PALATKA, Fla. -- Those of us of a certain age remember when ambulances were based on cars instead of trucks. Cotner-Bevington was one of the coachbuilders that turned out the conversions and the 1971 Oldsmobile 98 was a perfect starting point.

When the eighth-generation 98 debuted in 1971 it was Oldsmobile's biggest full-size car. Fast forward to 2013: First Coast Gears caught up to a stunning example that once served the volunteer fire department in Hanover Township, Pa. The big Olds was on display at last Saturday's 14th Annual Open Car Show in Palatka, hosted by the Azalea Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America.

Owner Pam Gill and her late-husband bought the '71 Olds 98 about 15 years ago in Satsuma. Gill said they found it in a junkyard where the owner was planning to take it to a demolition derby but he couldn't get it to start.

"It was in good shape. We had it painted and the tires, the rubber goods replaced along with the battery, and got the engine running," said Gill.

Despite it's rarity, Gill doesn't baby her ambulance. It's been to Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina and makes a great grocery getter in Putnam County.

As for Cotner-Bevington, the hearse and ambulance coachbuilder went out of business in 1975. According to, the 1973 EMS Systems Act basically sealed Cotner-Bevington's fate. It required ambulances to use either a small truck body, a van body and/or a van chassis.

By 1978 the new regulations were firmly in place, ending another chapter of automotive history.


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