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'I ain't afraid of no ghost'

  • DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Daniel Tyson, left, and parents Linda and Marlin, park their car in front of the Clamtown Haunted House to celebrate the completion of Ecto 1, their version of the vehicle used in the 1984 movie 'Ghostbusters'.
    DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Daniel Tyson, left, and parents Linda and Marlin, park their car in front of the Clamtown Haunted House to celebrate the completion of Ecto 1, their version of the vehicle used in the 1984 movie 'Ghostbusters'.
Published October 22. 2010 05:00PM

Some people believe ghosts to be the result of a bored mind. They say ghosts will disappear once you start ignoring them.

One local father and son team has gone one step further. They've found a way to scare away the goblins and chase away the boredom at the same time.

Marlin Tyson and son Daniel, 26, with behind-the-scenes support from mom Linda, have spent the past two years creating '78 Ecto 1 - a car quickly becoming a hit at local shows and parades. It's only been a reality for less than a year and already it's grabbing top honors and rave reviews at car shows and exhibits.

You won't find another '78 Ecto 1. That's because this one is a product of the Tyson family's imagination.

The Tysons took a 1978 Ford LTD station wagon and turned it into a custom version of the car made popular in the 1984 Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis hit film 'Ghostbusters'.

The idea began in 2007 after Daniel began collecting various components eventually incorporated into the project. But the big boost came unexpectedly one day when Daniel was driving home from his job at Allen Organ Co. in Macungie. That's when he spotted the right car.

"It was sitting in someone's front yard," says Daniel. "We were looking for a Chevy Caprice, but when I saw this one, I knew it would work just as well or even better."

Daniel acquired the car for about $500 - a hauntingly good bargain - and then turned to the talents of Dad Marlin to get the project rolling.

Marlin, who took part in the Vo-Tech curriculum in his days at Tamaqua Area High School, is gifted in all things mechanical. He's also good with a spray nozzle. In fact, Marlin knows how to paint a vehicle with enough precision to turn Henry Ford ghostly green with envy.

To get started, Marlin gutted the car's interior to prepare it for all of the add-ons. Then Marlin and Daniel began studying photos of the original Ghostbuster car used in the eerie, crazy film.

Their goal was to finish the project in time for last year's Clamtown Haunted House, sponsored by Boy Scout Troop 755, of which Marlin is scoutmaster and Daniel an Eagle Scout.

Marlin, an employee of Charles Snyder, Inc., South Tamaqua, did all of the body work on the 30-year-old car and then crafted a roof rack using one-square-inch steel tubing, obtained through assistance of Tamaqua Truck and Trailer, South Tamaqua.

After that, the family's imagination kicked into high gear. Undaunted, they went about improvising to create just the right look. They used their imaginations to get the job done, knowing that imagination has no barriers. For example, one of the components affixed to the roof is a hydraulic filter from a New Holland farm tractor.

"The ends were cut off and I mig welded them together, then put body filler in and sanded them," explains Marlin.

Next came the addition of Royal Air Force One oxygen tanks.

"That's what they used on the original rack," says Daniel.

"We studied the pictures and tried to make them as original as possible," adds Marlin.

The Tysons' vehicle includes what appear to be helium canisters, absolutely essential in thwarting those lighter-than-air goblins which are so prevalent in the local area.

Other common, everyday items were transformed into unique ghost-fighting artillery, such as paint cans, vent hoses, exhaust pipes and acetylene caps.

A bubble dome from a security camera was cut in half to create a glass shield protecting the highfalutin' paraphernalia atop the rack.

Daniel bought two whip antennas from Radio Shack and purchased two blue light bars for the exterior. To that, Marlin added a spotlight, a siren and countless other finishing touches.

The car's interior was fitted with the requisite Proton Pack made of vacuum-formed plastic.

"I'm working on a new one made of fiberglass with as many real parts as I can find," reveals Daniel. That's because the existing one is already showing wear from too many shows and parades - and simply from too much ghostbusting.

"The new one is sturdier. It'll take abuse," says Marlin. And that's a good thing because ghosts nowadays can be oh-so abusive.

Marlin says he'd still like to replace the car's front seat and install a new headliner - the original was removed to allow for braces to be installed in order to support the substantially heavy roof rack. Marlin says the car might also be fitted with a slimer at some point. What does a slimer do? Well, it has something to do with slime. Sometimes it's better not to know.

The most difficult part of the project, say the Tysons, was fitting the car with a 130-amp alternator. That project was arranged through friend Ricky Fritz of Fritz's Auto Repairs, Blakeslee Boulevard, Lehighton.

"The alternator originally on the car wasn't big enough," says Marlin. The car also carries two batteries in order to accommodate the flow of juice needed when the car is busy ghostbusting.

The Tysons give credit to others who helped in special ways. Jim Yurick of Yurick's Emergency Equipment in Sheppton helped to locate the correct blue light bars, along with speakers and a switchbox. Each light contains a speaker. In full operation, the car plays the theme song from Ghostbusters while lights flash. When that happens, all ghosts within earshot are quickly banished.

Frank's Truck Lettering, New Ringgold, created the vinyl labels and special vinyl lettering, while various other components came from Big A Auto Parts, Tamaqua.

Daniel figures he's spent about $6,000 on the project, not counting the labor and devotion of his generous father. Most of the funds were earmarked for supplies. For example, the high-grade paint alone cost $850.

The car debuted at last year's Clamtown Haunted House and will appear again on Oct. 29-30 from 7-10 p.m., weather permitting. It also will be seen in parades in Temple and Lansdowne. The Lansdowne parade on Oct. 30 will feature the car for the second time, as the Tysons actually entered the car in last year's event, just for a trial run.

Still in its debut year, the car has won rave reviews at parades in Tamaqua and Palmerton, and at the Tamaqua Street Machine Association's Autumn Auto Show in Lewistown Valley. At the Fleetwood Rotary Club's 5th Annual Car Show, the Tyson vehicle captured the coveted Police Chief's trophy. On Oct. 10, the car took top honors as People's Choice winner of the TSMA Heritage Day Car Show, where folks said the four-wheeled work of art is simply boo-tiful.

As word spreads about Pennsylvania's ghostbuster car, the vehicle is increasingly in demand. Plans are in the making for the Tysons '78 Ecto 1 to be featured at Motorama 2011 at the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex.

So what is the best part of the project, aside from the obvious ghost-chasing abilities of the vehicle?

It's the excitement the car brings, say the Tysons. Forget about boredom. There's never a dull moment when the ghostbuster car is out and about.

Linda, the former Linda Solt of Ashfield, says it's fun to watch the faces and reactions of those who see the car for the first time.

"They come up and say 'turn it on and make it go.'"

On the road, the spooky car is a headturner and traffic stopper.

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, the vehicle tied up traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as motorists jockeyed for position to drive alongside and snap photos.

"It's been more fun than we ever expected," says Marlin. And that's the whole idea.

All hobby cars are fun. But owning a hobby car that also happens to keep ghosts away is so much better.

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