If someone likes to be out on the water, at one point or another, they have likely thought, wouldn’t it be nice to drive the car into the water like a boat? Of course, the Amphicar was famous for actually having done it. The Amphicar is certainly noteworthy of its accomplishment. However, it is not the only boat-car. There have been several made since then. Here are a few of these marine quality specialty vehicles.
GMC Jimmy car-boat
Youtube channel, Barcroft Cars, found a boat-car in Atlanta. It was made as a cheer project for an individual recovering from Cancer. She had challenged her husband to create it and gave him a year to do it. So, the husband bought an old GMC Jimmy with a running a 4.3-liter, V6. He also bought the shell to an old boat and began working on the project. $10,000, and one year later, he completed it and still drives it often. The wife gets a lot of cheer from seeing people’s reactions to the car-boat when it drives down the street. But, to be fair, no mention is made as to whether or not it can be used in the water, and it is a one-off specialty project.
This one may not qualify as a car-boat either. It is more like a go-kart boat. It was a one-off project created by a young man with an amphibious vision – he wanted to drive his powerwheels into the water. This may be the most inexpensive way to accomplish a car-boat project.
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James Bond Lotus Esprit submarine
Some might recall that there was a James Bond movie from 1977 called, The Spy Who Loved Me. In it, there was a Lotus Esprit S1 sports car that turned into a submarine. That, of course, was fanciful. But, that car certainly inspired many afterward to dream of such things. In fact, Elon Musk bought the car in 2013 from RM Auction Battersea, and planned to update the car with power from Tesla motors to make it a working submersible vehicle.
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WaterCar Panther, the modern Amphicar
The Panther, comes from WaterCar. The company challenged themselves to make a fast and reliable car-boat for the public. So, this is an actual production vehicle, unlike the three above.
It looks a lot like a Jeep Wrangler with wild fenders. Of course, it is not a Jeep Wrangler. The body of the Panther is a fiberglass hull made with Coast Guard approved, closed-cell styrofoam. It runs via a Honda V6. The Panther can truly drive from land to water without a problem. This is probably the closest example to the old Amphicar.
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The is a half boat and half RV hybrid. The Boaterhome was a low volume production in the 1980s. Only 21 were produced. The Boaterhome is a combination of Econoline van and an RV, complete with fridge, bathroom, bed, etc.. It has been equated to a floating partybus. But, the Boaterhome is not really an amphibious vehicle since only the boat portion floats. The Econoline van has to stay on terra firma. However, the two together are certainly amazing to see.
Gibbs High-Speed Amphibious Vehicles
Gibbs Technologies Limited makes a variety of amphibious vehicles. They create platforms from cars and ATVs, to mopeds. The Gibbs examples are also true to the Amphicar formula.
For this article, we will concentrate on their Miata-like vessel called the Aquada. According to their website, the Aquada is a small open-top car capable of reaching 100 miler-per-hour on land and 30 miles-per-hour on the water.
As far-fetched as the concept of amphibious car-boats sound, it has definitely been in the minds of many people to try and create a modern version. The Amphicar of years passed only served to inspire more people to try and create their own samples. From a young man with a go-kart engine and an idea to more professional manufacturing companies, all of them are taking a stab at the idea to fulfills people’s dreams.
The WaterCar Panther Is the Amphibious Jeep Car-Boat You Forgot Existed
Oh, your Wrangler is Trail Rated? That’s cute.
UPDATE: It turns out WaterCar is no longer in business. "After several years of engineering and producing the best Amphibious vehicles the world has ever seen, WaterCar has been forced to close down production due to the new CARB ( California Air Research Board ) regulations," Chad March, son of company founder Dave March, told MotorTrend in an email. "We are formally announcing we are putting the company up for sale. "
The sale includes all of WaterCar's patents, along with the manufacturing equipment (molds, fixtures, and tooling jigs) necessary to build the Panther, Panther XL, and Python. So if you're an entrepreneur in the market for a car-boat hybrid to build and sell, here's an investment opportunity for you.
Most commercially available amphibious cars have been little more than novelties. The Amphicar 770 of the 1960s, for example, kind of worked as a car and kind of worked as a boat but wasn't particularly good in either of those roles. The ultra-niche car/boat hybrid genre has come a long way since then, and the WaterCar Panther represents the current state of the art in amphibious vehicles.
What is a WaterCar? We made a documentary about the company a few years back, so be sure to check that out above for the whole back story. Founded in 1999 by engineer and entrepreneur Dave March, WaterCar set out to build an amphibious car that could perform well both and land and sea. WaterCar's first prototype, known as the Python, looked like a fourth-gen Chevy Camaro and succeeded at being a far better amphibious vehicle than the original Amphicar. The Corvette-powered Python set amphibious vehicle speed records in 2010, reaching 127 mph on land and 60 mph on the water. For context, the six-engine, 2,700-hp AMG-Cigarette Racing Boat tops out at 80 mph.
But because of its low ground clearance, the Python couldn't enter the water without a boat launch. March wanted a car that could hit the waves from the beach or practically anywhere, so his team began work on the Panther, a Jeep-inspired amphibious car equipped with a hydraulic suspension that can quickly lift and lower the car depending on the driver's needs. The Python's Corvette engine was traded for a rear-mounted Honda 3.7-liter V-6, which drives the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox. Motivation at sea is made possible by a Panther Jet engine driven by the V-6 and located in the middle of the rear bumper. The WaterCar Panther has a manufacturer-claimed land top speed of 80 mph and maxes out at 45 mph on the water.
Sales of the WaterCar Panther began in 2013, and the company says it has built more than 100 examples since then. Before WaterCar went belly up, it was asking $158,000 for a base turn-key Panther, and $198,000 for a custom job. As reported above, you can no longer buy a new WaterCar Panther. But luckily, there happens to be a used one for sale in Oak Harbor, Washington. Listed for $100,000, this 2015 model is said to be the 18th Panther built and comes painted in red with gray bodyside graphics. That's certainly a lot of coin for a Jeep-shaped watercraft, and you can build a pretty awesome off-road rig using that same amount toward aftermarket parts. But will your Jeep ever truly be "all-terrain" if it can't cross a body of water deeper than the height of its snorkel?
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In 1999, WaterCar started as a personal challenge to build the world's fastest amphibious vehicle. Our early WaterCars were purpose-built vehicles, to be very fast on both land and water. After January, 2010, when WaterCar established the Guinness amphibious speed record with our Python model, our attention turned to reliability and we began designing a vehicle to offer to the public. Fourteen years, countless successes and failures, 27 patents and untold labor hours later, our personal challenge has been achieved.
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