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A National Public Radio (NPR) interview (2005) with some Amphicar owners you may know!

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August 24, 2013:  From the WSJ: "An Amphibious Car Refuses to Sink into Oblivion" (locally hosted version) --  LINK to WSJ original

 

The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource Classifieds | seattletimes.com

August 26, 2012 1:00 AM

Is it a boat? A car? Local Amphicar owners get two in one


Roger St. John drives his '63 Amphicar into Lake Tapps with his daughter Heather and wife Sonja. (Barry Gibbons / Special to NWautos)

What has a frog's face and a shark's body, and can move with ease across land and sea? It's the Amphicar — perhaps the best way to cruise on summer's more pleasant days.  

The amphibious cars can accelerate to 70 mph on land, and then — surprise! — float at a jaunty 7 mph through water, powered by a four-cylinder Triumph Herald motor that produces 43 horsepower.  Two propellers in the back are operated by a separate gearshift.  In the water, the wheels function as rudders, while the steering wheel pilots the craft.


Nancy and Larry Solheim, of Shoreline, cruise in their Amphicar. (Courtesy of Jerry Sorensen)

 "You have to have a flare gun, life preservers, fire extinguishers — same as if you're driving a boat," says longtime Amphicar owner Don Ross, of Mountlake Terrace. Like boats, they can leak.  After a fateful swim in Sammamish Slough, Ross outfitted his car with an extra bilge pump to keep the water out.  "It handles most of the leaks, but it isn't a foolproof thing; [water] still splashes in once in a while," he says. 

With their classically cool 1960s fins and drop tops, Amphicars are much sexier than Ducks, the amphibious landing crafts that haul tourists around the city.  The cars were exported to the U.S. from Germany between 1961 and 1968, with close to 4,000 produced.

More on Amphicars

·         Amphicar.com, the official website of the International Amphicar Owners' Club, features historical information, a photo gallery, an events calendar and videos of Amphicars in action.   

Washington state is home to a loose crew of about a dozen cruisin' captains who are game to show off their ships.  Larry Solheim, of Shoreline, is the webmaster of The International Amphicar Owners' Club, which connects enthusiasts around the world.  

He and his wife, Nancy, have been driving and boating in their Amphicar since 1994.  They get so much attention while traveling and towing it behind their motor home that they created informational cards to give to gawkers. 

Roger St. John, of Pierce County, owns a Beach White 1963 Amphicar that he often takes to opening day of boating season.  As Amphicars prowl through the Montlake Cut alongside sailboats and schooners, they offer the public a chance to see them in action.

St. John's daughter, Heather, has been piloting the car since her 13th birthday (she got her regular driver's license in July).  She admits to a minor scrape during the boat parade one year. "I was going forward, and some other Amphicar was going backward," she says.  That resulted in being escorted back to the dock by the Coast Guard.  

"The thing that's so difficult is it has so many buttons on the dashboard, and none of them are labeled," she says.  "You have to memorize which one is which and hope you got the right one. And you flip specific levers for the wheels or the propellers, and you have to make sure that's correct before going into the water.  If you don't, you're really not going anywhere." 

Last month, Ross took his Lagoon Blue 1964 Amphicar to the Mountlake Terrace car show, where he won first place in the "Most Unique" category.  He recently made an apropos addition to the floating vehicle. 

"I have a friend who owed me some money. He had two motorized surfboards, so I mounted them on top of my Amphicar," he says.  "It looks a little unique."

 

 

MSN.com  July 26, 2011

Swim-In 2011: Amphicar Owners Invade Celina, Ohio

It's a car! It's a boat! It's a 40-year-old, twin-screw chunk of automotive folly!

Posted by Andrew Wendler Tuesday, July 26, 2011 5:05:07 AM

It's been a banner month here in northwestern Ohio for aficionados of small, quirky vehicles from long-defunct manufacturers. Just two short weeks ago, I brought you the latest in diminutive vintage tin from the National Crosley Club Meet in Wauseon, Ohio. This week, I've traveled approximately 85 miles south to meet up with a band of equally nutty and obsessed enthusiasts on the shores of Grand Lake St. Marys in Celina, Ohio. Pleasant as Celina may be, it's the lake that seals the deal for this gang -- because without the H20 to float them, even the largest annual gathering of Amphicars in the nation is just another car show.


 

Amphicars were built in West Germany from 1961 to 1968; total production is generally regarded to be 3,878 vehicles, with 3,046 of those imported into the U.S. between 1961 and 1967. The first round of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department prevented any from being imported legally in 1968. The factory unofficially designated all Amphicars a model number "770,” the nomenclature derived from the fact that its top speed was 7 knots in the water and 70 mph on land. Amphicars are constructed of mild steel -- many of the uninitiated erroneously assume the body is fiberglass -- and power comes from a rear-mounted 1.1-liter Triumph Herald engine churning out an adequate 43 horsepower and returning 35 mpg on land.


 

Blasted by a week of 95-plus-degree temperatures and random torrential downpours, many attendees of this year's official meeting of the International Amphicar Owners Club shoved off before we arrived on Sunday morning. Despite the weather, several diehards were still milling about, and a fellow who identified himself only as “Ron from New Hampshire” simply said, “Get in.” With that, we piled into a borrowed Amphicar and rolled down the boat-launch ramp directly into the drink. The ride was dry, stable and remarkably drama-free, exactly the opposite of the impression one gets watching an Amphicar from shore. Check out the exclusive high-definition videos below.

 

The most shocking thing about the Amphicar is not how much a new old-stock transmission can set you back ($15,000), nor is it the fact that its electrical system is primarily of Lucas design and components (shudder). No, the biggest news in the Amphicar world is the skyrocketing value of the cars. When new, the cars retailed for between $2,800 and $3,300. After the company went kaput, many people purchased remaining models off dealer lots for significantly less. Fully functional Amphicars could be found in the $3,000 range well into the early 1990s. Sadly, all that bargain-priced fun came to a screeching halt one fateful day in 2006 at a Barrett-Jackson auction, when a fully restored 1964 Amphicar sold for an eye-popping ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! Granted, prices have corrected themselves down to the mid 5-figure range since those heady “buy now, think later” days, but if you're clipping coupons to make it till payday, an Amphicar is probably not in your immediate future.

VIDEO 1 LINK  (clickable link)

VIDEO 2 LINK  (clickable link)

 

 

 

 

Orange County Register - May 26, 2011

 






 

Seattle Post Intelligencer - May 4, 2008

 
amphicar
  DAN DELONG / P-I

Larry and Nancy Solheim wave from their 1966 Amphicar during the Opening Day "Parade of Boats" on the Montlake Cut in Seattle.

Under the Needle: Amphicars make a splash on boating's big day

An auto with four seats -- and a bilge pump

MIKE LEWIS
P-I REPORTER

It seemed almost redundant to head into more water, given the weather's wet response to Saturday's opening of boating season, the annual Seattle ritual that asks, "When was it that boating season closed, anyway?"

But a trip into standing water is the point, after all. And even the rain is a time in the sun for a local club of Amphicar owners who live for the moment when they drive their cars straight down a boat ramp and into the startled consciousness of witnesses.

It isn't every car that has a manual transmission, seats four and needs life preservers. It isn't every car that demands a bilge pump inspection before trips.

And it isn't every club that wants to be the opening day jesters, the 5 mph antidote to 80-foot midlife crises, ski boat showoffs and multimasted pretense. Indeed, the whole point for the Amphicar owners is to claim as their own a little slice of limbo between land and sea.

"It's not a good car and it's not a good boat," said a smiling Bill Capron of Bellevue. "But it does just fine."

Amphicar owners estimate they've been launching on the season's official opening day for the better part of a decade. On Saturday, three had arrived by 11 a.m. in Gas Works Park, but one more was expected for the noon departure from a nearby public ramp.

Mount Vernon's Larry and Nancy Solheim purchased their Amphicar in 1994 and had it up and running (and floating) in six months. Larry said he'd seen the odd German convertible as a young man in the 1960s and always wanted one.

When he bought the car, the community came with it.

"Everyone with one of these," he said as rain spattered on the windshield, "knows everyone else who has one."

All 3,878 Amphicars completed were built in Germany between 1961 and 1968. Importers brought most of those to Canada and the U.S. All were convertibles with a small, rear-engine four-cylinder Triumph motor, twin props for the water and a four-speed transmission for the road.

Critics called the Amphicar the worst of both worlds.

Unofficially, the factory designated the model a 770, meaning it could go a maximum of 7 mph in the water and 70 on land. Both figures are optimistic, owners say.

"In the water maybe 5 mph max," said Capron, an auto repair shop owner. "No water skiing."

Added John "Capt. Jack" Hein, "I don't think these cars can go 70 without going out of control. We like to think of it as the fastest car on the water and fastest boat on the road."

Hein, 64, said he regularly fishes from his Amphicar. Indeed, when the retired Alaska bush pilot purchased the car in 2003, he eventually landed its owner, too.

"We got married in 2005. So she got the car back in her family."

Amphicar owners estimate about 10 of them exist in Washington.

Fully restored models fetch $50,000 to $80,000.

"It is fun when people in these million-dollar boats are taking pictures of us," Capron said. "But I don't think they see us as part of the boating community."

No matter. Seattle's a tolerant place. And there's always room on opening day for another boat. Even when it's a car.

 






 

Cruisin' on the lake

By Donna Kulpa, Enterprise correspondent (Boston)

Sun., Aug. 26, 2007

TAUNTON — A couple of amphicars took a trial splash Friday in Lake Sabbatia.

The cars are also planning a splashdown in Norton by the Chateau Restaurant on Sunday.

Gerry O'Bara and Lori Esters of Taunton are hosting the Amphicar enthusiasts who are from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Canada.

There are only about 500 Amphicars still running out of the 3,878 Amphicars mass produced in Berlin, Germany, at Amphicar USA from 1961 to 1998. At least 3,700 of these original four-speed standard convertibles with optional AM radios sold for $3,000.

These days a scrap amphicar sells for about $10,000.

