In the original movie, this vehicle was purchased by Ray Stantz for the relatively high price of $4800 (over $9800 in 2009 dollars when scaled up for inflation) in a poor state of repair. In Stantz' own words, it needed "suspension work and shocks, brakes, brake pads, lining, steering box, transmission, .rear end.., new rings, mufflers, a little wiring...." It is assumed that Ray continues listing needed repairs after this scene cuts away.
After the necessary reconstruction, it was used to carry the team's ghost-capturing equipment, as well as transporting the Ghostbusters through New York City. It has a distinctive siren wail. Its features include a special pull-out rack in the rear containing the staff's proton packs, which facilitates a quick retrieval without the complication of having to reach into the vehicle's rear. There are also various gadgets mounted on the top, whose function is never revealed in the movies. A cartoon episode featured the "proton cannon", presumably a more powerful version of a proton pack, mounted on top for use against extra large or even giant sized paranormal entities. The book "Making Ghostbusters" by Don Shay describes a deleted scene where a police officer places a ticket on the Ectomobile only to have it instantly burn to ashes.
Earlier versions of scripts written by Dan Aykroyd for the first Ghostbusters also included mentions of the Ectomobile having the power of interdimensional travel. The shooting script for the movie described the Ectomobile as being black, with purple and white strobe lights that gave the vehicle a "purple aura".
A miniature replica of the vehicle was mass-produced as a children's toy. The toy version of this vehicle has sold approx. 1,000,000+ units worldwide. Polar Lights released a 1/24 scale model kit of the Ecto-1 in 2002. In 2010, Hot Wheels released a "Ghostbusters Ecto-1" as part of the "2010 Hot Wheels Premiere" series.
In 2010, the Ecto-1 makes a brief appearance in the commercial for Sony's new panoramic digital camera line.