Built for 7 years between 1961 and
1968, the Amphicar is unique for its ability to traverse
both land and sea, however the compromise to achieve
both resulted in poor roadholding ability and very
limited sea-going ability.
Despite a reputed US $5 million being spent on the Amphicar's design, performance was poor, the donated Triumph Herald
engine having trouble coping with the additional weight
necessary in the Amphicar to enable its boating ability.
Parts from other European manufacturers were also used, such as the transmission that was taken from Porsche, and the suspension and braking system from Mercedes-Benz.
The chassis was made of steel, just as most regular vehicles. However, the steel was much thicker, and great care was given to the assembly and to the joins to keep them leak proof.
Around the doors, rubber strips were fitted to create a water-tight seal, much like opening and closing of a refrigerator. The tires were very narrow to allow the underside to form as much of a boat hull as possible, and the suspension set up raised the vehicle to almost 4 wheel drive proportions to allow the car to better negotiate exit and egress from water, and allow enough clearance for the propellers.
These propellers were located at the rear underside of the Amphicar, while the steering, both on the road and in water, was controlled by the front wheels.
The top speed was a poultry 65 mph / 104 km/h, and even
then only adventerous drivers would attempt to obtain
Able to achieve 7.5 knots from a single propeller it was
indeed able to navigate small waterways, however rust
and subsequent leaking somewhat dulled the experience.
But even though it was not ideal as either a road going vehicle or sea-fairing watercraft, the Amphicar did achieve something that, to this day, remains un-duplicated. It remains the only commercial, non-military amphibious car.
As with any unique car, the small numbers of Amphicars
built and the truely different nature of the vehicle
ensure that this is a very collectable vehicle that
has and will continue to appreciate in value over
time - despite any shortcomings.