Ron Trudeau of Manchester, N.H., says he offered $85,000 earlier this month for his cherry-red Amphicar. Some Amphicars can sell as high as $125,000.

“I travel to all kinds of interesting spots for splashdowns with “Sweet Pea,” (a large mermaid size Barbie doll that rides with Trudaeu). I went to Ohio and Florida this winter,” he said.

Gord Souter and his wife Joanne had traveled down from Orillia, Ontario which is 100 miles North of Toronto because they thought Taunton sounded like a pretty interesting spot for an amphicar ride on the water.

O'Bara had begun planning the amphicar splash last year but nearly cancelled when Lake Sabbatia had dried up. But the coffer dam installed by Help Save the Lake caused the waters to rise and the event to go on.

Souter who repairs the amphicars noted that the amphicars are more environmentally friendly than a motor boat since all the gas is contained in one hole with the exhaust above the water line rather than an exhaust in the water. “If there was a leak it would go onto the car's floor,” said Souter.

The amphicars that can go up to 70 miles on land before their propellers kick in for a splash and a ride around the lake at 7 miles per hour come in red, white, blue or green and are considered antiques.

There are about 500 amphicars left in the world with seven in the United Kingdom, one in Australia and the rest mostly are spread out in the U.S. and Canada.

Souter who now restores amphicars began his love affair of these passenger autos that travel on land or sea when he was a boy. “My dad repaired Hudsons and when I saw my first blue amphicar on the Grand River I thought it would be cool.” Souter has his own Web site at www.amphicar.ca.

Souter was giving O'Bara advice on the amphicar he was putting touches to for Saturday's splash down which the amphicar drivers have even offered to give Mayor Charles Crowley a ride across the river during the event.






Car show lives up to reputation; might have outdone last year: organizer

ALLAN BENNER  /  Tribune Staff (Canada)
Local News - Tuesday, August 07, 2007 @ 09:00

There were already so many well polished machines at H. H. Knoll Lakeview Park, Sunday, organizers didn't know where to put them all.

Organizer Sandra Kelba said estimates pegged the number of people who brought their hot rods, classics, and beautifully restored or maintained antiques vehicles to the Canal Days car show at more than 500, and yet more cars kept rolling in.

But that's nothing unusual for the car show that has earned the reputation of being the biggest in Niagara, if not southern Ontario. Still, she said this year's event might be a little bigger than it has in previous summers.

"I think we've outdone last year," she said.

For many of the people who brought their vehicles to the event, it was a rare opportunity to show off projects they have dedicated hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to complete.

Terry Horton brought his 1932 Plymouth from his Lowbanks home for the show.

It didn't look much like the antique he started with.

He spent four years working on it, or "playing" as he calls it.

He lengthened the body by 30 inches and widened it by 20, make it a real eye catcher at the show.

Port Colborne resident Ray Prophet arrived in his car, or was it a boat?

It was a 1967 Amphicar, with seaweed hanging from its front bumper, and water dripping for its bodywork.

"They're not that common," he said.

"They say there's about 800 in North America."

He's owned the vehicle for about four years.

"It's not a good boat. It's not a good car, but it's a magnificent toy," he laughed.

Port Colborne resident Wayne Marr rolled his 1966 Ford Cobra replica out for the show - a car that took him 3,500 hours of work to make it as close to original as possible.

Many of the components, from the car's frame to it's roll bars, he said, were handmade.

And his car, on display near the east side of the park's hill, drew crowds of admirers.

Kelba, who has been organizing the annual event for the past 12 years, said there are a few secrets to the car show's success.

The first, she said, is the people who put it together.

"It's all volunteers, that's what makes it. Without them we wouldn't have it."

The sponsorship of Young's Automotive has also made the event the success that it is.

"They always sponsor everything."

The price was also unbeatable. All it cost was a donation of a nonperishable food item for Port Cares food bank - and an impressive collection of food, as well as cash donations, was mounting as the day wore on.

The venue also makes a big difference.

"I love this. This is the best thing. The best day," she said.

The kites flying along the lakeshore, add a great deal of interest to the event.

"The kites make the car show and the car show makes the kites," she said.

It's an impressive view, especially from the hill at the park.

"And if you're lucky enough, you could get the Empire Sandy going by."






Car drives into Irvine Lake for trout opener

DAVE STREGE

DAVE STREGE
Register columnist
OUTDOORS
dstrege@ocregister.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Bob Davis and Marty Clayton, both of Orange, go trolling at Irvine Lake in Davis' car — a 1967 Amphicar, featuring two transmissions: one for land and one for water.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE CARSON

SILVERADO – Anglers pointed, laughed, took photos and video, laughed some more and wondered, what the heck are they doing?

Raising eyebrows at the Irvine Lake trout opener Friday were Bob Davis and Marty Clayton of Orange.

They were trolling for trout.

But it wasn't the method of angling that left anglers laughing. It was what they were trolling in. It wasn't a boat, canoe or kayak.

It was a car.

Four tires, windshield, rearview mirror, gas tank - a car.

To be exact, it was a 1967 Amphicar, featuring two transmissions: one for land, one for water.

Davis has owned such cars for 25 years. Four or five times a year he and Clayton will fish from one at Irvine Lake.

It certainly has its advantages.

"You don't have to pay for launching," Davis said. "You drive in and do your fishing, then drive home. No trailer, no nothing, and it gets super mileage."

They have fished other area lakes and even June Lake in the Eastern Sierra.

"It was snowing and cold," Clayton said. "We had the top up and the heater on. The windows were up but open just enough to put the rods out.

"We'd catch a fish, reel it up and bring it in through the window."

Friday, the top was down.

After taking a break, they drove down the launch ramp and into the water as anglers marveled at the sight.

"You can imagine people watching, `Oh, look, that guy is driving his car down the ramp into the water, like he's drunk or something,'" said Scott VanHemelryck of Covina.

"That is so insane."

When they catch fish, they usually tie the stringer to the door handle.

"You've just got to remember to bring them in so you don't drag them up on shore," Davis said.

By midday, the car guys didn't have to worry about a stringer since they had been getting more attention than fish. Their only catch was a 3-pounder by Davis in the afternoon.

They'd have done better staying on land. Anglers along the west shore did exceptionally well.

Almost every fishing party had a stringer or basket in the water along the west shore, which was vehicle accessible for the first time in three openers.

They might not all have gotten limits, but most were getting trout.

Many boat anglers were frustrated because they couldn't anchor close enough to the west shore to get in on the action.

Wind discolored the water, so anglers used bright-colored lures and chartreuse Power Bait dipped in various scents.

The catches were mostly rainbow trout, but some brooks and browns showed in the mix, particularly for kids.

Check out the weekend fish report: Brandon Mance, 10, of Orange caught a 6-pound brown. Jacob Rodriguez, 11, of Orange landed a 5.0 brown. Andrew Torres, 10, of Orange got a 3.1 brook. Gordon Vargas, 12, of Corona caught a 3.0 brook.

In all, about 800 anglers fished opening day, but just two fished from a car.

CONTACT US: (714) 796-7809 or dstrege@ocregister.com






Hydra Spyder could be first, mass-produced amphibious automobile in U.S.

The Age, 10/17/06

Now, John Giljam knows this to be as true as the highway is long, and for good reason: He has tried to park his car on a lake _ and on rivers, ponds, even the Intracoastal Waterway.

Giljam, in fact, has practiced not only parking on water; he has become quite adept at turning sharply on it. (He no longer gets drenched in a curtain of spume when cornering, he will have you know.) And he has mastered the art of steering clear of critters _ geese, mostly, though gators have a habit of surfacing at inopportune moments.

It helps, of course, to learn these aquatic feats behind the wheel of his latest creation, the "Hydra Spyder," an amphibious car that cruises on H2O as easily as it does on blacktop.

With its snazzy snout, convertible top, Corvette V8 engine and jet "impeller" _ the stainless-steel cone protruding from the rear that propels it through water _ the Hydra Spyder is poised to become the first, mass-produced amphibious automobile in America.

"It's incredibly nimble in the water. The Spyder turns smoothly, docks easily," the 46-year-old inventor boasts.

It has one shortcoming, he concedes. On the water, "the parallel parking really sucks."

Giljam tingles at the idea of anglers taking their cars out on lakes for a day of fishing; of rush-hour commuters bypassing congestion by taking a river as an alternate route; of water-skiers bouncing along in the wake of a speedboat with four wheels.

"I honestly feel I've been born with a gift, and it was for creating mechanical things," he says. "It's what keeps me up at night."

Ten years ago, Giljam operated a Jet Ski rental company on Hilton Head Island. Business was brisk, he recalls, but one day two customers crashed into each other. Though they were not hurt seriously, he shut the business down, he says. "I would not be able to function if something I owned and operated hurt somebody."

Which then got him to thinking: Could an aquatic vehicle be designed to be fast and safe?

By 39, he had invented _ and patented _ the world's first unsinkable bus and the world's first aquatic, luxury RV. Producing amphibious cars on a grand scale would be, as he sees it, a "logical" new endeavor.

His Hydra Spyder is not the first of its kind to crawl ashore. Civilian, amphibious vehicles have been around for more than a century, and European manufacturers have long dominated the trade.

Yet, while some models have been able to raise dust on a highway, nearly all have been agonizingly slow in the wet, where wheels create drag. One well-known washout was the "Amphicar," which was mass-produced in Germany from 1961 to 1968. On roadways, the Amphicar got up to 70 mph (113 kph) but disappointed in the water, mustering a dash speed of just 7 mph (11.3 kph).

In the mid-1990s, Alan Gibbs, a New Zealand inventor-entrepreneur, founded Gibbs Technologies, of Nuneaton, England, with the aim of developing the first high-speed amphibious car.

In 2003, after seven years of work with 70 British engineers and designers, Gibbs launched "Aquada," an amphibious sports car, a la 007, with retractable wheels and a jet drive that propelled it along water at a maximum speed of 32.8 mph (52.7 kph).

