By John Gunnell
Dennis Statz’s ’57 Pontiac-Superior ambulance never did an emergency run, never had an accident and never backed into the garage door due to driver error. The totally unrestored rescue rig is about original as they come, although Statz had repainted the roof at one point about 25 years ago.
“I’ve owned this vehicle since 1979, which is hard to believe,” Statz told Old Cars Weekly. “It came from Detroit Diesel-Allison’s Plant No. 3 in Indianapolis. It was a back-up vehicle and it never got used at all on an emergency run. In 1973, they retired it with 1,500 miles on it.”
The ambulance was sold to a man named Robert in Indianapolis and he became its second owner. Statz purchased it from him in 1979. At that time, it had 6,340 miles on it. “Here we are in 2018 and I just turned 15,000 miles,” Statz emphasized. “I was on my way to the Pontiac-Oakland Club International Convention in Wisconsin Dells and I hit 15,000 miles in Sturgeon Bay, just after leaving home.”
In addition to refinishing the roof around the tunnel lights, where the paint had cracked. Statz has also put new B.F. Goodrich Silvertown tires of the correct original style on the ambulance. “Other than that, those are about the only things that have ever been changed in terms of anything significant,” he stressed.
Built at the Superior Coachworks plant in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the ambulance — known as the “Statzmobile” to many early POCI members — has Star Chief trimmings, front and rear tunnel pod roof lights and a big chrome plated siren and warning light. Its two-tone blue color combination is very unusual for an ambulance. Records show that Superior made 360 conversions of Pontiacs in 1957 and that included both ambulances and funeral cars.
The ambulance has the 347-cid Pontiac V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor. It also has Hydra-Matic Drive, power steering, power brakes, a deluxe siren, lights all around, rear Scenaramic corner windows, etched glass and pull-down shades inside. “It even has windshield washers,” Statz pointed out. “The story is that the guy at Detroit Diesel-Allison was ticked off that they told him to get a Pontiac because a recession was setting in. So, he decided to get a Pontiac just loaded to the gills with options. This thing cost about $7,600 in 1957.”
Statz reiterated that the Pontiac “never, ever got used as an emergency vehicle. He added, “All they ever did was change the oil every year and that’s why it had only 1,800 miles of use in 17 years of sitting at the plant. They always used their Cadillac ambulance first, so that’s why it is the way it is.”
Statz said that the ambulance has been a “hoot” to own. “Actually, the only other extra thing I ever added was the factory optional illuminated fender ornaments,” Statz admitted. “I also put them on the Pontiac about 25 years ago.”
Statz doesn’t drive the ambulance a whole lot. The last previous POCI convention he took it to was in 2001 in Red Wing, Minnesota. The ambulance has a dual rear heating system, two color-coordinated fold down jump seats and the cot or “gurney” in the rear. The aluminum gurney latches into the side of the cargo area. “It has 15-inch wheels instead of the normal 14-inch wheels,” Statz pointed out. “So, they had to use 15-inch wheel covers left over from 1956. That usually confuses people, if they know these cars. They often think something has got to be wrong, but no, that’s what they actually did. In fact, they did that thru at least 1962 and maybe even 1963, because they wanted bigger wheels on the professional cars. These are heavy vehicles. The front tires do kind of rub if you turn them too tight, but I have 9.00 x 15s on here and I think the originals may have been somewhere around 8.50 x 15.”
Statz says the car rides really well with its heavy weight and long wheelbase. “I’m telling you, this thing rides good,” said Statz. “I really was cruising about 75 mph on the way here. I learned a long time ago to try to get ahead of the traffic, because it causes a traffic jam around you when people slow up to take a look. It causes a dangerous situation when you have a bunch of cars all clustered around you, so you step on the gas and get away from them.”
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