The Amphicar was built in Germany from 1961 to 1968 by Amphicar of Berlin. Thanks to one German inventor, Hans Trippel, it was the worlds only mass-produced passenger amphibious vehicle designed for every day use. Dozens of amphibious vehicles had been produced and used by military groups around the world since World War I, but Trippel's design was made for the average driver. Total production was 3,878 vehicles. 3,046 Amphicars were imported into the United States between 1961 and 1967. The Amphicar is rear engined and uses a 4 cylinder British-built Triumph Herald motor producing 43hp. All Amphicars are convertibles, and the civilian models were originally offered in only 4 colors , Beach White, Regatta Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua).
The Amphicar has a top speed of 7 mph on water and 70 mph on land. Hence, it was dubbed the "Model 770". The Amphicar is moved in the water by its twin nylon propellers.
A special two-part land-and-water transmission built by Hermes (makers of the Porsche transmission) allows the wheels and propellers to be operated either independently or simultaneously. The "land transmission" is a 4-speed-plus-reverse unit similar to those found in the old Volkswagen Beetles. The "water transmission" is a 2-speed offering unique to the Amphicar featuring single forward and reverse gears. In the water, the front wheels act as rudders.
They have a freeboard of 21" with the top and windows down. Upon rolling up the windows and pulling up the top you have a very sea worthy car. Two Amphicars successfully crossed the English channel in 20' seas and gale force winds!
Reproduced from The Autocar 10th December 1965
Because of the federal government's new safety and emissions standards that went into effect beginning with the 1968 model year, no 1968 model year Amphicars were directly imported into the USA. Amphicar Corporation could not meet the requirements without expensive modifications. This spelled disaster for the world's only amphibious passenger car, since the US market constituted 90% of all Amphicar sales. and not long after that the Amphicar factory closed, closing one of the most unusual chapters in automobile history. .
Though short-lived, the Amphicar proved the most successful vehicle in the unusual hybrid car/boat market.
It is estimated that 300 - 600 sea worthy amphicars are
are still in existence and 1500+- in any condition.
Though the Amphicar received some bad press in it's time (competing against the emerging muscle and luxury cars) enthusiasts today still enjoy astounding onlookers by driving into the water and sailing away.
For more information about these fascinating cars:
Rocky Mountain Amphicar