Amphib 2003 in London
long live the Queen!

This year Amphi-friends "Les amis de`l Amphibie" visited London. We came together from 27th July to 2nd August 2003 on the old Chiswick sports ground somewhere near the Heathrow airport. You really get used to the noise of the airplanes crossing the campside in a heigh of maybe a few hundred metres every 2 minutes. So we didn´t really mind that, because this place had one great advantage: It had a slipway into river Thames very close by. What else do Amphi-folk need to have fun? So everybody enjoyed the great waterrides and the very warm welcome of the organizers. That for many, many thanks to the Amphib commitee especially to Bob Skinner and Alec Bilney who gave us such good time.

For my family and me this years event meant something real special: The trip to England was going to be our first long distance voyage in our new amphibian: an 1985 Amphi-Ranger. Even the ferry was already booked and paid 3 month in advance, it was very unsure if we would make it in time. A lot of problems on the AR showed up in the last days before we wanted to start, like bad sealings and broken drive shaft joints, and repairing jobs kept taking lots of time.
Well, we could have taken the Amphicar, but this tiny car is getting a bit small for 4. We even wanted to sleep in the car and use it as a camper. So we had to take the Amphi-Ranger - no other true choice!
And last but not least - it was a question of honor!
So it is true I was working on the car till the very last moment, but then it was well enough prepaired to last the holidays. I can say so now, because we returned without any breakdowns (except running out of gas fooled by a misleading gauge), but I really wasn´t sure when we started. Also I had equipped the AR with a bed in the back and curtains for the windows to keep privacy. That like the AR offered 4 sleeping places. The little kids slept on the flatened front seats, my wife Christien on the rear bench and me on the added bed. Well, it was not much in comfort, but at least it was dry and much better than a tent. That kind we were going to live for three weeks...
 

The Crew:

(click pictures to enlarge)
Let me introduce you to the crew: Beloved wife Christien - 1. navigator and cook, on arms: Sha`Ri - main entertainer and sunshine aboard.
Do you remember this little boy from Amphib 2000? Jean-Philippe has not missed many Amphib events till he was born and became a real expert on those cars meanwhile. He now is 2.navigator and 2.mechanic.
Right, that´s the Captain and main mechanic.
Catching the ferry in Calais, taking us to Dover. Oh yes, I know what you think: What idiot is taking a ferry when he could drive straight through the Channel? - Well, did you ever have a seasick wife on the passengers seat for about 6 hours + ? See, I did not want to try this kind of delicate experience.

Englands Amphibian places:

No, I am not going to bore you with two weeks family holidays. But leaving the family stuff beside, there also were some very amphi related places I had to visit once I was in England. We stayed some days with David Chapman, who is running the British Amphicar register and is a chairman of the International Amphicar Owners Club.
Probably the most impressive highlight was a visit at Gibbs Technolgy in Nuneaton. You know they just have launched their High-Speed-Amphibian. By mid July the whole project still was top secret, so unfortunately but of course I was not allowed to take any pictures then. Anyway, I was deeply impressed and still I am. Just wished I were in the lucky position to afford one. Just imagine crossing the English Channel within three quarters of an hour!
 
Next stop was at Mike Ryans place. You know he is the guy who constructed the Searoader. He may have found someone now who is going to produce it in license...
This car really got potential!
And of course we had to pay Tim Dutton a visit to see his factory in Southampton. Have you ever been there? Worth looking! However Tim subscribed Amphib 2003 in London, he sadly did not show up there a week later. It was almost in his neighbourhood, but he excused himself with too much work to do. In fact he is working hard to fullfill his timetable as there are lots of customers waiting for a Dutton 4x4. 
With two manufacturers and one in advance Britain is undoubtful the worlds leader in amphibious cars production. I think that is understandable very easy, when you think about the Channel ferry prices raised in the last years.

Arrival in Chiswick:
 
We arrived in typical English weather. Nearly we could have used our Amphibs on road. That´s what the place looked like first day. Everybody hidden inside their tents and all Amphis covered with waterproofed sheets. Who said those cars are watercars?
 Best organized were the French. They had borrowed a racing car transporter truck to carry their four amphibious vehicles. A Hobbycar, an Amphicar and two Schwimmwagen fit in there on two levels. The truck also was equipped with an hydraulic car lifting device, which made eventually repairs on the cars easy. And once loaded out, the truck changed into a great dry sleeping place for all of them. 

My crew and me we spent the rain time in London museums.

The Amphi-Ranger Connection:
 
That´s the Amphi-Ranger Connection: Ernst (left), Alberto (right) and me (centre).
We were all happy when the weather cleared up by the weekend. It is no fun living in a car when it´s raining all day long! Maybe I should convert my AR into a true camper to get more space, same like Ernst did, as you can see on the left. We really enjoyed his "Good morning coffee".
Each AR is a kind of its own. But Albertos is for sure the most technical one. His cockpit is looking like one from an aircraft. He may look on about 20 different digital gauges and hundreds of switches. It is equipped with Echolot, Fishfinder, Navigation GPS, Autopilot, Radiotransmitter, phone, compass, speedcontrol, etc,...
Alberto even built in a Mercedes Turbo Diesel engine! Original is a Ford V6 petrol one. Obviously a Diesel is much better for an Amphibian because of less explosive danger.

