Now that the warmer months are upon us, you see a lot of people on the roadways towing their boats to go out fishing or simply cruising on the weekends, and it is indeed a lot of fun to get out on the water and enjoy the pleasures of boating on a nice sunny spring or summer day. However, it is a bit of a hassle to tow the boat and get it into and out of the water. How cool would it be to be able to ditch the boat and the trailer and just drive your car down the ramp and into the water and take off for a day on the river or lake?
This is exactly what the designers of the Amphicar had in mind. If you have never heard of it, yes, it is true that a car was manufactured that could do seventy miles per hour on the highways, and seven knots on the waterways. It was the brainchild of Hans Trippel, and it was manufactured in Germany, largely for consumption in the United States, from 1961 through the 1968 model year, but in reality production ceased in 1965. If you bought a Amphicar in 1968 that was put together in, say, 1964, it would be considered a 1968 Amphicar.
The Amphicar was a convertible that derived its power from a 1148 cc Triumph Herald 1200 engine. The company experimented with a number of different engines when they were still in the prototyping stage, but they settled on the Triumph Herald, which turned out to be quite effective, being utilized in the Triumph Spitfire all the way through the 1970s. The Amphicar was available in four colors: red, white, blue, and green, and it featured a dual Hermes transmission with one portion performing on land and the other on the water.
You might think that such a novel idea would catch on like wildfire and you would see countless Amphicars tooling around the country’s waterways, but the fact is that the idea was never very well received. A total of 3,878 Amphicars were produced throughout the history of the vehicle, and about 3,000 of them were imported to the United States. Adding to the company’s woes, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation put regulations into effect in 1968 that prohibited importation of the Amphicar, and that effectively put the company out of business.
The Amphicar was surprisingly affordable considering the technology involved, going for somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000; the earlier versions were actually somewhat more expensive than the last of them. One of the knocks on the Amphicar was the fact that it did not handle as well as a regular boat in the water because it was steered by the front wheels rather than by a conventional rear rudder. It was also criticized in some circles as being able to stay afloat only by virtue of the bilge pump jettisoning water fast enough to keep up with the influx, but that accusation has been widely refuted. In fact, an Amphicar has made it across the English Channel, onto Catalina Island after departing from the California mainland, and across Alaska’s Yukon River.
Since these vehicles are so unique, and there were so few of them produced, the Amphicar is a great addition to any collection, but you may want to wear your bathing suit when the owner of one of these cars asks you if you’d like to go out for a spin!