If you want a car and a boat at the same time but can’t afford them, amphibious cars are the way to go. It’s a combination that would make your friends and neighbors drool. Credit World War II for making cars that can swim. Then, creation of amphibian cars boomed in the 60s, but manufacturers today are still creating their new and improved amphibious creations.
1. Watercar Python
Launched in 2009, the fastest, highest-performing amphibious car in the world is the Watercar Python. This custom-built amphibious convertible can do 60 mph on the water and 12 mph on land. This SUV can run from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, making it an efficient amphibious car compared to most counterparts. Drive from the street straight to the water by just a press on a button to retract the wheels and another to start the jet.
Car builder and designer Dave March created the Python, which has a body like a Chevy Corvette and a hood like that of Dodge. It’s a hybrid hot rod powered with a choice of Corvette V8 engines ranging from LS1 up to GM’s 6.2-liter supercharged LS9 in the Corvette ZR1.
March said that initially, he had no plans of marketing his amphibious cars. He was just inspired with the Amphicar then, but that inspiration led him to establish Watercar, his company that specializes in luxury amphibious vehicles.
The inspiration for Dave March and many other amphibious carmakers, the Amphicar might be considered as a 60s icon in the world of boat cars. Amphicar is a mix of Cadillac fins lookalike and 43 hp Triumph Herald engines. It was built and designed by the German carmaker Hanns Trippel. It was manufactured for five years since 1961, producing 3,878 units overall. Most of them came to America, where the Amphicar was sold during 1961 to 1967.
The Amphicar is a compact convertible with rear wheels mounted on a 1.2-liter four-cylinder Triumph engine that moves through a Porsche transaxle. It can run on the highway at maximum speed of 70 mph, and the water at 8 knots.
To market Amphicar, the maker drove it across the English Channel. Also, legend has it that President Lyndon Johnson liked to terrorize houseguests joyriding in his Amphicar by saying his brakes had malfunctioned then driving it into the lake.
3. Gibbs Aquada
Gibbs Aquada is a high-speed amphibious car that can run on more than 50 kph in water and 160 kph in land. It was produced in 2003-2004 by the Gibbs Sports Amphibians. This car made history in 2004 when business magnate Richard Branson used it to cross the English Channel – it set a record as the fastest amphibious vehicle that crossed it, being able to do so in just one hour and 40 minutes.
Gibbs Aquada comes with hydraulically retractable wheels on struts, has a single 2.5-liter Rover engine powering the rear wheels, and a jet pump drive for marine travel. This car also had over 60 patents covering technical developments it pioneered, making way for the other amphibious vehicles produced later on.
4. Volkswagen Schwimmwagen
The Volkswagen Schwimmwagen, which literally means “floating/swimming car,” was an amphibious version of the four-wheel drive Kübelwagen especially designed and made for the German Army. The Schwimmwagen Type 166 became the most mass-produced amphibious vehicle in the world, with more than 30,000 units created and sold.
Volkswagen created Type 128, a Schwimwagen prototype, but because of its features were considered unacceptable as an amphibious vehicle, it was not produced for military or commercial use. It was Type 166 that was used by the military and was mass produced. The amphibious car had the engine and mechanics of the VW Type 86 prototype of Kübelwagen, and the Type 87 ‘Kübel/Beetle’ Command Car, which was also based on the platform of the commercial Volkswagen Beetle. It had a 1.2-liter air-cooled engine that drove a single propeller. The Schwimmwagen uses the front wheels as rudders when running on water and the propeller would swing up and disengage from the engine when going back at land.
Only 189 units of the Type 166 still exists today, according to the Schwimmwagen Registry. Thirteen of them have survived until now without any restoration work.
SeaRoader vehicles are amphibian cars made by Englishman Mike Ryan. He had converted jeeps, motorcycles, London taxi cabs, ice cream vans and other types of automobiles so that it can also float and run on water.
He started his amphibious carmaking in the 1980s. His first SeaRoader was a Ford 1600 crossflow unit. It wasn’t an easy start though, his calculations on buoyancy failed a lot of times, but he did not gave up until he made the car float. Meanwhile, his first production amphibian was a Land Rover. The on-road propulsion came from the Land Rover’s 1.7-liter turbodiesel engine, and the output jet in the back pushed the car to 6 mph.
Ryan’s creations were prominently featured in Parkers, AutoTrader, AutoExpress and Autocar. He also builds amphibious vehicles for Top Gear. One of the most amazing SeaRoader was the one made from Lamborghini Countach because obviously, it’s a Lambo. It was the first Lamborghini to be amphibious, and it was sold for £18,995 on eBay.
6. Rinspeed Splash
Rinspeed, a Swiss sportscar tuning company, made an entry for the top amphibious cars with the Rinspeed Splash. Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2004, the Rinspeed Splash became the first hydrofoil amphibious car that crossed the English Channel. It was also the first amphibious vehicle powered by natural gas, making it the first amphibian to be fueled with an eco-friendly resource.
The Rinspeed Splash can go up to 45 knots on water and up to 200 km/h on land. A single propeller is used so that it would lower into water with the foils. Its power comes from a 140-hp, two-cylinder 750 cc engine that can accelerate from 0 to 100 in only 5.9 seconds. Amazing, right?
7. Dutton Surf
Tim Dutton, a veteran kit car manufacturer, created the Dutton Surf in 2006 – one of the most interesting amphibious vehicles he has ever made. The Dutton Surf was based on a Suzuki Jimny, and it has crossed the English Channel for seven hours with its speed of 4.2 mph.
Surf was Dutton’s third amphicar, after the Mariner and the Commander. Dutton Surf was sold worldwide for different purposes, ranging from the most casual users to the army.