To the acclaim of the British media, it made its test-run at London's Docklands, scene of a high-speed boat chase in the James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough." Not long thereafter, the Aquada made the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious vehicle. (Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, planed across in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds.)

At the time, Giljam's company, Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International LLC, which he founded with his wife, Julie, in 1999, was turning out amphibious buses, a dozen or so a year, at a factory in Rochester, New York (Tour operators are the Giljams' main clients; eight "Hydra Terras" are currently in operation in New York City.)

The Aquada's big splash threw Giljam into creative overdrive. "I suppose," he told a reporter once, "we just wanted to answer the Brits." The amphibian he envisioned would have to be faster, tougher, and more economical than the Aquada, which retailed for $300,000 (euro239,406).

And unsinkable. "Safety," says Giljam, a 12-year veteran of a rescue squad in his native Lakeville, New York, "means everything to me."

And so, he took to the drawing board.

Today, the factory doesn't look like much from Interstate 95: a sand-colored, corrugated-roof structure on an 11-acre (4.4-hectare) wedge of property covered in knee-high weeds and hemmed in by overgrown live oaks.

On the floor of this 20,000-square-foot (1,800-square-metre) building, though, amphibian history is in the making.

Near the far corner, the lemon-yellow, fiberglass body agleam, sits a Hydra Spyder _ the prototype, actually. It sold last November _ for $175,000 (euro139,654)."This gentleman was insistent," says Julie, "and we needed the cash for the new plant."

A non-disclosure agreement protects the identity of the buyer, one of the wealthiest men in America _ a "Forbes Top-50 kinda guy," Giljam says _ and from the West Coast, who took delivery before the Giljams could test it at a motor speedway.

On this day, the mystery tycoon's Hydra Spyder is back in the shop for adjustments: a new, 502 CID Chevy Race Engine that will boost horsepower from 400 to 500 _ one step below dragstrip capability _ and new, heavy-duty mufflers to subdue the motor's roar.

"Apparently," Giljam explains, "it was hard to hold a conversation with the engine running."

In an adjacent pod, welders and mechanics are handcrafting the marine-grade, aluminum hull of Hydra Spyder No. 2, which will have a racing transmission, "super chargers," and other high-performance features.

These help provide what Giljam calls "oooomph" _ which is something aquatic racers most desire after plowing their cars into a body of water.

To switch the Hydra Spyder into "marine mode," the driver simply presses a button, which drops the clutch, disengages the road drive, shifts the transmission into aquatic duty, and retracts the wheels. The jet-drive kicks in then, allowing the Hydra Spyder to plane across water like a speedboat at greater than 50 mph (80 kph).

Oooomph does come at a cost: Base price is $155,000 (euro123,693) _ to which can be added all kinds of extras, including heated seats ($1,000 (euro798) ), a custom entertainment system for in-Spyder cinema ($5,000 (euro3,990) ), Lamborghini door systems ($2,000, euro1,596), and teak interior trim ($1,500, euro1,197).

And though not intended for use on open seas, this amphibian can be fitted with a fishfinder.

So, even as Detroit automakers struggle to survive, the future looks bright for Cool Amphibious Manufacturers. The Giljams have 6 orders for Hydra Spyders. Within five years, they hope to expand their new factory and produce 75 Hydra Spyders a year.

And, for the record, how good is it on gas?

On land, somewhere around 16 to 18 miles per gallon of premium gas (13 to 14.7 liters per 100 kilometres). (This amphibian can also run on an ethanol mix without modifications.) Not too shabby, Giljam says, for a 3,400-pound (1,530-kilogram) vehicle that is 18.6 feet (5.6 metres) long and a foot (30 centimetres) wider than the average landlocked car.

He adds: "When you put it in the water, you burn a lot more fuel and the odometre doesn't move. Tires don't rotate in the water, you know."

© 2006 AP DIGITAL






Amphicar for sail at £10,000  AMPHICAR FOR SAIL AT £10,000
12/10/2006

A RARE amphibious Amphicar was one of stars of last week's British Car Auctions sale at Brooklands Museum.

The auction featured a range of vehicles appropriate to the historic venue, including a good selection of British sports cars to tempt buyers.
The Amphicar model 770 is one of probably less than 15 in the UK. Although in the region of 4,000 were produced in Germany between 1961 and 1968, few survive today.
It is truly amphibious vehicle, capable of 65 mph on land and six knots when afloat.
Requiring some minor attention to make it completely ship-shape, it sold for £10,000.
Top price of the day went to 1973 Jaguar E-Type Series III roadster.
In good original condition, it made £23,100. BCA hold regular sales at the museum by its classic and historic automobile division and for more details visit the website www.classic-car-auction.co.uk.

Results from the auction house;

AMPHICAR MODEL 770

1962 Amphicar Model 770Hans Trippel's dream of a truly all purpose vehicle broke cover at the 1959 Geneva Salon as the Eurocar. By the time production commenced in 1961, the name had changed to Amphicar, more indicative of the nature of the vehicle. Often mistaken for a kit car, the Amphicar was, in fact, the most successful non-military amphibious vehicle to be put into production on a commercial basis and although estimates vary it would appear that approximately 4,000 were produced between 1961 and 1968. In addition to many unique items, components were sourced from Borgward, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with a rear-mounted Triumph Herald engine enclosed in a seam-welded steel and sealed monocoque/hull of a heavier gauge than contemporary production cars. On-road performance, given the extra weight, is a respectable 65mph, with 6 knots obtainable afloat. The sight of an Amphicar always generates a great deal of interest and they are one of few truly universal vehicles, somewhat like the Morgan or an elderly Land Rover, accepted by all.

This right-hand-drive example appears to have remained in very good condition having been owned by French born restaurateur, Didier Milinaire (stepson of the 13th Duke of Bedford), who made quite a stir when he appeared at Henley Regatta in the car. Press cuttings assembled in an album accompany the car, along with many photographs of the car’s aquatic outings. Finished in Signal red, the car is reported as being all good though, not having been used afloat for some time, it is advised that the hull and door seals should be checked before the car is launched again. Understood to have been manufactured in 1965, the car has at sometime been re-registered and currently carries a ‘Y' suffix number plate.

The vehicle is offered for sale with a V5 registration document and current MOT certificate, along with the above-mentioned album and various other documents.

Estimate: £9,500 - £11,500






Amphicars on display

Saturday, September 09, 2006

HOLLAND -- Amphicars, those 1960s-vintage cars that double as a boat, will be on display from 2 to 4 p.m. today at Holland Township's Dunton Park. More than a dozen of the cars, with water-tight doors and propellers on the back, are expected in Holland for an annual "swim-in" gathering. Local amphicar owners Ed and Sharon Koops have sponsored the event the past five years. About 4,500 amphicars were built in Germany in the 1960s. Dunton Park is off Howard Avenue, about a quarter-mile west of River Avenue.






Bizarre Amphicar never floated as a successful production car

Nigel Matthews, Special to The Province
Published: Friday, June 02, 2006

The Amphicar was rather a bizarre vehicle.

Hans Trippel was no stranger to amphibious vehicles -- he had been building them since 1935. His dream was to build 20,000 per year -- an idea doomed from the beginning. When the Quandt family, who owned BMW, showed some interest in his project, he went into high gear and managed to secure a $5-million investment from them to fulfil his dream.

The Amphicar was what I call a cocktail car.

They were assembled in Germany, the body was built in Italy, they used a modified Porsche transmission, brakes from a Mercedes, were powered by a 48-h.p. Triumph Herald engine and the wiring harness was supplied by Lucas.

The total production amounted to 3,878 between 1961 and 1968.

The biggest problem was corrosion. Italian cars of the era did not fare very well in dry circumstances, so imagine how quickly the metal decay set in when you added a little salt water.

Two nylon propellers propelled them to a speed of seven knots in the water, the front wheels became the rudder, and the transmission was a clever, two-stage combined land-and-water unit.

On land, it was a conventional four-speed and reverse unit. In the water, it became a two-speed unit, forward and reverse. The land-speed claim was 113 km/h, but they handled terribly -- I wonder why?

Some of the optional equipment included an anchor, floating cushions, and a paddle for breakdowns, which occurred often -- water found its way into the engine compartment and they would sputter to a halt.

The choices of colours were three more than Henry Ford offered -- they were available in red, white, blue, and green. They also came with navigation lights.

I witnessed the sale of an Amphicar in Arizona this January for $114,000 US. Price when new, $3,050.

Nigel Matthews is the appraiser of vintage and collector cars for the Insurance Corp. of B.C.

© The Vancouver Province 2006






Owasso Man Travels in Amphicar


Tuesday, May 30, 2006; Posted: 11:05 AM(CDT)

Thousands of Oklahomans spent their Memorial Day weekend out on the lake.  As temperatures continue to rise more and more people may wish they could spend their days out on the lake.  But what if you could spend your day on the lake in the car?  An Owasso man is doing just that.

He owns a 1964 Amphicar.  It's one of only about 3,700 or so that were built between 1961 and 1967, by a German company.

It's probably the only car in the area with life jackets and an anchor.  It's registered as both a car and a boat.  The Surf 'N' Turf license plate says it all.  A car that is like a duck, comfortable on land and in the water.

John Davis, owner of the Amphicar, says, "The most fun is going in and out of the water past the people who are launching their boats."

John says his Amphicar is convenient because it takes a lot less work than a traditional water vehicle.  In a boat you have to unload the boat, go park your truck, then go get on the boat.  But John just drives right in to the water.

He says he actually owns a boat, but it just sits at home on the trailer.

His wife says a day at the lake is spent doing a lot of waving, especially once people figure out they're not in the water by mistake.

Watch the video to see John's Amphicar.

This story comes to KSBI-TV through our affiliation with CNN/Tulsa.






Amphicar at Food Lion AutoFair

Thursday, March 16, 2006

(Photo by Brad Bowling)

History has high regard for man's great inventions, such as the telephone, light bulb and duct tape, but where's the love for a family-size amphibious car?

