Who you gonna call? Polar Lights Ecto 1 with lights... and ghostbusters! (pic heavy-ish)

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Having previously attempted the Blade Runner Police Spinner and the 1989 Batmobile, I've added to my growing collection of 1/25th scale movie vehicles with another iconic car from one of my favourite movies. This time 'Ecto-1' from Ghostbusters.


I've had this on my 'work-in-progress' shelf for ages. Like the other cars, I wanted to light it as fully as possible and if possible mount it on a small diorama base, ideally with figures of Venkman, Stantz, Zeddamore and Spengler. It was finding a fantastic set of 3D-printable STL files for the ghostbusters themselves that finally got me revved up to finish the model. They were beautifully accurate, and scaled down to 1/25th, would give me just what I wanted for the final look.


The kit itself is relatively straightforward. I opted for the original 'Ecto-1', seen in the first movie. The car had a lot more detail and 'busyness' added to it for the second movie, but I like the simpler lighting rig, 'roof-rack' and markings of the original. It's 'purer' somehow. Polar Lights make kits of both versions of the car. There was one issue with the Ecto-1 version, however, which was that the headlights, sidelights, rear lights and all the various spotlights are all solid mouldings on the sprue of chromed parts. So adding all the lights I wanted would take some work...

The first thing to do was to make moulds of all the lights - or at least the parts of them that should have clear lenses. I used 'Blue Stuff' for this, a thermoplastic moulding material that softens to a putty like consistency when heated in hot water, but cools to a firm but slightly flexible state which retains even the finest detail. Using these moulds I cast all the light lenses in clear resin. The only lights that turned out to be imposible to make like this were the 'square' main rear lights so I had to use a different technique for them at a slightly later stage.

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Replacement lenses made, I carefully drilled and filed out the moulded lenses in the chromed parts. Filed to fit, the clear resin inserts pushed into place. The signature Cadillac conical rear lights were cut away and the lit areas of the square rear light clusters were carefully drilled out. As I said, I didn't have clear inserts for these, so instead I taped the back of the part and carefully dribbled clear resin into the lenses from the outside using an eyedropper. At this stage, I also removed the moulded strobe lights in the front of the front radiator grill, drilled holed behind them which would eventually house white micro-SMDs and replaced the 'bulbs' with short lengths of clear perspex rod to form new lightable strobe flashers.

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For the various spotlights I used a similar technique to the one I used on my Spinner. The moulded lenses were drilled away along with a 'hollow' in the spotlight itself. Then a small hole was drilled in the base to allow a micro-SMD to be added to each spotlight (these were coloured SMDs to match the final colour of the spotlight - mostly blue but also a red). SMD in place and tested, the resin replacement lenses were glued to the front of the spotlights and the seam lightblocked and hidden with a thin strip of self-adhesive aluminium tape. All the new lenses were tinted with transparent blue, red and amber Tamiya paint.

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For the headlights and sidelights I used 3mm LEDs and built them into short plastic tubes wrapped in aluminium tape to block any light except from the front. These would be glued into place just behind their respective lenses (there's not much room as you have to avoid blocking the front wheel wells - otherwise the car won't fit together later. I drilled out channels from the inside in the rear wings to insert four red micro-SMDs so that they rested just behind the four conical tail lights. The larger tail lights were lit in the same way as the headlights, with red 3mm LEDS inside plastic tubing. The wires from the rear lights were run along the inside of the body to meet the wiring from the front lights so that I had a single point of connection for all the 'static' lights.

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Main lights wired and attached, I went to work on the car itself...
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The car itself is pretty accurate, only a few details needing 'upgrading'. I scratch built two wing mirrors to be attached later (these are missing in the kit) and re-located the spotlight on the driver's side wing. I would also later replace the moulded plastic aerials with more accurate scale ones made of a guitar string, as well as adding the missing aerial on the passenger side wing.

The biggest accurising effort went on the 'roof rack' and its equipment, which is very simplified compared to the real prop. I scratchbuilt various bits of equipment from the spares box, almost completely rebuilt the 'HVAC' unit, and added the tangle of connecting hoses, cables and wiring that's present on the original. It's not completely canon, but it looks a lot more accurate than the default kit piece.

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The white strobe at the very front of the roof rack between the siren and the red flasher is just a 5mm white 'top hat' LED - it's pretty much exactly the right shape and size to mimic the original fitting. Once I was happy with the level of detail I painted and detailed the roof rack as a separate unit. I re-created all the various warning stickers and signage in Photoshop, based on all the pictures I could find online, and scaled them in Photoshop to be the correct size when printed onto an A4 sheet of self-adhesive address labels. At the same time I also created other marking like the yellow and black chequered stripes, as well as multi-colour ribbon cable and warning stickers for the ghostbusters' proton packs. They were so tiny when printed that you can't read the text, but they look 'right'!

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At this stage I painted the car (I opted to painted the red areas of the bodywork rather than use the incomplete decals that come with the kit). The chrome pinstriping on the bonnet, sides and rear fins was done with 0.5mm wide chrome tape (made for use in nail art!) and the wider chrome inserts in the fins that house the conical rear lights were made with aluminium tape trimmed to shape. I later also used aluminium tape to create the missing bonnet emblem. The interior was painted straight 'out of the box', with only a couple of strategically placed warning stickers to add a bit more detail - I'd decided the effort of lighting the dash wasn't worth the small effect it would have compared to the three-ring circus of the external lighting! Test fitting the various parts at this point gave me a preview of what the car would eventually look like!

