Numerous ambulances were made using the “Dodge” Sprinter bodies, which, being tall and thin, and available with relatively efficient engines for city traffic, were popular for a time. However, since this Freightliner-Mercedes design was only sold briefly by Dodge, and was a “badge engineering” feat, these ambulances are not covered here.
Minivan based ambulances
Dodge and Jeep truck based ambulances
During World War II, many ambulances were built at the Dodge factory, using the standard Dodge truck chassis (as modified for the Army.)
In Egypt, the long wheelbase Jeep Wrangler (made before the Unlimited) was converted into an ambulance, complete with roll-out bed (courtesy DesertBuzz). Power Wagons were also converted for military use.
More recently, according to Anthony Brockbank, “In Saskatoon, we had, until about 2 years ago, Dodge Ram 3500 pickup ambulance conversions. They had the 8.0L V10. Although I couldn’t find any pictures, I have talked to ambulance drivers and they have said they are much faster and easier to work on than the Ford E-Series vans.” Anthony provided these photos of one of their 5.9-liter Cummins diesel-powered Dodge Ram ambulances (both at Advanced Response Vehicles Inc., in Saskatoon).
The 1975 Power Wagon conversion below was provided by Warren Swaney.
The 1987 ambulance shown below was a one-off experimental package which was not adopted by the British Columbian government. Warren Swaney wrote, “This was an experimental unit for use in rough country, which the province of BC has a great deal of, but it did not work out as expected and only one was built.”
The interior was surprisingly spacious and well finished given that it was essentially loaded onto the back of a 4×4 pickup truck.
Starting in the 21st century, with the Ram chassis cabs available in classes 3-5, Ram-based ambulances started to become far more popular, particularly after 2010.
Dodge van-based ambulances
At one time, Dodge vans were the best sellers, so there were many Dodge-based ambulances. When minivans came out, those were adapted too.
Warren Swaney, of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, provided a small Dodge-based Superior ambulance brochure; he said, “The first on is exterior and interior views of their standard width Type II vans. The second is an exterior shot of their ‘61’ van which was cut down the middle and had the entire body widened by 16 inches. The widened vans had ample room in the back but they tended to wallow on the road and were a handful to drive.” Superior’s 61-S ambulance, based on the Dodge 300 Maxivan, had 61 inches of headroom – the name referred to headroom rather than width – and could be made to order.
The Superior ambulance roof had a steel frame under the fiberglass to maintain structural integrity. The standard interior featured a walk-through partition and cabinetry with see-through glass doors (as pictured above).
Warren Swaney sent in numerous ambulance photos, and we plan to show more later. Let’s start with this 1982 Dodge KaryVan conversion:
Warren wrote, “All public ambulances in BC are owned and operated by a division of the provincial government and from 1975 until some point in the 1990s, they built their own units in a small plant on Vancouver Island. They attempted to standardize units throughout the province and this was what they used from 1975 until 1982. These units could carry up to 5 stretcher patients.”
Bill Anderson sent in a host of ambulance photos. Photo A was converted by Summers Coach Sales in Duncanville, Texas. It was built from leftover van stock at Summers Dodge. The base was a 3/4 ton van, 360 2-barrel carb, with a steel raised roof. The company was better known for their line of Suburban ambulances. The photo was, with most of Bill’s others, taken in August, 1980. Photo B is a 1984 B-350/National Conversion used by MedCare ambulance in Irving, Texas. Photo C 1980 is a B-350/Osage conversion unit, loaned to Transtar EMS in Silsbee, TX in 1995 while waiting for new units. The truck had its siren in the grille and no insulation; it sounded like the speaker was in the cab.
Photo D is a 1978 Dodge B-300 converted by Custom Coach International, in Tuksa, Okla. It originally had two Deitz four bulb beacons on the roof. We modified this one because the two lights were ineffective. This is one of two that we had. They had sequential VINs.
Photo E was taken at Summers Coach Sales in August 1980. Williams was a small company that operated in the Dallas area in the late 1970s to early ’80s. This unit was used by Paramed (Ray Crowder) Ambulance in Fort Worth.
There have also been minivan-based ambulances (see below), as well as a Chrysler-sponsored PT Cruiser ambulance shown at SEMA but probably not used by any medical services. For the most part, Dodge-based ambulances faded out when the B-van’s fate was announced; upfitters would not want to spend their limited resources developing for a vehicle that was soon to be discontinued.
Dodge set up a series of “Amblewagon” ambulances based on its 1960 Dodge Dart, a small car for the purpose. The advantage of the Dart-based Amblewagon was mainly that it did not change the body, so it could be priced lower. (Amblewagon itself was an established firm which produced ambulances and hearses). Options included oxygen and emergency equipment (such as resusicators), sirens and rotating beacon lights, patient cots, collapsible stretchers, flower trays (for hearses), and extra partitions. (Thanks, Ewald Stein, for the source materials.)
For a simple hearse, Amblewagon would convert the Dart wagon for $485, including a casket rack, waterproof rug, cot holder, drapes, floor-level tailgate with casket rollers, special lighting, and name plates. An ambulance conversion ran $800, including a split second seat for the attendant, floor-level tailgate, cot holder, window inserts and shades, snap-in washable carpets, siren and rotating and flashing lights, warning switch, rear fan, and nameplates. For $1,185 buyers could hedge their bets and get both conversions to the same car.
Steve sent over some photos taken by professional photographer Trevor Burkitt (who took these for personal use) of a Dodge ambulance for sale in Lethbridge.