February 7

How One Man Converted an Ambulance into a Tailgate Vehicle Masterpiece

Last Updated on April 18, 2023

We all know that ambulances serve as vehicles for first responders dealing with emergencies. Fewer of us realize that once these vehicles get decommissioned, municipalities sell them as government surplus, putting them up for auction for the common citizens to acquire. Some people turn these vehicles into work trucks for their businesses, other make them recreational vehicles. What people choose depends on their proclivities and the different types of ambulances available to buy. Eric Lahti turned his ambulance in something special. Here’s how one man converted an ambulance into a tailgate vehicle masterpiece.

Finding the Ambulance

“I am the owner of a midsize construction company. We build pharmaceutical plants for the big pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer, Takeda, that kind of stuff.”

“I won the ambulance from a local town in Massachusetts, way out west in Massachusetts. And there’s an ambulance, I’ve been looking for probably six months and finally found one that was local.”

“I’ve never bought an ambulance before. I’ve ridden in them a couple of times.”

Eric Lahti - ambulance tailgate vehicle masterpiece 2

Eric was like most people, having seen and experienced government vehicles, but not having owned any such items himself. To his glee, that changed when he found the ambulance.

“So, I’m a big Patriots fan. ‘Boohoo,’ everybody says, but whatever. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 39 years, and I was looking for a bus originally. My wife told me, ‘Absolutely not. We’re not putting a bus in our driveway.’ But she saw an ambulance on some tailgating show or football game. She said, ‘Oh, we can do that.’ That gave me the okay to go buy an ambulance. So, that’s how I got to that.”

“There’s not a lot of information out there on how to make a tailgate vehicle out of an ambulance. I kind of just winged it!”

From Stretcher to Grill

He did some research on possible ways to convert the newly acquired vehicle. Eric coupled what he learned with the burgeoning idea of what he wanted on the inside, and out. According to his estimates, about 90% of ambulances sold as government surplus do not come with a stretcher. He lucked out and got one that did.

“I had this crazy idea that I was going to mount the grills to the stretcher. Everybody thought I was nuts, but right now it’s the whole showpiece of the whole parking lot.”

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Eric maneuvers the stretcher the same way a paramedic would, adding convenience to the fact that he operates grills. The stretcher can be rolled out and rolled back where it locks into place. This was his first design with the ambulance, outfitted with a flat top, a barbeque grill, and a pizza oven.

Interior and Exterior

On the inside, he worked to get all of the lighting working, then did the same with the outside sirens and lights. Though, he only uses those in certain spaces due to legal restrictions. There’s also a refrigerator inside, a microwave, a beer keg, and compartments for clothes in preparation for those cold days of tailgating.

“Mechanically, I can do just about anything. I’ll figure it out. I’m a car guy. Grew up doing cars. So, I had that advantage.”

“I put a plan together because they’re all different. They’re different seating arrangements. Mine sits eight people. Two in the front, six in the back. That was important to us because we take six people all the time, sometimes eight.”

“I sat with a designer who did the outside wrap and then they did some inside wrap stuff.”

Ambulance vs Bus for a Tailgate Vehicle

Picking an ambulance was an odd choice in comparison to what’s normally seen at tailgating events. Most people showcase party cars and trucks, maybe a bus, but Eric showed up to games with an ambulance.  He had never seen one at a game himself. The first time he brought an ambulance to a game, Eric guessed there were 200 people waiting in line to see his wheels.

“It was the funniest thing!”

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Today, Eric’s satisfied that he ended up with an ambulance instead of a bus. 

“An ambulance is one car space, right? So, you pay for the one pass space. It’s only the $50 bucks. You bring a bus, it’s $150 to park. I never really thought about that, and to do the work on the ambulance was fairly simple. We did it in three weeks. I think if I did a bus, I’d probably still be working on it.” 

“I had a lot of ideas and still have a lot of ideas for a tailgate bus, but those conversions aren’t as simple as an ambulance. An ambulance is done, it’s insulated, just a little bit of work to get lights going and make some tables and do the grill thing. And it was fairly easy to do.”


Eric isn’t the only person turning government surplus into something for recreational use, small business use, or even reselling for personal profit. You too can learn how, so, what are you waiting for? Municibid offers opportunities to bid on ambulances, fire trucks, and other automotives.

Eric Lahti - ambulance tailgate vehicle masterpiece 1


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