The German-built Amphicar, which will be featured during the April 6-9 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway, has proven the most successful and practical entry in the unusual part car/part boat market.

When Hans Trippel began full-scale Amphicar production in Berlin in 1961, he had 15 years of research and development behind the project. Dozens of amphibious vehicles had been produced and used by military groups around the world since World War I, but Trippel's design was friendly to the average driver.

A reliable, 43-horsepower Triumph Herald four-cylinder engine powered the 2,300-pound Amphicar, which could reach 75 mph on land and eight knots in the water. Factory literature claims the car was capable of 32 miles per gallon on the road and 1.5 gallons per hour in the water. All Amphicars were built with four-speed transmissions and the twin propellers could be made to spin forward or backward.

The engine was located behind the passenger compartment, a weight bias that improved rear-wheel traction in the snow or on boat ramps, but caused the relatively tall car to corner awkwardly. Up front was a storage compartment that contained a spare tire, 13-gallon gas tank and enough luggage space for a family of four. Interior space was sizeable by compact car standards of today, and the back seat accommodated two small adults comfortably. A standard canvas top snapped into place when needed, and the windows could be rolled up.

Its styling was in step with other European and American manufacturers of the time. The Amphicar's front was necessarily free of clutter, which presented a smooth, boat-like surface to the water. The rear housed taillights, turn signals, a single exhaust pipe and a tiny outlet for the bilge pump. Navigation lights and other Coast Guard requirements were standard equipment.

Because the Amphicar was to be heavily promoted and marketed in the United States, it is no surprise the car wore American-style tailfins, though a couple of years after that fad peaked with the 1959 Cadillac. The Amphicar fins were actually functional as they blocked waves from reaching the engine compartment through the air vents.

Introduced to the American public on April Fools' Day in 1961, the rugged Amphicars were put to the test by every car and boat enthusiast magazine, with mixed results. Mechanix Illustrated, a publication known for its love of innovative products, predicted any Amphicar owner "will be the hit of the season" at area lakes, while speed-crazy Car and Driver declared it "behaves too much like a boat" and that the ride "is characterized by an uncertain, billowy, wobbling motion."

At a time when Americans evaluated their cars by sheer weight and size, the diminutive Amphicar cost a whopping $3,400. In 1961 that amount of money bought a new Chevrolet Corvair Monza ($2,238), an aluminum fishing boat, Evinrude outboard motor, trailer and a week's worth of bait. For $3,000, the performance enthusiast could drive home Chevrolet's new ground-pounding Impala Super Sport hardtop.

Another downside to Amphicar ownership came when buyers discovered the little car/boats were prone to rust, especially when exposed to salt water. Fiberglass was not yet in widespread use by automotive or nautical manufacturers, so the Amphicar hull was made of thick-gauge steel.

Different sources report that anywhere from 800 to 4,500 Amphicars were built between 1961 and '67, with 90 percent going to homes in the U.S. This reliance on the American market is what eventually ended Amphicar production. When the federal government's new safety and emissions standards went into effect for the 1968 model year, the world's only amphibious passenger car could not meet the requirements without expensive modifications. The Amphicar plant ceased production in 1968, closing one of the most unusual chapters in automobile history.

Backing Up Classics museum, located just north of the speedway on Highway 29, is supplying the Lagoon Blue Amphicar that will be on display in the Food Lion Pavilion.

Other attractions scheduled for the April 6-9 Food Lion AutoFair include a flying car from the "Monster Garage" television show, the wild Tornado Attack vehicle, a Navy Osprey airplane capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, crazy motorcycle stunts in the Globe of Death, a race car that runs on renewable biodiesel fuel, unusual vehicles from the Lane Motor Museum and a special Century of the Turbocharger display.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

For information, contact the speedway events department at 704-455-3205 or visit www.lowesmotorspeedway.com.






It's a Car! It's a Boat! Amphicar Makes a Splash At Lowe's Motor Speedway's Food Lion AutoFair

Posted in Track News on Mar 13, 2006 at 7:59 PM

CONCORD, N.C. (March 13, 2006): History has high regard for man's great inventions, such as the telephone, light bulb and duct tape, but where's the love for a family-size amphibious car?

The German-built Amphicar, which will be featured during the April 6-9 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway, has proven the most successful and practical entry in the unusual part car/part boat market.

When Hans Trippel began full-scale Amphicar production in Berlin in 1961, he had 15 years of research and development behind the project. Dozens of amphibious vehicles had been produced and used by military groups around the world since World War I, but Trippel's design was friendly to the average driver.

A reliable, 43-horsepower Triumph Herald four-cylinder engine powered the 2,300-pound Amphicar, which could reach 75 mph on land and eight knots in the water. Factory literature claims the car was capable of 32 miles per gallon on the road and 1.5 gallons per hour in the water. All Amphicars were built with four-speed transmissions and the twin propellers could be made to spin forward or backward.

The engine was located behind the passenger compartment, a weight bias that improved rear-wheel traction in the snow or on boat ramps, but caused the relatively tall car to corner awkwardly. Up front was a storage compartment that contained a spare tire, 13-gallon gas tank and enough luggage space for a family of four. Interior space was sizeable by compact car standards of today, and the back seat accommodated two sm all adults comfortably. A standard canvas top snapped into place when needed, and the windows could be rolled up.

Its styling was in step with other European and American manufacturers of the time. The Amphicar's front was necessarily free of clutter, which presented a smooth, boat-like surface to the water. The rear housed taillights, turn signals, a single exhaust pipe and a tiny outlet for the bilge pump. Navigation lights and other Coast Guard requirements were standard equipment.

Because the Amphicar was to be heavily promoted and marketed in the United States, it is no surprise the car wore American-style tailfins, though a couple of years after that fad peaked with the 1959 Cadillac. The Amphicar fins were actually functional as they blocked waves from reaching the engine compartment through the air vents.

Introduced to the American public on April Fools' Day in 1961, the rugged Amphicars were put to the test by every car and boat enthusiast magazine, with mixed results. Mechanix Illustrated, a publication known for its love of innovative products, predicted any Amphicar owner "will be the hit of the season" at area lakes, while speed-crazy Car and Driver declared it "behaves too much like a boat" and that the ride "is characterized by an uncertain, billowy, wobbling motion." 

At a time when Americans evaluated their cars by sheer weight and size, the diminutive Amphicar cost a whopping $3,400. In 1961 that amount of money bought a new Chevrolet Corvair Monza ($2,238), an aluminum fishing boat, Evinrude outboard motor, trailer and a week's worth of bait. For $3,000, the performance enthusiast could drive home Chevrolet's new ground-pounding Impala Super Sport hardtop.

Another downside to Amphicar ownership came when buyers discovered the little car/boats were prone to rust, especially when exposed to salt water. Fiberglass was not yet in widespread use by automotive or nautical manufacturers, so the Amphicar hull was made of thick-gauge steel.

Different sources report that anywhere from 800 to 4,500 Amphicars were built between 1961 and '67, with 90 percent going to homes in the U.S. This reliance on the American market is what eventually ended Amphicar production. When the federal government's new safety and emissions standards went into effect for the 1968 model year, the world's only amphibious passenger car could not meet the requirements without expensive modifications. The Amphicar plant ceased production in 1968, closing one of the most unusual chapters in automobile history.

Backing Up Classics museum, located just north of the speedway on Highway 29, is supplying the Lagoon Blue Amphicar that will be on display in the Food Lion Pavilion.

Other attractions scheduled for the April 6-9 Food Lion AutoFair include a flying car from the "Monster Garage" television show, the wild Tornado Attack vehicle, a Navy Osprey airplane capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, crazy motorcycle stunts in the Globe of Death, a race car that runs on renewable biodiesel fuel, unusual vehicles from the Lane Motor Museum and a special Century of the Turbocharger display.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults.Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

For information, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.lowesmotorspeedway.com.






Scottsdale/Northeast Valley briefs.

Jan. 20, 2006 12:00 AM

1964 Amphicar brings $124,200 at auction

SCOTTSDALE - Among all the high-end automobiles offered this week at the sprawling Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, the highest bid during the Tuesday and Wednesday block action was made for an odd duck that no one expected to reach such heights. advertisement

The car: a 1964 Amphicar convertible, one of those little cars that could go boating on water and drive on land. The price: $124,200, including auction fees.

The Amphicar, pictured in the auction catalog with a canoe paddle, was lovingly restored to its original glory. But even at Barrett-Jackson values, the estimated value for the 43-horsepower craft was somewhere in the $25,000-to-$35,000 range.

Or, as one auction watcher said Thursday, "There's a lot of buyer's remorse this morning."

The auction continues through Sunday at WestWorld.






Fish and Fowl
The Amphicar did it all!

by Jim Motavalli - January 19, 2006

Feature

The Amphicar gets wet in Holland.

I've always had a soft spot for the Amphicar, a German "whatsit?" built in the 1960s that was both a fairly lousy car and a pretty bad boat. The Amphicar looked a bit like one of those missing-link amphibians that demonstrate how land animals crawled out of the sea.

Amphicars were built in Berlin between 1962 and 1967, but sold mostly in the U.S. and never in large numbers. They were expensive for the times, costing between $2,800 and $3,300. Of the 4,500 produced, 3,700 came here. With a Triumph 1.1-liter engine, the Amphicar supposedly could attain 70 mph on land, though I imagine it would need a pretty good tailwind. In the water it could make eight knots.

The Amphicar was cute, and with huge rear fins (bigger than a '59 Cadillac) it looks admirably retro today. There are approximately 500 still on the road and in the water, and they make cameo appearances in a Madonna video, in the TV show Avengers and the movie The President's Analyst . President Lyndon Johnson had one, and so does comedian Dan Aykroyd.

Alabama owner Ray Hornsby describes the first plunge: "It's really hard to describe. You are in a vehicle that is familiar to you, so when you drive down the ramp and it begins to float, it's an odd feeling. But it is a love affair. Once I hit the water, I was hooked, no doubt about it."

