There weren’t too many large size vehicles produced for the Real Ghostbusters toy line but with Ecto-1 being such a fan favourite and the only real vehicle that featured heavily throughout both the films and the cartoon, we didn’t really need many others. The later release vehicles were complimentary but perhaps not entirely necessary. I think the only exception to that rule was Ecto-2 due to it featuring in quite a few episodes (including the debut “Ghosts-R-Us”) and because it had some great features which transitioned well to the toy. Even so, I’m sure many were disappointed that it only held one action figure in the cockpit!
Below are images of some early presentation boards, preliminary concept artwork and final renderings of some of the toy lines more memorable vehicles.
Ecto-1 was definitely the best and most iconic vehicle of the entire Kenner toy line and without a doubt one of the greatest toys created in the 80’s. Due to how well received it was upon it’s release and just how fond the collecting community still is of the Kenner version, it’s hard to imagine it being any better than what we all know and love. Had all of the features originally proposed for the Ectomobile made it through to production however, we wouldn’t have had a great toy, we would have had a legendary toy.
Below are images of all three original presentation boards for Ecto-1 which were drawn by one of Kenner’s key preliminary designers who worked extensively on many of the toys in The Real Ghostbusters line.
Board #1 (Figure interaction features)
Without a doubt my favourite of the three, board #1 shows the entire RGB team speeding along in Ecto-1 while simultaneously catching a yellow ghost using a claw that extends from the DOUBLE gunner chair on top of the vehicle. Having two seats on top was the designers idea to have the toy accommodate all four figures but unfortunately we only got one seat on the production toy.
What I like the most about this piece of artwork however is how well it demonstrates how the early reference material from the promo pilot directly influenced the initial look of the toys. All four guys have the same coloured jumpsuits on and if you look closely you’ll notice that Venkman looks like a cartoon version of Bill Murray!
Board #2 (Haunt features)
Although Ecto-1 did come with a ghost accessory, board #2 shows just how many different ways ghosts could have been incorporated into the final design. Above you’ll see ideas for a ghost in the engine under the hood, two small ghosts that could pop out from underneath the vehicle, an attachment for the top of the car that held on to a ghost and also a feature that allowed a ghost to replace the driver of the vehicle.
Board #3 (Ghost capture features)
The final presentation board depicts the various ways that Ecto-1 could capture and contain ghosts. The winch and claw feature obviously replaced the suction cup but the overall the idea of the toy being able to grab and pull ghosts into the back of the vehicle was kept. The various different attachments for the top however were not and what a shame! Among them were a projector, a ghost leash, radar dish, copter blades and even a spinning ghost containment unit.
Kenner’s Ecto-2 helicopter toy perfectly combined the look of the vehicle from the animated show with some fantastic additional features. The winch, removable bomb and the very clever trigger mechanism which span the propeller blades are all visible in the art above. Also visible are the required colour scheme of the toy in the form of pantone colour stickers. The image above is actually of the final rendering, which is about as close to production as can be. Below you can see the much cooler preliminary concept design.
Ecto-2 Preliminary Concept Art
The preliminary design drawing for Kenner’s Ecto-2 reveals how the toy was originally going to be far more faithful to the animated show than it eventually ended up being. The top image showing Ecto-2’s ability to be folded up and placed into the back of Ecto-1 is taken directly from a DiC model sheet and can be seen in action in the very first episode “Ghosts-R-Us”. What’s even cooler though is that the prelim art shows that Ecto-2 has two seats (just like the show) which would have been great for the action figures. Unfortunately for one reason or another neither the folding function or the extra seat could be carried over from this piece of concept art to the production toy.
One fun thing about this piece of art that may not be visible from the image above is that the bomb was originally called the “Total Protonic Reversal” bomb. Now, not all of the reasons behind all of the changes Kenner made to it’s toys are known but I think this one is pretty obvious, I’ll leave it to Egon to explain why they went with “Ghost Eliminator” instead:
“Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”
As much as I enjoyed playing with my childhood Highway Haunter toy, having seen the preliminary concept art..I must admit that I feel slightly cheated. The production toy was a car that transformed into a bright green mantis type ghost yet the original art depicted a red muscular ghost-beast-thing with a dragon like head and a second mouth in his stomach! Even the motor ghost looked more menacing.
The original name of the Highway Haunter was “Berserk Bug” and the motor ghost was called “Monster Motor”.