Car or Boat? The Innovative Amphicar

1st August 2015

Ever seen a floating car?  They made them in the 1960s. Called the Amphicar, it could actually be driven on the road and then dive right into a body of water to function as a boat. Built in Germany, the Model 770 Amphicar was designed to be marketed and sold primarily in the United States. To be fair, compared to most boats or cars, its performance was modest but it was a true amphibious automobile.  Unusual, yes but popular, no; only 3,878 ended up being produced by the time it ended its run in 1965. Today, Amphicars are prized as collectible automobiles.

Mounted at the rear of the car, the engine drove a 4-speed manual transmission which drove the rear wheels. In the water, the same engine drove a pair of reversible propellers at the rear of the vehicle. The way it worked is that once in the water, the main gear shift would normally be left in neutral and the driver would engage the rear propellers with a special lever. By engaging first gear as well as drive to the propellers when approaching a boat ramp, the Amphicar could actually drive itself out of the water.

The Amphicar could achieve speeds of 7 knots in the drink and 70 mph on land. Later versions of the engine displaced 1296 cc and 1493 cc and produced up to 75 bhp. It steered with the front wheels, making it quite a bit less maneuverable than a conventional boat.

According to Arrigo Family Dealerships- Fine Used Automobiles and Trucks Amphicar production started in 1961. Inventory was built up in anticipation of sales of 20,000 per year but production ended in 1965 with just 3,878 vehicles being sold.

An anonymous Ampicar owner was quoted “It’s not a good car and it’s not a good boat, but it does just fine at both.” In the 1970s, President Lyndon B. Johnson was said to enjoy frightening visitors at his Johnson City, Texas ranch by driving them downhill in his Amphicar, directly into his property’s lake, all the while shouting that the brakes had just failed.

Corey is an all round tech guru who has worked at some major blue chip companies. He started Poweronemedia to share his views and knowledge with the rest of the blogging world.