- Amphicar was manufactured in Germany (Berlin and Lubeck) from 1961 to 1967. Just under 4000 were produced, most went to USA (at least 3700), There are maybe 500 still in regular use, with are 7 in the UK and about 80 in the rest of Europe.
- Even now, Amphicar is the only non-military Amphibious vehicle ever put into production on a commercial basis (ie more than 100 produced). The many rules and regulations for road and water going vehicles make it very unlikely that another car based amphibian will ever be produced.
- Amphicar is capable of over 70mph on road, 8 knots on water. It is comfortable enough to drive 500 miles a day, road behaviour is similar to a good 1960s European saloon car or a 1980s American car.
- Amphicar cost $5m to design in the late 1950's. It is totally watertight. The engine is in the rear, it is the same as used in the Triumph Herald, 1147cc, 43HP, transmission drives rear wheels through unique land/water gearbox.
- Amphicar has connections with other manufacturers, many Amphicar employees came from Borgward and there are many parts in common between the cars. Much of the braking system and suspension is Mercedes. The transmission internals are Porsche 356 as are some parts of the fuel system. In 1967 the Amphicar corporation was owned by the Quandt group, who also owned and still own a controlling share of, BMW.
- Amphicar failed because it was too expensive when new, however it is capable of some serious sea crossings, ie Africa to Spain, San Diego to Catalina Island and England to France (3 times, once in a force 6 gale).
- Amphicar is made of steel so was prone to rust, however modern paint and waxes can stop rust being a problem. It does need more maintenance than other cars but maintenance schedules are no worse than some 4x4 vehicles.
- Amphicar has the highest rear fins of any production car, about 1 inch higher than a '59 Cadillac.
- Amphicar is great in snow, better than many 4x4s. With 10 inches of ground clearance, a totally flat bottom and narrow rear wheels Amphicar has tremendous traction and ability,
- A car that looks like the Amphicar from the rear is the Jaguar XK220, Below bumper level the shape is almost identical - a large bulge around the engine and everything very flat for ground effect/hydrodynamics. The Jaguar does not have the advantage of propellers which makes it much slower in the water !
- Amphicar featured in US movie "Pontiac Moon".
- Amphicar spare parts still available in the US, contact Hugh Gordon, 14330 Iseli Road, Santa Fe Springs, California 90670. telephone 714 523 3512 fax 562 404 1904
- Many people have tried to build a better Amphibian than the Amphicar, there are as many as 2 or 3 a year, to date nobody has managed to improve on the original package.
- The very first vehicles were Amphibians (see Fred Flintstone movie, hollowed out log with wheels !!)
- The last two companies to attempt production of Amphibious vehicles were Hobbycar of France and AmphiRanger of Germany. The production always was small scale / build to order but it's sad that the factories finally closed in 1996
- A UK Kit Car manufacturer (Tim Dutton) has been developing an Amphibious Kit Car called the Dutton Mariner. It has a fibreglass body, water jet propulsion and Ford Fiesta mechanicals.
- Amphibious vehicle use on UK rivers requires a "Boat MOT", licencing and insurance. Difficult and expensive.
- Amphicar at the movies ! Check out the following films: "The Sandwich Man" and "Rotten to the core" (1960s English). "The Presidents Analyst" (1967) and Pontiac Moon (1992). TV includes The Avengers episode "Castle Derth"(1967). Pop Videos include Madonna "Burning up"(1983) LINK TO MADONNA VIDEO ON YOUTUBE and Jameriqui "Summertime"(1996) And don't forget the 1960's Come Alive Pepsi Cola commercial that had an Amphicar driving into the water at over 50mph. The car in the Madonna video is an early car (probably 1962) in Lagoon Blue. It has a bilge blower so is US rather than Canadian or European spec. In the first frame on the video the image is reversed and the car appears to be RHD. The Steering Wheel is black, all amphicar steering wheels were white, this looks like a colour change in the video edit rather than a different steering wheel fitted. The car is fitted with unique non-standard door mirrors that were only available from one supplier for a few years in the early 1980s. That same supplier told me Madonna owned the Amphicar, fell in love with it and kept it after filming but that's never been confirmed.
- Amphicars in British Museums ? The only place is the Lakeland Motor Museum in South Cumbria, the Amphicars that were at Totnes and Beaulieu have been sold.
- Amphicar Clubs, there is a small club in Germany, but you really need to speak German. In the UK the Amphicar is represented by the Triumph Sports Six Club TSSC and in the rest of the World, particularly the USA, by the International Amphicar Club
I have a short attention span and that is too much to read, do you have a nice cutaway picture ?
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Did you make it yourself ?
No, Amphicars were produced by the Amphicar Corporation in Germany between 1961 and 1967.
So is it a Triumph / Renault / Austin ?
None of these, the Amphicar Corporation was a separate company that was initially funded by the German Government, there are connections with some other German manufacturers such as Borgward, Mercedes and BMW and the engine used came from Triumph in the UK. The plans were that Amphicar would be a new manufacturer and would produce about 20,000 cars a year for the North American market.
Is it Fibreglass ?
No, good old mild steel, although much thicker than on a car and much better assembled with continuous welds and lead filling around the joins to make it watertight.
How do the doors seal ?
Two rubber strips that work like the seal on a refrigerator.
How high does the water come ?
About where the black/white rubber side strip is on the side of the car, there is about 14 inches of freeboard but if the windows are wound up the freeboard more than doubles !
How does it steer in the water ?
The front wheels.
How fast is it ?
6 knots in the water, 70mph on land, although an Amphicar with a high performance engine can reach 90mph on land.
Does it leak ?
No, some Amphicars do but most of the good one can stay in water for many hours without any leakage at all.
Why weren't more sold ?
Who had heard of a sports/recreational vehicle in the early 1960's ? The marketing was all wrong, in fact Amphicar didn't employ marketing staff, only engineers.
What do all those buttons do on the dash ?
As well as normal automotive functions the Amphicar has marine lights and a bilge pump.
What about the second gear lever ?
That controls the propellers, forwards or backwards.
Does it have to be licenced ?
Yes it has two licences, one for land and one for water.
What's it worth ?
Who knows ! Not enough come up for sale for there to be any real market or any accurate figures in the price guides.
What about maintenance ?
More than a car but not much more than a 4WD that's used off road, but, you have to do it yourself as very few professionals have the experience and knowledge to maintain an Amphicar properly.