I was reminded of the Amphicar on a recent trip into New York City, where I saw a row of "Ducks." These are 60-year-old landing craft from World War II (one in use in Boston actually hit Normandy Beach on D-Day), and they've caught on as tourist transport in Manhattan, Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The Amphicar was the only amphibious car ever sold in any numbers to the public, but the concept isn't all that new. In fact, one of the very first steam vehicles was Oliver Evans' dredger, the "Oruktor Amphibolos," which supposedly carried passengers around Philadelphia in 1805 before going about its duties in the harbor. There were cars that flew as well, including the "Airphibian" developed in 1946 by the late Robert E. Fulton, Jr. of Newtown, Connecticut.

Jim Motavalli is the author of several books on the environment including his latest, Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth. E-mail him at jimm@emagazine.com. www.amphicars.com photo






Amphicar motored through land or sea

Museum exhibit showcases amphibious auto that once toured waters of Lake George

First published: Friday, January 13, 2006

SPRINGS -- For anyone who's ever wanted to drive their car into Lake George and sail away, the Saratoga Automobile Museum is showcasing a 1966 Amphicar in its "Sprockets to Rockets Garage" exhibit.The Amphicar is a new item on display at the museum. It was lent by the estate of Cornelius "Sonny" Vanderbilt Whitney, who was well-known in the city for his interests in horse racing and was a movie producer and industrialist.

Whitney used the car on fishing trips in the Adirondacks. Alan Edstrom, the museum's director of programs and events, recounted how Whitney used to get people excited on Long Island by driving into the waters of Oyster Bay eliciting shouts of "Don't go in there" from unknowing bystanders.

Whitney had the vehicle licensed for the road and certified for the waters it plied.

Developed in Germany, the cars were sold locally by Bill Murphy in Lake George, Edstrom said. The cars were aimed at the American market. The Amphicar Corp. produced 3,878 vehicles and sold 3,046 Amphicars in the United State. About 600 still exist.

The Amphicar was a convertible and came in four colors: beach white, regatta red, lagoon blue and fjord green (aqua). They sold for $2,800 to $3,300.

The Amphicar was known as a Model 770 because its top speed was 7 mph on water and 70 mph on land. It is moved in the water by twin nylon propellers and a special two-part land-and-water transmission built by Hermes, makers of the Porsche transmission, that allows the wheels and propellers to be operated either independently or simultaneously.The "land transmission" is a 4-speed-plus-reverse unit similar to those found in the old Volkswagen Beetles. The "water transmission" is a 2-speed featuring single forward and reverse gears. In the water, the front wheels act as rudders.

The Amphicar went off the American market in 1968 after changes in federal regulations.

The museum currently has the exhibit "Supercars: Exclusive, Exotic, Fast" on display through March 29. The museum is located in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

For more information on the museum, visit its Web site at http://saratogaautomuseum.com or call 587-1935

The Saratoga Automobile Museum is showcasing a 1966 Amphicar, similar to the ones in this (see above) 2004 archive photo, in its "Sprockets to Rockets Garage" exhibit. (Bill Reinke / AP Photo / Dayton Daily News)






Vanity Fair magazine - November 2005

As seen in Vanity Fair magazine - November 2005
Run DMC in a '67 Amphicar. They must have a leaky door, notice the duct tape?






Kansas City Star - See "Ozarks 2005"


Roger Sallee, above, hosted the meet.

 

Is it a car or a boat? Amphicars are both.

LAKE OZARK, Mo. — Amphicar drivers are a fun bunch.

Oct 9, 2005

 At a recent gathering of the International Amphicar Owners Club, they plunged their amphibious little cars down boat ramps and into the water like kids doing cannonballs into a pool. The bigger the splash, the wider their smiles.

 An Amphicar is about the size of an old Volkswagen Beetle, and it was built in Germany from 1961 to 1968. The body is watertight as long as you remember to lock the doors. The bottom of the car is roughly shaped like a boat and it has two propellers in back.

 A special transmission allows the wheels and propellers to be operated either independently or simultaneously. Top speed is about 7 miles per hour on water and 70 mph on land. The front wheels are the rudders when they’re in water. Power comes from a 43-horsepower British Herald engine mounted behind the back seat.

 About 3,878 Amphicars were built, and 90 percent of them came to the U.S. market. They were more novelty than anything, and many ended up as promotional tools for radio stations and companies. Today, collectors are snapping them up.

 It’s pretty rare to see one Amphicar, much less a dozen of ‘em, but on Sept. 16-17, about that many gathered at Lake of the Ozarks, hosted by Roger Sallee. Sallee grew up in Chanute, Kan., lived in Lee’s Summit and now resides at Lake Ozark. He restores Amphicars as a hobby.

 If a group of ducks is called a flock and a bunch of geese is called a gaggle, what do you call a flotilla of Amphicars? A party.

 Just ask the folks at Bayou Bill’s, a Lake Ozark watering hole that seemed to be convention central. On a Friday night, as the sun slipped behind the horizon, Ken Richter from Louisiana whipped up a batch of crawfish etouffee on the restaurant’s deck while a couple of die-hard Amphicar owners took their cars for one last “swim” around the dock. Amphicars don’t go boating, they “swim.”

 “Dave the Wave” Derer from Mendota, Ill., saw his first Amphicar at Santa's Village in Dundee, Ill., when he was just a kid. His fascination with this little car grew and grew until now he has an Amphicar restoration business. So why is the Amphicar so special to him? He chuckled and said, “It floats.”

 Looking at his website reveals a deeper appreciation. He wrote: 

 “Years ago when I prayed to God for direction, I would never have guessed the answer would be in a form of an Amphicar.

 “The days move by us. Our youth somehow vanishes without saying good-bye. The great thing about being young is the newness of all that comes your way. Then something happens and you realize it’s gone. The Amphicar fills that void. When I drive up to a boat ramp, watching the water spin and move, my heart beats faster, in nervous anticipation. It is a new experience every time. I get younger when I drive in. I get younger when I smile. I get younger when I share the Amphicar.”

BY Tom Strongman


Sam Ferge leaving the water


Dave Derer, gives a ride to Nick and Tina Krispin.






Amphicar floats your boat, literally

1960s amphibian a realization of sci-fi fantasy

Fri Oct 21 2005

By Bill Vance

THE Amphicar aspired to be both car and boat. It was the embodiment of countless futuristic stories in craft magazines such as Popular Science and Popular Mechanics that predicted ever more breathtaking breakthroughs in cars as boats or even cars as planes.

The Amphicar actually brought these fantasies down to Earth (sea?) in the early 1960s in the form of a production amphibious car.

The German-built Amphicar was apparently inspired by the amphibious version of the Second World War Volkswagen Kubelwagen, Germany's "Jeep," known, appropriately enough, as the Schwimmwagen.

In fact, designer Hans Trippel, a pioneer in amphibious vehicles, reportedly had originally intended to use the VW drivetrain in the Amphicar, but marine regulations prohibited the use of an air-cooled engine.

After considering several alternatives, the best power-to-weight ratio compromise was found in the 1,147-cubic-centimetre, overhead-valve, four-cylinder engine from the British Triumph Herald. It developed a modest but adequate 43 horsepower at 4,750 r.p.m. and was mounted in the rear of the steel-bodied car-boat behind the four-seater convertible's passenger compartment. Industrie Werke Karlsruhe of West Berlin was formed in 1961 to manufacture Amphicars, soon moving to Karlsruhe, where most of them were built. The Amphicar had to be licensed as a car and a boat. Thus, in addition to the normal road-going requirements, it carried navigation lights and safety equipment such as oars (folded up under the front seat), flares, life-jackets and a bilge pump.

There was skepticism about the Amphicar's sea-going capability until Trippel demonstrated its seaworthiness by arranging for one to cross the English Channel in 1962.

The Amphicar was introduced at the 1959 Geneva motor show, and it was built from 1961 to '68, during which some 3,800 were produced. They were largely unchanged over that period.

The Amphicar's performance was modest, whether on land or water. Car and Driver magazine tested one in November1967, and reported that its 43 h.p. would push the 1,043-kilogram Amphicar to 96 kilometres an hour in a leisurely 43 seconds. Top speed was estimated at 105 km/h. As a boat, the magazine recorded a top speed of six knots (about 11 km/h).

Amphicars never really caught on either as cars or boats, but they are a wonderful novelty. During a test drive in one, I found that, on land, the Amphicar rolls along with a gentle rocking motion and is somewhat prone to wandering about --its aerodynamics are certainly not in the Mercedes-Benz or Audi class.

Low gearing makes the little engine churn out lots of revs to keep up with traffic. And, while it may be capable of more than 96 km/h, it definitely feels more at home in the 65-to-72-km/h range.

But, one always has the impression the Amphicar would rather be a boat. On city streets, it feels a little like --dare we say -- a fish out of water.

Changing the Amphicar from car to boat is surprisingly easy. After securing the specially sealed doors with a large lever at each lower rear corner, the clutch is depressed and a small lever beside the main four-speed shifter engages the twin nylon propellers. The car is driven straight into the water in first gear until it floats off the bottom and the propellers take over. First gear is then disengaged.

One soon adapts to the change in status from driver to sailor as the Amphicar chugs along nicely at four or five knots. Despite seeming to sit very low in the water, there are still more than 500 millimetres of freeboard. There is no rudder, so steering is accomplished, vaguely, in the water the same way it is on land --with the front wheels. First-time captains tend to flail away on the brake pedal, which, of course, does no good at all except, perhaps, psychologically. A hand throttle is provided to relieve the strain on the right foot --cruise control in the true sense of the word. To return to terra firma, one simply re-engages first gear and drives out of the water. The propellers are then disengaged.

There is one warning I feel obliged to pass on. If you are a shrinking violet, have nothing whatsoever to do with the Amphicar because it attracts phenomenal attention, including waves, smiles and looks of disbelief, particularly in boat mode.

And, once back on land, true to its off-beat character, the Amphicar emits a very unladylike stream of water out of the rear (stern?) as the bilge pump does its necessary work.