And then it was Playtime at Amphib:
 
Every morning a loud sirene sound was waking us and calling for the Captains briefing.
That´s brave Alec standing on the weak table explaining the days route. Trips were very well prepared with road- and watermaps making sure nobody is getting lost.
The probably most interesting vehicle brought David Houlton. It is a homemade car built on a Landrover chassis. David did some exhausting job on it to get it ready for Amphib. No, he didn´t build it, but I saw it the week before and it didn´t even look complete then.
However David took the occasion at Amphib to launch it for his very first time. He even wasn´t sure if it ever was in water before! Well, that for it was a perfect waterrun! No drop of water came in! Congratulation David!
A Hobbycar entering the water. The air cushion around the car makes the Hobbycar look a bit watershy. That´s mainly for security reasons, as the Hobbycar got indeed no much freeboard. However it floats also without the cushions, but they  help beating little waves.
Try to count the different types of Amphibians. Picture taken from the Putney Bridge.
In the heavy weight class a German bridge building Amphibian, the M2, caught all looks. That wasn´t difficult as you could not have overseen it. It is huge! And heavy! When the M2 tried to follow everyone going into water it got stuck on the embankment. The Scotts tried to free it with their Stollie, but even that beast could not help the blue Bridge builder. All they could do was waiting for the tide. That took a little while, but by the time everybody else returned from the first days watertrip, the M2 was freed by high water. Somehow they even managed to get it out of the Thames, but the M2 disappeared the next morning from the event.
Bruno was not that lucky in the first days. He sadly had a lot of trouble with his Schwimmwagen running. Here he was towed back by Alberto. 
This was not D-Day! They all came in peace! Many of the DUKWs gave visitors free rides. You know, Amphib fun is double fun when you share it with others.
We had the great honor to go with Alec one day on his DUKW. Thank you Alec, we really enjoyed this. It is a such different experience than to go in a small car.
Have a break! River pubs all Thames long were invaded by the Amphib fleet. While the Guinnes was carried up onto the DUKWs spectators may have given up drinking for that day.
Close parking in a lock: You always have to remember, that in the water your breaks do not work. So here you can see how fantastic Amphi drivers know how to handle their cars. I guess not many ordinary car drivers would park that close even on land.
Bringing parking skills to perfection it always gets even closer. Imagine a lock filled up with cars and trucks!
Getting out of the locks was precision driving also. Mind producing waves which can harm and bring the cars behind you into difficult situations. 
Timetravel: Somehow the old houses along the Thames gave a beautiful scenery background for the cars. 
"Probably the worlds worst Crew" - that was written on the Scotts team T-shirts. For sure they were the most humorous crew! I really can´t imagine an Amphib event without them and there Stollie.
It was hard to get them all in one picture. Organizing the group photo must have been a challenge as there was a time window of ten minutes only without current at high tide. So everybody tried his best and it worked - see picture on top of this page.
All in all I counted about 37 vehicles: 12 DUKWs, 3 Amphi-Ranger, 4 Amphicars, 1 Landrover, 2 Alvis Stalwart, 1 M2 Bridge Builder, 5 Duttons, 5 Ford GPAs, 2 GAZ46 and 2 VW-Schwimmwagens

Going through Centre of London:
 
Sadly London harbour authorities caused one big disappointment: One week before Amphib started they rejected permission to drive through Centre of London on River Thames. Ey, how could they do this? I mean, that is what I came for - driving under the Tower Bridge in my car! 
So I decided to take one day off and do the trip on my own risk. But the Amphiranger Connection kept together and even Nick Topping in his homebuilt amphibious motorhome joined us. So our group of four cars entered water in Greenwich.
Well, in London harbour it really was a bit choppy. So I started to understand why harbour authorities didn´t like to see floating cars in there. However it was no danger at all for the Amphi-Rangers or Nicks camper, but I hardly could imagine a VW-Schwimmwagen or Hobbycar in that rough water. The kiddys became a little bit seasick, but the bumpy ride was just for a mile or so. Water became much smoother from Tower Bridge onwards.
That´s it!
Allways wanted to do this - driving one time under the Tower Bridge in a car - since I own an amphibian. What a feeling!
Apart from that it was great sightseeing from the river. Most Londons main attractions are along the riverside.
Our trip was bothered by all sorts of authorities: Coast guards, Police, enviromental inspectors and harbour master. Sorry Alec, if we may have caused some trouble to you making this trip. But it was it worth! This was the best day we had in Britain.
On the left you see the Police guiding us along the Westminster Houses of Parlament.
Do you recognize the building in the background behind the bridge? That´s the MI6 building from the James Bond movie "The world is not enough".
Going wrong way. - Such a surprise: on water we met the London Frog Tours! 
That´s Hans Rosloot sitting on the deck. He took some of these pictures shown here, which gives me the possibility to show pictures with my own car on it. You know that is usually a bit difficult to drive a car and take photos of yourself same time. So thank you, Hans!
People may have thought, what we do, they can do as well. Look at the car in the background! A woman parked it at low water level, but because the Thames is a tidal river, she found a little surprise when coming back from shopping.
The Thames is a dirty dirt river. All the rubbish going down the water is always coming back with the tide. So there is a lot of drift wood in there. And Ernst did get one of that in his AR prop. You can see what damage it caused: One half of a blade has broken and vanished. 

The End:
 
The only trouble always with the Amphib event is, that one day it comes to an end. So for us it was time to airfresh our stuff, pack and head home. After having lived three weeks in the car, we were really looking forward sleeping in real comfortable beds.

Next years Amphib will be held in Belgium!





Credits to Hans Rosloot - he took most of the pictures above. Hans opened his photo archieve for interested people at: http://www.amphibiousvehicle.net/dirlist/amphib2003/

More pictures and information about Amphib 2003 London can be found at:
http://www.omfc.co.uk/Amphib%202003.htm