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Then it was back to the wiring...


Well-Known Member
I'd decided early on that the circuit boards that would run the various strobes and flashers would be located inside the rear compartment of the car - the tinting on the rear windows would hide them from the outside. There were three in the end, one to run the alternating strobes on the front of the radiator grille and the white strobe on the front of the roof-rack, one to run the alternating blue flashers at each corner of the roof, and one to run the red flasher at the front of the roof rack and the blue flasher on the driver's side wing. The blue lightbars at the front and back of the roof wouldn't need a circuit board; they were made by simply using four 3mm flashing blue LEDs in each bar - the slightly different flash rate of each LED would give a pleasingly random pattern which would sort of replicate the revolving beacons in the bars on the original car.

Wires to the 9v power supply were fed through the chassis and the floor of the rear passenger compartment. Wires were also run from the back to the front of the car through the transmission tunnel (to get power to the headlights and to connect the front strobes to the circuit board in the rear compartment ). The roof rack and all the various lights were added to the main body of the car one by one, feeding the various wires through holes in the roof and wings. I made sure to label all the wires with what they were, as it very soon became a tangle of wires and I needed to ensure that the ones that needed resistors had them and that the various wires all ended up at the right connections to the direct 9v power supply or the right connection on the circuit boards. There were still a few head-scratching moments despite this!

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Once everything was in place on the outside of the car, the wires were all tidied up inside by taping them flat to the roof or the sides. The windows were then carefully inserted and fixed in place. Once this was done the trailing wires could all be connected to the circuit boards and the power supply.

A couple of days of testing, soldering, heat-shrinking, swearing, de-soldering, re-soldering, testing, swearing again, checking connections, re-soldering and testing ended in a successful set of blinking, flashing, pulsing and steady lights! Hooray! The rear compartment was carefully fixed in place inside the main body. One final test to ensure no nasty wiring surprises and make sure everything still worked, and the chassis could finally be attached to the body. It's attached with four small screws as well as glue; once safely attached it was left overnight to fully dry.

The next day I added the guitar string aerials, finished up the remaining detail painting and added the logo and hubcap centre decals. I decided that the look of the ghostbusters equipment is always slightly grimy and 'used', so I added some rust and light weathering to the car... I don't know if it's strictly canon, but it sort of looked right to me.

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The car was finished. But it needed someone to drive it around!
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Well-Known Member
So I spent a happy couple of days painting the figures of Venkman, Stantz, Zeddamore and Spengler that I'd printed on my Elegoo Mars resin printer. The detail on the figures is amazing - even the individual cables on the proton packs are sculpted (excpt for the signature ribbon cable for some reason!). The likenesses are really good too. I hope I did them justice with the painting - at my age I'm sadly finding that my eyes aren't up to painting the really fine details any more, no matter how much I compensate with magnifiers etc.

I moulded and cast a toy 'Slimer' that I had lying around so that I could have him peeking over the bonnet of the car. And I also scratch built a ghost trap. I also printed a 3D 'no ghost' logo for the front of the display base - this was part of the 'scenery' that comes with the figure set.

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I used the same sized wooden plinth that I've used in the past for both the Spinner and the Batmobile, surfacing it with a section of tarmac street made from self-adhesive cork sheeting. I found a New York manhole cover STL file which I scaled down to add some detail. The figures were placed around the car in what seemed believable poses - Spengler reading his PK-meter and indicating the likely direction of paranormal activity, while the others look on. And the model was finished...

...or was it. Effective though the flashing light show was, it seemed to lack something. Something as much a part of Ecto-1 as the logos and the lights. It needed that distinctive wheezing, raucous, evocative siren! It was too late to add anything within the car itself, of course, and it probably wouldn't have fitted anyway... but I bought one of those recordable sound chips with an in-built speaker that you can buy for personalised greetings cards. A quick voltage reducer circuit to bring 9v power down to 5v for the chip meant that I could run it off the same power supply as the lights. I found an MP3 file of the siren which could be looped, and recorded it onto the chip. The chip has to be 'hidden off-stage' at the moment (maybe I can find a way of adding it to the base at some stage) but when the lights and the siren go on, the model now really recreates the nostalgic joy of seeing the film for the first time in the 1980s!

There are still a few light leaks that need to be fixed at some point, especially at the back, and I think the figure painting could have been better, but all in all, I'm happy with how the final model display looks. Here are some final pictures and a movie that shows the full effect (sound on!).

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Sr Member
Have you seen these things?

Various sellers sell those on eBay. Anyway - it's a simple circuit board with four LEDs and a timer to simulate a rotating beacon. The driver circuit like that could easily be repurposed for making a flashing light that looks a bit more like it's rotating rather than simply blinking.

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I've ordered the model, so I can at least make a static version. Where did the circuit boards come from?
Thank you! :)
The alternating strobe circuit board was this one - Velleman MK180 | Two-Channel Hi-Power LED Flasher Mini Kit | Quasar UK
And the two simple alternating flasher boards were this one - https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001VCMEVO/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Pretty sure you'll be able to get similar boards wherever you're located. Hope this helps!


Well-Known Member
Have you seen these things?

Various sellers sell those on eBay. Anyway - it's a simple circuit board with four LEDs and a timer to simulate a rotating beacon. The driver circuit like that could easily be repurposed for making a flashing light that looks a bit more like it's rotating rather than simply blinking.
Thanks for the link. Those look interesting. I've bookmarked it for possible future use!

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