--CanWest News Service






Taking the car for a swim

Special to The Daily Home (Talladega)

10-19-2005

Did you hear about the car that drove into Lake Martin on the Fourth of July? More impressively, did you see it drive out? No, Elvis wasn't driving, and Bigfoot wasn't watching from the shore, so cut your friends some slack if they’ve been trying to tell you about it.This was an Amphicar, a German contraption built largely for the American recreation market in the 1960s. The Amphicar Corporation was and remains the only company to have ever mass-produced an amphibious vehicle for the general public.

The car/boat is powered by a 43-horsepower Triumph engine with a transmission that allows it to run up to 70 mph on land, or 7 mph in the water.
Of the original 3,878 Amphicars that were built, it is estimated that about 1,000 are still around, with half of those capable of both driving and swimming.

Ray Hornsby, formerly of Goodwater, purchased this one in 1999 and had it restored. July 4 was the first time he took it in the water."People were staring, stopping their boats to circle around — one guy yelled, ‘Hey, your car is sinking! as he pulled alongside on a jet ski," said Hornsby.

The Amphicar owned by Ray is somewhat famous among Amphicar lovers. It was seen in a movie, "Pontiac Moon," with Ted Danson and Mary Stienburgen. In the movie's closing scenes, the car can be seen crossing a river into Canada to escape people in pursuit.

In its day the Amphicar sold new for between $2,800 and $3,300. Famous owners of the little car/boat include President Lyndon Johnson, Madonna and Dan Aykroyd.

Hornsby admits the first time was a little unsettling.

"Yeah, to tell the truth I was somewhat nervous," he said. "My mom (Jamie Hornsby of Goodwater) went out with us and I think she was the least nervous of all of us. It is really hard to describe. You are in a vehicle that is familiar to you, then when you drive the ramp and it begins to float, that is an odd feeling. Suddenly all of your suspension is gone, and you are in a familiar object, yet in very unfamiliar territory. But it is a love affair. Once I hit the water, I was hooked, no doubt about it. I love the feeling and love the uniqueness of the car."

Hornsby has a collection of unusual autos, including a BMW Isetta, a Nash Metropolitan, three VW Things, a Citroen Mehari and a 1960 Corvette.

His favorite?
"That depends on what I am doing — right now the Amphicar would have to be my favorite. I can’t help but smile when I think about getting it into the water," he said.
According to Hornsby, regardless of where you go you hear all the same questions, so he keeps his answer list close by:

o Yes, it's a boat.
o Yes, it's a car.
o You steer it with the front wheels which act as rudders.
o Yes, it has reverse.
o No, the brakes don't work in water.
o Yes, you have to have license for both.
o Value depends on condition — anywhere between $20,000-$70,000.
o Yes, you can find parts.
o Yes, the parts are expensive.
o Except for color and a few odds and ends, all models from 61 to 68 are the same.
o The door seals in a fashion similar to your refrigerator.
o Yes, it's safe. Once two men navigated across the English Channel in one.
o On land they get 35 mpg; in the water about 1.5 hours per gallon.
o It has a Triumph 1147cc engine.
o Yes, I will race you across the lake for pink slips, as long as we both start from the middle of the parking lot.

Hornsby plans to take the car for another swim on Labor Day near Piney Woods (close to Wind Creek Park).






Needs a car and a boat?

WNDU News - S. Bend Indiana

07/20/2005

Evans knows of only one other such car in the state of Nebraska
Evans knows of only one other such car in the state of Nebraska Rob Evans of Nebraska loves to start up his 1966 German Amphicar and take it for a spin or a swim. "These things were built to go into the water. We carry life jackets and running lights and oars just like a boat. It has a bilge pump so if too much water gets in, we just pump it out," says Evans.

Who needs a car and a boat? The Amphicar is both. Less than 4,000 of these cars were made in Germany between 1961-1968 and almost all of them were exported to the United States. Rob’s car is one of about a thousand left worldwide.

"It gets about 30 miles per gallon on the road. It’s a four-cylinder engine in the rear. It's actually a triumph engine in there," he says.

If you're wondering what kind of horsepower this baby has, try 65 miles per hour on land and 12 knots in the water.

"The front wheels are the rudders that steer the car. It has a hull underneath it just like a regular boat does," says Evans.

Few boats, though, make the kind of splash with onlookers the Amphicar does. "Usually their mouths drop and they can't believe what they're seeing," laughs Evans.

What they're seeing is a 1960s-manufactured car that's still well ahead of its time.

Evans says, “When you think that this car is 40-years-old and, but the engineers figured out how to do it and what they did with it back then is kind of unique.”

Rob bought his Amphicar about three years from someone in Elkhorn, Nebraska






Antique car doubles as watercraft

By By Meir Rinde - Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

ANDOVER -- Arthur J. Gonsalves drove his car into a lake yesterday -- three or four times -- and drew the usual responses: delighted laughter from his passengers and amazed gazes from the shore.

"All right! Here we go!" Gonsalves announced as his antique, German-made convertible hit the water with a splash. "Hold your nose!"

But instead of sinking to the bottom as it left the shore or floating away as old Volkswagen Beetles supposedly will do, the 1964 Amphicar buzzed full steam ahead, powered by two propellers in the back.

Cars that double as boats have been around for decades. World War II amphibious landing vehicles that serve as tourist "duck boats" are a common sight in Boston. Submarine cars are practically mandatory in James Bond films, and just last year a British company jetted a $274,000 amphibious sports car along the Thames River.

But for Gonsalves, 64, and his wife and four children, the miniature white car with 1950s-style tail fins has been an everyday plaything for almost 25 years. Ever since one of his sons saw an Amphicar at a car show and Gonsalves tracked one down to add to the car collection at his Jenkins Road home, the vehicle they call Popeye has been a part of family folklore.

"My son said, 'What the heck is that?'" recalled Gonsalves, in one of many anecdotes he offered during a demonstration in North Reading's Martin's Pond. "He said, 'Dad, you've got to get one. Unless you get a car that flies, you'll never get a better one.'"

Since then, Gonsalves said he has given rides to countless children on Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, watched Fourth of July fireworks while piloting down the Charles River, and astounded whale watchers by boating past them in Boston Harbor.

"You had to roll the window up to keep the water from coming up over the sides," he said.

Gonsalves, who served in the military for three years, said he named the boat after Popeye the Sailor because the cartoon character is a symbol of American strength and goodness. Gonsalves wore a Popeye T-shirt and a white Navy hat yesterday, and the Amphicar sported an American flag, a decal of the cartoon character and a can of Popeye brand spinach.

But Gonsalves also recalled that when he bought the car, he was not sure it was truly seaworthy.

"When I first went in the water, I didn't know anything about it," he said. "So I tied a rope to it and to the front of my wife's car. I said, 'If I start to sink, back up!'"

The Amphicar has its roots in a prototype built 70 years ago by a German car racer, Hanns Trippel, according to several Web sites devoted to the vehicle. In 1935, Adolf Hitler saw a second prototype and the Germany army sponsored Trippel, though it preferred a smaller amphibious car, the VW Schwimmwagen.

In the decades after World War II, Trippel tried and failed to market various amphibious car designs. The Amphicar was designed for the American leisure car market and finally went into production in 1961. Almost 4,000 were produced through 1968, and about 500 working models now survive worldwide.

"Unfortunately, nobody bought them," Gonsalves said. "It's a lousy boat, and it's a lousy car."

The Amphicar can travel up to 65 mph on the road and a maximum of 5 to 7 mph in the water, which may have been impressive in the 1960s but does not do much for water-skiers, he said. In addition, Gonsalves' car is leaking these days. He will only take it on quick, 2-minute spins on the water and is planning repairs.

But his son, also named Arthur Gonsalves, said he suspects the car's quirks and its age are part of its appeal for his father.

"His cars are an extension of him," the younger Gonsalves said. "Heck, even his lawn mower is from the '50s. He wants everything to be as old as him so he doesn't feel old. He still thinks he's in high school."






Ed Collier/ The Times A row of Amphicars cruises Long Lake in Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon as part of a small gathering of the International Amphicar Club. Amphicar enthusiasts from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois converged on Valparaiso's Chain of Lakes to show off their German-made amphibious vehicles.The cars, manufactured in the 1960s, were once described as being both bad cars, and bad boats according to Valparaiso Amphicar owner Rob Vondracek.

It's a boat, it's a car, no it's Amphicar
Owners of hybrid car-boat say its more fun than any sports car

BY DAVID MITCHELL - Times Staff Writer

This story ran on nwitimes.com on Sunday, June 22, 2003 12:12 AM CDT

VALPARAISO -- Robert Vondracek angled the tight corners on the bumpy, curved dirt path leading down to the banks of Long Lake, commenting until the front tires met water on how well the two-door, red and white car, handled.

At the water's edge, he pulled a button on the dashboard to close the air vents, tugged on a floorboard handle, engaging two rear propellers, and for a moment, James Bond had nothing on him as he cruised the car into the water and began motoring through the lake.

At one point on Saturday, at least six others in cars similar to Vondracek's joined him for a cruise through the lake, as people on shore or in boats looked on in wonder, and the First Annual Northwest Indiana Amphicar Swim-in kicked into high gear.

"There were all those lakes in Valparaiso, I thought, hey, why not explore them," said Vondracek of his decision to buy and restore one of the amphibian vehicles 14 years ago. "This thing is incredible. ... This thing is by far more fun than any Jaguar, any sports car," he said.

The cars, likened in appearance by some to miniature 1957 Chevy's, were made in Germany from 1961 through 1967. They can reach speeds of about 70 mph on land, seven in the water. According to Vondracek, there are about 750 in the world, 500 of which still float. They bear the unique characteristic of having both legal automobile license plates on the bumper, and registered boat numbers attached to the fender.

"It's the coolest thing," said John Capone of Schaumburg, Ill., an Amphicar owner for a year. "I've always liked weird stuff."

Capone looked for some time until he found his Amphicar. Before damaging the motor, he had had it out in water a handful of times this year.

