A Little History
Amphibious vehicles have been around for a long time. The first documented one was actually a 17 ton dredger built way back in 1805 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Other industrial amphibious vehicles were made in the 1800s—a sail-powered wagon and a steam-powered paddleboat that could haul itself out of the water and across land to the next body of water as needed. The first non-industrial, recreational ‘water-land craft’ was created in 1931 by a New Jersey man who, according to the local newspapers at the time, wanted to beat the traffic on his commute to New York.
Then World War II happened, and the world changed. The world of amphibious craft changed as well. Both the Allies and the Axis powers had vehicles that traveled land and sea for troop and supply transports. The Germans had the Landwasserschlepper while the Americans had the famous DUKW-353 crafts or, as they were affectionately nicknamed, Ducks.
After the war, and possibly leveraging the fondness for Ducks among the civilian population, the first mass produced recreational amphibious cars rolled off the assembly line. Between 1961 and 1968, 4000 Amphicars were made, and the car became a cult classic. You might have seen one puttering down main street or tooling around in a local lake since a surprising number of them still exist to this day.
Not Your Father’s Amphib
Today, amphibious cars have come a long way from the cumbersome, leaky and mostly unreliable and crafts of the past. From ATVs to full size RVs, these wonders of both land and sea are marvels of engineering. Here are the best of the best:
The Panther. It’s a jeep. It’s a speedboat. It’s a new vehicle from Watercar, and it goes from a car to a boat in just 15 seconds. The Panther can hit 45mph on the water, rivaling your average speedboat, and it sports a custom-made 3.7 liter V6 engine, fiberglass hull, and lightweight chromoly steel chassis. Jeep freaks, this one is for you!
The Gibbs Aquada. As previously mentioned, most early amphibious cars were cumbersome. On land they were slow and handled poorly and on the water they performed similar to a dead slug. Not high performance at all. Enter the Aquada, a high speed amphibious vehicle developed by Gibbs Sports Amphibians. It can reach speeds of over 160 km/h (100 mph) on land and up to 50 km/h (30 mph) on water. The Aquada was engineered from scratch for high performance in both environments, with over 60 patents covering technical innovations.
Rinspeed sQuba. Move over James Bond. Remember the Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me fame? Every kid watching the scene with the sports car driving out of the surf and onto the beach said to himself, “I want that!” Well, now, for a price, you can have it! The sQuba is acclaimed by its maker as being the first submarine car, or the first car that can be driven both on land and underwater. This is technically not the same as the other amphibs on this list in that it doesn’t actually float on the surface.
Splash. Also by Rinspeed, this is another breakthrough in the world of amphibs in that it’s possibly the first one that is built with hydrofoil technology capable of a decent 50 mph on the water. Transforming from a Chevy Prowler-looking coupe into a speed boat, the Splash deploys a propeller, the spoiler rolls under the car becoming the rear hydrofoil, and two hydrofoils assimilated into the left and right sides of the splash come down, creating a tripod that lifts above the water at high speeds.
Gibbs Quadski. Pioneering the world of High Speed Amphibians (HSA), Gibbs has outdone the Aquada with a quad/jetski combo that just screams cool. Powered by a 275hp, 4-cylinder BMW engine it can cruise the trails and the lakes at up to 45mph. It’s pretty awesome, but for its $40,000 price tag, you could buy a side by side UTV, a turbocharged jetski, and the trailer to haul them with.
Terra Wind. I saved the most amazing amphib for last. Yes, this mammoth floats! It’s the world’s first true amphibious motor coach. The Terra Wind can travel on land at speeds of up to 80 mph, or, doubling as a yacht, it cruises the water at 7 knots. It has plenty of power and the front and rear air suspension make the drive smooth and reliable. According to CAMI, the manufacturer, maneuvering the Terra Wind on the water is unbelievably simple. And it exudes style. “The Terra Wind has been designed with the ultimate in luxury in mind,” says CAMI’s Julie Giljam. This motor coach features all the latest in technology. Marble floors, granite countertops, and lavish leather furnishings as just a few of the options. The Terra Wind is a custom masterpiece.
Sources: mentalfloss.com | complex.com | dailymail.co.uk | gibbssports.com | diseno-art.com | seriouswheels.com | camillc.com |