How much is that tow going to cost? A lot less than a ride in the ambulance….
How come you never see ambulance-to-RV conversions? I know they see some abuse, and they’ll never be as spacious as a purpose-built RV, but with all of the interior and exterior storage, wouldn’t they make a great tailgating rig that can still fit into (approximately) one parking spot?
I can think of two possible reasons. First, I’ve never gone looking for one, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a used ambulance for sale. There probably aren’t many used ambulances on the market to fall into the hands of DIY RV builders.
Second, they’re probably pretty cramped inside with all the specialized storage cubbies. By the time you hack enough out the make some livable space inside, you may be left with not much more than a cube van with a bunch of access doors in the sides of the cube. Perhaps it’s more trouble to adapt the interior than it’s worth?
Yep. I think the only used ambulances that are worth much are Cadillacs.
They’re too valuable to sell for cheap anymore like decades ago. Professional vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks are all sold off to less-developed countries, especially like Mexico.
And as BOC said, they’re really not very well suited for the job, being rather heavy to start with. Anyway, who does their own RV conversions anymore? You can buy old used ones starting for a couple of thousand dollars. It’s totally not worthwhile, unless you just want an rv that looks like an ambulance.
The reality is that nowadays frequently they don’t sell an ambulance in one piece. Often the patient care box is transferred to a couple of different trucks before they purchase a new box.
Use Google Maps to look up Braun Northwest, one of, if not the largest ambulance builder in the PNW and zoom in. The gravel lot with the trucks facing I5 are the used trucks for sale. Note when both the satellite and street view photos were taken there are 5 cutaways in the used lot and only one complete truck and that truck is a standard van with a high top, which of course it does not have a separate box you can unbolt. Not that I drive by there real frequently but when I do the used inventory is often quite similar, I’ve only seen one or two complete trucks out there in the dozens of years I’ve traveled by there.
However if you check Ebay and Craigslist you will occasionally come across an ambulance that has been re-purposed and the most common application I’ve seen is as a tailgate vehicle.
I happened upon an ambulance that had been converted to a heavy truck roadside assistance vehicle, it was parked on the side of Ohio Rt-8 near Akron behind a semi with a flat front tire. I couldn’t see much but it had an air compressor installed and some form of tire machine.
A radio station in my hometown turned a 1980s style ambulance into a mobile broadcast van. They replaced the red and white strobes with funky colors and drove it around to concerts and festivals. It definitely stood out.
Ambulance-to-RV conversions are extremely common in New Zealand, and have been a staple of our RV market since at least the 1950s. Our ambulances are generally a standardised fibreglass rear built onto a suitable cab-chassis.
Throughout the 70s and 80s the default cab-chassis base was the CF Bedford; through the 90s the LDV ruled, with a smaller number of Chev Vanduras/Sierras. Through the 00s, Chevs continued to be used in smaller numbers, with the default LDV beginning to be phased out in favour of other Euro cab-chassis – eg Fiat Ducato, Mercedes Sprinter etc.
Ambos seem to last around 10 years in service before being phased out, and are then eagerly snapped up for RV conversions. I remember a fleet of mid-90s Chev Sierras being sold off here in the mid-00s with mega-miles on their odometers. They were snapped up at around NZ$10K each, and would have fetched many times that once converted. I went to look at one at the time, but they were lowest-spec interiors (no dash airvents in some!), and the RHD conversions weren’t brilliant.
Most of the Ambo-RV conversions are simple, with single bed down each side, a small kitchen area and a shower-toilet if you’re lucky. Some though are very intelligent and well-designed, like this 2000 Chev Silverado that I’d buy tomorrow if I had the NZ$70K asking price. The pics show it before, during and post-conversion:
Some more conversions and ambos-for-conversion. Clockwise from top left: CF Bedford, LDV, Chev Vandura, Fiat Ducato.
“Take us to the hospital first and we can bill you to the insurance.”
Theres some RV converted ambulances around here a Chevvy resides nearby and a 84 CF Bedford.
NZs ambulance fleet is now built on Mercedes Sprinters, You asked how good those vans are once Paul well they make great ambos so how reliable do you need
I visited the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart last week. Among all those awesome rides from days gone by, they had a humble Sprinter-based ambulance on display. On the plaque, it said that MB supplies 80% (or was it even 90%?) of the ambulance chassis used in Germany. And from what you see on the street, they certainly seem to be the dominant supplier. So yes, if they’re tough enough for ambulance duty, they can’t be that bad.
