At first glance, you might not recognize one of these Highland Green sedans for what they are other than a classic car. The 1954 Ford National was a full-service ambulance outfitted with the best modern medicine could offer such a vehicle in 1954. It’s green color, short stature, and similar look to many other Ford sedans on the road at that time are a far cry from the boxy, white and orange vans that barrel down the roads today. If you look more closely though, you’ll spot the telltale lights and siren of a classic ambulance.
Photo courtesy of Tom Hutton
These cars were often used by funeral homes as part-time first call cars (an alternative to the hearse) and part time ambulances. The front passenger seat could swivel 180 degrees to look out the front window or to face backward and care for a patient. The patient area was outfitted with a linoleum floor, oxygen tank, first aid supplies, and stretcher(s). As these were also first call cars, they were roomy enough for caskets.
Converted by National Body Manufacturing Company from a sedan delivery to an ambulette, the ’54 Ford ambulance looked much like a ’54 Ford sedan on the road at that time. National BMC often took donated Ford vehicles and converted them to ambulettes throughout the 1950s and beyond. Fitted with the then-standard 239 V8 engine, these ambulettes can scream down the road with the best of them as their sirens blare and red lights flash.
The Ford was the economy ambulance of the time priced at about $3,500 new in 1954. Today, you can still purchase a used one for that price, but it will cost you considerably more to do the restoration. These cars are pushing sixty years old, so even the best-loved ones need some work. And ones that haven’t been lovingly cared for are riddled with issues like rotting floorboards, broken speedometers, engines that either don’t run or barely run, and a whole host of other issues. But if you put in the time, money, and care required, you can discover a stunning historic car.
For ambulance enthusiasts the ’54 Ford (as well as the ’53 and ’55-’56 which are of similar design) is a throwback to the days when an ambulance was designed with enough class to be a respectful hearse. A truly beautiful car, the ’54 National Ambulette was designed for optimum function as well as style.