The idea of swimming cars has been with us for more than 60 years, in fact, ever since World War II. The heyday of the amphibious car was most definitely in the 1960’s, but there are still many companies out there willing to build one for you if you have the money to pay for it. The idea of a swimming car is still capable of attracting investors and inventors alike. Here are ten of our favourites:
Billed as the world’s fastest amphibious car and looking rather similar to a military jeep, the Panther from California has a top speed of just under 100kph on the water.
An ambitious attempt to build a world speed record competition vehicle, the Sea Lion is based on a Mazda rotary engine with a top speed of almost 200kph on land. The vehicle really is an ugly duckling both in and out of the water and probably will never go into serious production.
Another vehicle built to have a go at the amphibious car record. The HydroCar is powered by a 762hp Chevrolet engine that puts out 712lbs of torque. Unlike most of the other vehicles that hoist the wheels out of the way in the water, the Dobbertin raises and lowers a pair of pontoons that on land form the fenders of the vehicles but in the water create a sort of catamaran.
Probably the best name, the Hydra Spyder is one of the few that looks like a car on the road and a speed boat in the water. Powered by a Corvette V8, the Hydra Spyder could well become the first mass produced aquatic car to be manufactured in the USA since the Amphicar of the 1960’s; although at US$245,000 it may only find a select few buyers.
Definitely the best name, the craft is more of a sports utility recreational outdoorsman thing-a-ma-bob, which is being firmly marketed to the military segment of the market. Gibbs already has a number of different variants and manufacturing has begun in Singapore for an Asian version, a sort of Police boat on wheels.
SeaRoader Lamborghini Countach
This somewhat whimsical version of the 1970’s James Bond swimming Lotus will probably never go into production. Mike Ryan, who has a long history of converting normal cars into aquatic ones, is the creator of this incredible vehicle. It is basically just a Countach with some neat hydraulics and hydrofoils apart from the obvious waterproofing to make it seaworthy.
This hydro car was released in 2004 and is the world’s first amphibious car to be powered by natural gas. The 750cc, two-cylinder engine is turbo-charged and the integrated hydrofoil design allows the car to hover two feet over water as well as sail through it. When hovering, the car can reach speeds of up to 49mph, while in boat form the top speed is 31mph. On land, however, the car is capable of 124mph and the carbon composite body gives it a futuristic look.
Created in New Zealand by Gibbs Sports Amphibians, the Aquada was made famous when it set the record after crossing the English Channel, piloted by Richard Branson, in one hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds. Powered by a 2.5-liter V6 engine that produces 175hp, the Aquada can reach 160kph on land and 50kph on water. When in the water, the car uses a jet (powered by the engine) to produce thrust that propels it across the water.
Produced for five years in the 1960’s, it is one of those vehicles that you either love or hate. The designers seemed to have been confused about what they were building: Is it a car? Is it a plane?…No, it’s a mess. In fact, most people thought that it was a pretty poor car, so much so that Timemagazine actually named it the Worst Car EVER! However, if you want to buy one these days, and there are still over 4000 plying the roads, you will have to shell out more than US$50,000 for it.
The last offering from our New Zealand friends, the Quadski probably makes the most sense of all the vehicles in this list. It is powered by a 1300cc BMW engine putting out 140hp, allowing for an impressive 45kph on the water. The Quadski is available in one seater or two seater variants with the larger version being dubbed the XL.