While the cars are rather uncommon, there is a significant number of people scattered throughout the country who have taken an interest in finding, buying and restoring these vehicles. They meet at various events and compare stories while admiring the work that others have done to their cars.

Amphicars arrived at the Swim-in with license plates from Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin, as well as Indiana. The personalized tags displayed such messages as, "I FLOAT," "HAFBOAT," or "BLU GIL."

In the lake, three owners drag raced, spitting water from the rear of the partially submerged cars. On shore, they laughed as cars rolled out of the water, drivers shifting from transmissions that operate the propellers to those that run the automobiles, with seaweed draped over the front bumpers.

"It's good clean fun," said Jeanne Vondracek. "We take it to New Buffalo and Chicago. That's the most fun, when you take it somewhere where people haven't seen it before."

Many of the owners joke the vehicles do not handle particularly well either in the water or on the street. But all agree they are fun, and they turn heads.

"It's sort of a contrast for us because we're also in the Corvette Club," said Jim Tiller of Kalamazoo, Mich., adding "You know what, this gets more attention than the Corvette."

* David Mitchell can be reached at dmitchell@nwitimes.com






Swimming in January?
Stalwart neighbors take winter plunge

David Mirhadi, davidm@theunion.com

January 2, 2003

Greeley TribuneThis time of year, Scotts Flat Lake is an empty, foreboding body of water so still and cold that nobody is there to see fog roll off the shore or snow melt from the boat dock.

That is, until New Year's Day, when a loosely knit band of daredevils who live on the Cascade Shores side of the lake forget their sanity, strip to their swimsuits and plunge headfirst into waters colder than the beer inside the nearby general store.

"You've really got to psych yourself out," said Bill Coykendall as he shivered, shirtless, in the snow near the boat dock before the annual dive. "If I didn't feel ready, I never would have done this."

The scene at the boat dock resembled a cross between beach party and the Donner Party, as residents lined beach towels, lounge chairs and propane-powered heaters on the dock, while men and women shivered half-naked as the icy, 41-degree water lapped at their sandal-clad feet.

Steve Zyskowski began the day's craziness by driving his red 1967 Amphicar - think sea-worthy, topless Chevy Corvair with twin propellers at the rear - from the top of the boat dock directly into the lake, where he and passenger Robert Hearn trolled the lake, grinning at a few hardy souls in canoes nearby. Only about 80 such cars exist in the United States today, said Zyskowski, a Cascade Shores resident since 1979. "You just drive it in the water and drive away," he said. "It's just totally hilarious."

Zyskowski has given many residents rides in the past few years.

"They're all crazy, eccentric SOBs," Zyskowski said of his friends, "but it's a lot better than being around dull, boring people."

A few years ago, Gary Kilday gave his doubting boss a ride in the car after telling the story of the strange vehicle. "I ended up getting a 50-cent raise and an Employee of the Month T-shirt after that," he joked.

Wednesday marked the third year of the Scotts Flat plunge.

Asked if she was scared, 4-year-old Bailey Kennedy shrieked: "No! We're not going in the deep part!"

Once 2 p.m. hit, the group stampeded into the lake. Screams and gasps filled the air in an instant. Steam blew from the swimmers' mouths.

"Oh, my God, I'm freezing," stammered Greg Clark, who plunged for the second time this year and sprinted to the top of the dock after diving."I always feel better coming out than going in," said three-year plunge veteran Rory Bostard. "But my heart's beating twice as fast as it did this morning." Water fell in ice droplets as he spoke.

Women and girls donned terry cloth robes and towels after stepping out of the lake. What once was a chilly day became almost balmy minutes after everyone came out of the lake, as the sun peeked through the clouds.

"That was your initiation to the 'hood," said plunge event point man Andy Morateur.

About 18 participants then gathered for a group photo, cheering and raising their drinks in triumph. There were about 60 people gathered at the lake, overall, for the New Year's Day tradition.

Bonnie McNeil said she'd be back next year for her fourth dive.

"It's exhilarating," she said. "I guess I'm a masochist, because this is the kind of fun I like."

Steve Zyskowski (right) takes Robert Hearn for a ride on Scotts Flat Lake in his 1967 Amphicar Wednesday.
Eileen Joyce






This following Cuban articles were emailed to me w/o any credits. If you know the origin of this, please contact the webmaster.

July 2003

imageTwelve Cuban migrants attempt to cross the Straits of Florida Wednesday, July 16, 2003, in a boat fashioned out of a 1951 Chevy pickup truck driving it within 40 miles of the United States before they were found by the U.S. Coast Guard and returned to the island.

The dozen migrants, some sheltered in the truck cab or under a yellow tarp covering the bed, were noticed last week by a U.S. Customs aircraft south of Key West, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said.

A propeller attached to the drive shaft of the green vintage pickup was pushing it along at about 8 mph, Doss said. The truck-raft was kept afloat by empty 55-gallon drums attached to the bottom as pontoons.

Migrants have been found on rafts or small boats made out of refrigerators, bathtubs, surfboards and inner tubes, but the truck was believed to be a first. “We haven't come across any vehicles like that before,” Doss said.


Cubans sailing vintage car caught off Florida

Second attempt to flee in car-boat fails

 Feb. 04, 2004

FLOATING BUICKMIAMI - A group of Cubans who tried to sail to the United States in a 1959 Buick car fashioned into a boat were intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard, relatives in Cuba and Cuban exiles said on Wednesday.

For four of the 11 people on board, it was not the first thwarted attempt to leave the communist island in a bizarrely converted vintage vehicle.

They had already tried last July to reach Florida in a vessel made from a 1951 Chevy truck, only to be picked up by the Coast Guard and sent home.

The Coast Guard intercepted the bright green Buick-boat on Tuesday during its journey over the 90-mile stretch between Cuba and Florida, exile groups said.

In Miami, the U.S. Coast Guard would not discuss the incident, saying agency policy was not to comment on migrant interdiction cases while they were in process.

There was no word on whether the group had been taken aboard a Coast Guard vessel or had tried to sail on once they were spotted by the Coast Guard. If picked up, they would likely be sent home, unless they could make a case for political asylum.

In Cuba, relatives of the six adults and five children — aged between 4 and 15 — on the Buick appealed to U.S. authorities not to send them home.

Usually, Cubans caught at sea are repatriated, unless they can prove they have grounds for political asylum. Washington’s policy is to monitor repatriated migrants to make sure they are not punished for having tried to leave.

Those Cuban migrants who manage to make it to U.S. shore are generally allowed to stay.

Relatives said the group was led by Luis Grass, who was one of the 12 Cubans repatriated last July after the truck crossing attempt failed, and was seeking a visa for the United States as a political refugee.

Seaworthy Buick
Their vessel, seen on images broadcast by Miami television stations, looked like one of the many stately 1950s American cars that still cruise the streets of Havana and other Cuba cities — except that it was surrounded by ocean.

The group drove into the sea from a beach 20 miles east of Havana after dark on Monday.

“They sealed the doors and added a double bottom, steel plates for a bow and a propeller,” said Eduardo Perez, cousin of Luis Grass, at his home in the Havana suburb of Diezmero.

He said it cost $4,000 to make the Buick, powered by its original V8 engine, seaworthy and pay for cellular phones used to help the look-out for police on the drive to the beach.

Grass, 35, his wife, Isora, and 4-year-old son, and Marcial Basalta, were aboard last July's attempt in a truck made seaworthy with 55-gallon drums strapped to the sides.

This time Basalta took his wife and two children with him in the Buick owned by a friend called Rafael, who left with his wife and their two sons.

The relatives in Havana called on U.S. authorities not to repatriate the occupants of the Buick, saying they would be punished by the Cuban government for trying a second time.

“The United States should have a little bit of compassion and value the determination of these people,” Perez said. “They are clean people. All they want to do is live and work.”

“On ingenuity alone, they should be allowed to stay,” said Joe Garcia, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a leading exile group.

Many in Miami's large exile population were outraged last July when U.S. authorities repatriated the 12 occupants of the truck and sank the vessel, saying it was not seaworthy and if it were preserved might encourage copycat efforts.


June, 2005

closeup of Mercury taxi boatMIAMI -- On Tuesday, the United States Coast Guard intercepted a group of Cuban refugees attempting to reach Florida on a converted vintage 1949 Mercury taxi.

Only Chopper 6 was over the scene as the drama unfolded. Relatives of those on board spoke exclusively to NBC 6 reporters, saying they're devastated their loved ones didn't make it to Florida's shores.

The Coast Guard first spotted the converted powder-blue vehicle about 20 miles off Key West on Tuesday evening after the group of 13 Cubans sailed their makeshift boat across the Florida Straits.

Pablo Diaz's son, Rafael, his wife and two children were among those intercepted at sea, failing to reach U.S. soil.

"He feels very worried and very sad," Diaz said.

"He needed to get out of the country. He needs to get out and this was his only chance. I am sure if he goes back, it isn't going to be good," said Diaz's cousin Jesus Zamora. "They will probably put him in jail and God knows what could happen to him."

Earlier Tuesday, the Coast Guard intercepted a different boat about 10 miles from Key Largo. That vessel was carrying 22 Cuban refugees, including 4 children. On Sunday, home video showed 6 Cubans who made it to shore and walked right onto Miami Beach.

As for those in the blue taxi, Zamora said it was his cousin's third attempt to leave Cuba. In 2003, he was on board during an unsuccessful attempt to reach the U.S. on another unusual vessel - a 1951 Chevy pickup -- which a man named Luis Grass had converted into a boat. They were intercepted and sent back to Cuba. The Coast Guard then sunk the craft.

Early Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard sank the 'taxi' as well.

In 2004 Grass made a second attempt to get to the United States illegally -- this time aboard a Buick sedan powering another homemade barge.

Grass and his family had more success sticking to land: on March 12 they entered the U.S. though the Texas-Mexico border and were allowed to stay.

According to U.S. policy, Cubans intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba. However, there's no official word yet as to what will happen in this case.