Anyway, I’ve never seen one that had to be towed by a giant truck towing rig.
They are that bad, at least compared to the other options available in the US market, there is a reason that they don’t sell very well at all in the US and that is because they are a poor commercial vehicle. They are proven to have the highest cost of purchase, highest operating cost, and the highest down time. It doesn’t bode to well for Ford and their decision to bring the Transit to the US if the Sprinter really is the best choice in Europe.
Eric has the newer model improved this over the first Dodge versions? I’ve heard bad things about the early Sprinters in ambulance use but the later ones are described as night and day better
Neither generation that we have seen in the US has a good reputation.
I have heard that some ambulance companies will buy new cab and chassis trucks to mount the old bodies to. This would seem to make sense in that all the specialized equipment therein probably doesn’t change much from year to year.
You are correct, see my comment above.
Little bit of overkill with the tow truck. When I was doing the fleet maintenance the step vans and even larger trucks would get towed in by a C60 or F650.
Maybe anything smaller in the area would max-out on a normal pickup/SUV?
Actually around here that tow would cost a lot more than the ambulance*. I’ve never been in an ambulance personally, but I think there is now an ambulance surcharge because too many people without cars figured out it was cheaper than a taxi to get to your doctors appointment.
*Out of pocket anyway. Health care isn’t free, the cost is buried in taxes.
I crashed my job 2 weeks ago I hit a shelter belt with no steering the rig was taken away on a Volvo FH similar to that K-waka tow rig, definite overkill for the ambulance
This was you? Lucky escape Bryce…! I love the comment in the paper from the driver (presumably you): “I don’t think this produce is going to get to its destination on time…”; not to mention ” there was a tree coming in through the window so I thought I’d better hop out.” Classic laid-back Kiwi response! Anyway, I’m late here reading this, but glad you’re okay. 🙂
Going to guess that is a pre-2003 Econoline based on the coloration of the headlight assembly. Makes sense to tow it that way since the rear overhang is too much for a rear tow, but I wonder why it broke down?
I never heard of the box swap scheme before. What I know about fleets and equipment purchases tells me it aint that profitable to put old worn out equipment onto a new chassis. But what do I know? When I worked in Orlando I did business with Wheeled Coach. One of the worlds largest ambulance builders. Never saw anything used at that facility. Back in 1981 I bought my 69 Hess and Eisenhardt Cadillac ambulance from the local VFD. It had 19K on the odometer but in the words of the Chief, “those are 19K HARD miles!”. The THM475 transmission had been replaced at least 3 times according to his recollection. And that there is probably a good reason not to buy one of these “box trucks” to convert to an RV. Fleet maintainence is a myth. You would be better off buying an old school bus IMHO.
Back when I drove a big rig it was a $400 check just for that bigger rig tow truck to just show up. I’m guessing you could spend a cool grand just to have your 18 wheeler towed 10-20 miles to the nearest repair shop. I did have to do that quite a few times only because the company I worked for insisted on giving me the gems in the fleet to drive so I could rack up the miles before they were shipped off for auction. At least I got paid for down time.
Swaps are done, but it will depend a lot on the condition of the unit, budget, and need. I cannot imagine these boxes are cheap as equipped and if it’s in good condition and functional, why dispose of it simply because it is on a high mile, aged, or otherwise ready to sell chassis? There are times when you may need five but can only afford two.
From my time as a fleet manager, we swapped dump truck beds routinely, utility beds at times, and the person doing this at my current location has done so with bucket trucks.
Granted, there were no ambulances, but its the same concept.
Ambulance remounts are common; sometimes a box is remounted 2-3 times before it’s gotten rid of. This out fit has done over 600 of them: http://www.lifestarrescue.com/remounts
In Australia older F-series ambulances are either in private hands as RVs, trades vehicles or a few in the St John’s Ambulance that does medical support work for public events. Newer M-B Sprinters are often seen in private medical transport work or stripped and used as work vans or similar.
Mate o mine did up an Aussie ambo a 84 F 150, 351 auto with manual steering, everything in it is duplicated dual aircon dual alternators etc but it weighed 3tons empty and did 13mpg. Jake converted it to LPG and had the motor refreshed with LPG cam carb etc it ran great and towed really well.
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