a 1967 Mustang fastback , 1955 Chevrolet Nomad or 1932 Ford?

    Like 1
  15. Stevieg Member

    Costner Bevington was owned by Miller Meteor. Costner Bevington only built Oldsmobiles. Miller Meteor built the Cadillacs.

  16. Rolls-Royce

    I like to make this car like a one-person camper.

  17. George Duran

    Used to work on these at US Military Academy, West Point. They were so heavy they wore out steering components at an alarming rate, the frames sagged, and we’re constantly wearing front tires from being impossible to keep aligned.
    The buyer should have a large budget for front end work and tires!!

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