Amphicar is boundless

By Vern Parker

Washington Times
February 27, 2004

"The car of the future is here today," boast 40-year-old ads for Amphicar. "The car that swims."

The only civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass produced was built in Germany from 1961 to 1968. Of the 3,878 vehicles manufactured, 3,046 were shipped to the United States. When new, the unique cars sold for between $2,800 and $3,300.

One of the dealerships was located in what is now a condominium at Prince and South Fairfax streets in Old Town Alexandria, convenient to the Potomac River.

Just down the street in those days, young Brendan O'Leary was busy growing up. "I remember all the colorful cars lined up outside," he says. All Amphicars are convertibles and they originally were offered in only four colors:

Young Mr. O'Leary walked by the dealership daily and asked the sales staff the same questions people ask him today:
Does it float?
Do the propellers work?
How do you steer it?

He wasn't even a teenager when U.S. government regulations went into effect with the 1968 mode- year vehicles and effectively put the Amphicar company out of business. Almost 80 percent of its sales had been in the United States.

But the government regulators in the Department of Transportation were too late. Mr. O'Leary had already been exposed to the Amphicar virus even though he was six years away from having a driver's license.

During the next few decades Mr. O'Leary was to learn that the Amphicar virus can only be controlled, not cured.

From the mid-1980s when he bought his first Amphicar, a Fjord green 1966 model, he never considered it his primary mode of transportation. He had a daily driver car when he found that Amphicar in Maryland.

Mr. O'Leary acknowledges that his knowledge of Amphicars at that time was limited. "I never took it in the water," he says.

That car was soon sold and another Fjord green Amphicar in New York caught his eye. That one was a 1967 model. He kept that one a few years and sold it in 1990.

His third Amphicar was also a Fjord green 1967 model also located in New York. "It was a rust bucket," Mr. O'Leary says. He had it trucked to a restoration shop in New Jersey. After a month he received an estimate on the cost of restoration and quickly sold the vehicle to someone with deeper pockets.

A pristine Regatta red 1967 Amphicar from Pennsylvania became Mr. O'Leary's fourth one in 1998. Unfortunately, a real estate deal came along a year later and, as Mr. O'Leary says, "The house won."

Late in 2003 Mr. O'Leary learned of a Regatta red 1966 Amphicar in California being offered by the second owner. "I bought it sight unseen," Mr. O'Leary says. "I really lucked out." The original owner kept the vehicle at Mount Shasta in California until 2002 when the second owner moved it to Sacramento.

When the Amphicar arrived at Mr. O'Leary's Alexandria doorstep, it was accompanied by a spare transmission, spare wheels and assorted other goodies.

Like every Amphicar, this one weighs 2,288 pounds and has a rear-mounted 70-cubic-inch, British-built Triumph Herald four-cylinder engine that develops 43 horsepower.

The canted fins on the rear fenders of the 14-foot, 2-inch-long car/boat help ensure that, when waterborne, water doesn't wash over the rear engine hood, which is perforated with 52 louvers. If water should wash through the louvers, Mr. O'Leary explains, the efficient bilge pump will push it out through a hole in the panel near the right taillight.

Both the width and height of the Amphicar are within a hair of 5 feet. The ride on land is rather choppy because of the 82.6-inch wheelbase. "It's a heavy car with a small motor," Mr. O'Leary says. The speedometer is set to record speeds up to 90 mph even though factory literature lists a top speed of 75 mph on land. That top speed drops to 10 to 12 mph in the water because with a ground clearance of 10 inches the wheels mounted with 6.40x13-inch tires create considerable drag in the water. The front wheels are the rudders that steer the car on land or sea.

Mr. O'Leary says the well-maintained Amphicar has the original gray-and-white vinyl upholstery. The white vinyl top and red paint have been replaced, the paint in 1990.

A few of the more noticeable features that set the Amphicar apart are the Coast Guard-required registration numbers on the front fenders. If the horn protruding from the deck lid in front of the windshield isn't enough of a nautical clue, then the chrome hood ornament with a split red/green light should be. The Coast Guard-mandated white pole light is removable for land travel but can easily be snapped into place on the rear deck lid.

Like most motor boats, the Amphicar is lined on both sides and the rear with a rub rail to prevent damage when docking. The rear is otherwise protected by a pair of nautical-inspired vertical bumpers.

"Amazingly," Mr. O'Leary says, "parts are readily available." All the control knobs are labeled much like any other 1960s-era car except for two, one labeled "navigation lights" and the other "bilge pump."

A special two-part land/water transmission allows the rear wheels and two nylon propellers to be operated independently or simultaneously.

"It's no speedboat," Mr. O'Leary says. The land part of the transmission is a four-speed unit while the water part is a two-speed offering with single forward and reverse gears. Both props turn clockwise to go forward and counterclockwise to reverse.

Mr. O'Leary's outstanding Amphicar has just recently turned over 16,000 miles on the odometer. With a 13 gallon gasoline tank, the factory figures the vehicles can achieve 32 miles per gallon on land and 1.5 gallons of fuel per hour on water.

Citing performance on land and sea, Mr. O'Leary says, "It doesn't do either well, but it does both." For him, the future that was promised 40 years ago is here, right now.






Boat? Car? Which?

By Garret Leiva
The Grand Traverse Herald  writer

April 14, 1999

Chances are that Mark Smith will be among the throng of water craft enthusiasts tooling around East Grand Traverse Bay this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. That is if the door seals shut tight.

With rubber tire rudders and a bilge pump dashboard gauge, the owner of this 1964 Amphicar holds the ignition key to a unique piece of automotive history - the only amphibious passenger car ever to be mass produced.

After several hundred dollars and hours in the repair shop, Smith's Amphicar is nearly restored to its former Fijord Green glory. A brake job here, an engine installed there under the rear-mounted hood and the German-built car will be ready to launch; both on land and sea.

It is a moment that Smith has been waiting for all his life. Ever since he first saw 007 behind the wheel.

"Since I was a little kid and watched a James Bond movie that had one of these cars I thought, 'One of these days if I could just find one.' I've been looking for an Amphicar all my life and this opportunity came available," said Smith, who bought the car in 1997 from a Traverse City elementary school teacher who lived across the street from his brother.

What also appealed to Smith was owning a piece of history- albeit a short-lived footnote.

Built in Germany from 1961 to 1968, total production numbers on the Amphicar are estimated at 3,700 vehicles. The Amphicar used a four cylinder Triumph Herald rear-mounted engine that produced 43 horsepower. Anemic compared to the "Muscle Cars" of the era, the Amphicar had a top speed of 70 mph on land and 7 mph on water, where it was propelled by twin props. A special transmission built by Hermes (makers of the Porsche transmission) allowed the wheels and propellers to operate independently or simultaneously and even in reverse when in the water.

Getting going, whether on land or in water, proved problematic for Smith. In the spring of 1998, a transmission problem wouldn't allow the four speed convertible to go faster than 5 mph. The bad news, unfortunately, only got worse.

"A friend of mine, John Redmond (owner of Redmond Automotive) took a look at it and he told me right away that it wouldn't float," said Smith, who noted that the car - which had been stored in a damp garage for years - was full of Bondo, putty and silicon in an effort to keep it seaworthy.

Striving for originality, Smith brought the Amphicar to Craig's Body Shop on Old Mission Peninsula where the car received a major sheet metal make-over during the next three months. The rusted floor pans were cutout and replaced with heavy gauge galvanized steel. The entire body was then repainted Fjord Green - Amphicars only came in four colors, White, Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua).

After restoring the exterior, Smith shipped his Amphicar back to Redmond Automotive where it now awaits a new transmission and engine along with shocks, tires, brakes and other assorted mechanical repairs.

All of which make up a hefty repair bill that Smith has yet to estimate. "It's a labor of love," said Smith, who noted that the $3,000 price tag for a new hood is equal to the car's original sticker price.
There are those, however, that wonder why Smith bothers to keep his dream afloat. "My wife is still waiting to see it go in the water or be driven," Smith noted. "She's been very patient. She thinks maybe it's a mid-life crisis."

For Smith, though, the reason for restoring this amphibious auto has always been straight forward as a set of balanced tires.

"I can't wait to take it in the water. Especially now that (East Bay) is so shallow it won't sink very far. But somehow I don't think AAA would pull me out if I called for a tow truck."

Visit the International Amphicar Club.






Still Amphibious

June, 1996

Auburn, Washington —

Don & Ralph HahnThis 1964 Amphicar, painstakingly restored with all original parts by Don Hahn of Auburn, Washington, makes three to four crossings of glacier-fed Lake Tapps each summer. This versatile convertible, one of only 1400 left in the world, is registered for both highway and lake use by the state of Washington and features a Triumph TR-2 engine, two bilge pumps, two propellers, two paddles, running lights and all of the required personal flotation devices. Since the front tires act as the rudder, "Our turning radius is a bit wide. I try and avoid the need for any close maneuvering," says Don. While most of the lake crossings last only about ten to fifteen minutes at 7-8 knots, Don feels confident that his "go-anywhere" amphibious car could sustain an hour or longer voyage.

Don and his son Ralph have been restoring vintage cars for over twenty years and have an impressive collection of classic automobiles. The walls of Ralph's shop are adorned with the model planes, helicopters, racing cars and boats that he has built and run in his "spare time" over the last nineteen years. Repairing lawn mowers and small engines is Ralph's professional focus, but the walls of his shop give clear evidence of his mechanical creativity and love for making things run.






The Sacramento Union, January 17, 1980

Provided by - Joe Swinger, Orangevale, Ca (1964 White)






The Sacramento Bee, May 27, 1973


"Two pictures show 6 Amphicars going down the Sacramento River. My parents are in both pictures (both deceased, I have the car now, my dad bought it in 1965)."
-
Joe Swinger, Orangevale, Ca (1964 White)






An original Punch magazine (U.K.) article dated September 23, 1964
(This is satire, not an actual event!)






Unknown origin, vintage UK news story from the mid-1960s




Copyright ©2002-2006 International Amphicar Owners Club. All rights reserved.
Last updated August 25, 2013