It was a “Hold my beer” moment.
These are the famous last words often spoken by Darwin Award recipients. Or in this case, of designers of the Amphicar. The whaaaa?
The Amphicar. A funny looking (ugly-cute) compact convertible designed for low performance on both land and sea. Land. And. Sea. The name says it all: Amphi(bian) + Car = Amphicar. Oh, so what, you’ve never just wanted to drive your low performance car into a lake? Didn’t you ever wonder what would happen if you did? I thought you might have.
It was the late 1950’s and clearly someone in Germany did. (Actually, this little car was manufactured in what was then called WestGermany, which used a capitalist-ish economic model, in contrast with the socialist/communist East Germany. Let’s face it, nobody in East Germany at the time was allowed to have the resources or sense of humor required to build such a hilarious (and impractical) conveyance.
So after a few automotive engineers decided that it would be fun to sneak away from the beer soaked Munich Octoberfest in their VW Beetle and take it for an enthusiastic swim in the Isar river, an idea was sparked. Even before the bubbles and engineers had finished bobbing to the surface.
Thus the Amphicar was born.
It seems that people have wanted to combine different modalities of transport for as long as vehicles have existed. For convenience of course. Also in the 1950’s there was another vehicle that did: the Aerocar, which as you can tell by the name, hybridized the genetics of both airplane and, you guessed it, a car. The mythological “siren” if you will. Although sadly, few were lured by the singing of this siren which was slated to go into production if they had received 500 orders, which they fell short of by oh, about half. Only four were ever made.
While James Bond’s Lotus Esprit submarine dubbed “Wet Nellie” was a pretty spectacular amalgamation of two very capable yet incredibly different types of vehicles, like my story about how the Amphicar was born, this too never happened. This, the real star of 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”, was only masquerading as a car, when in fact it was actually a submarine constructed around a Lotus Esprit body shell. Shockingly, it needed to be filled with water when submarining, and the captain (?) needed to don scuba gear.
In fact the Amphicar was the only mass-produced amphibious car sold commercially (they made 3,878 of them). Arguably, it has been the most successful automotive chimera ever produced. Regardless, it is possibly the car that makes me smile the most when I see one in action.
This is a well-documented “nut and bolt restoration” with only 572 total miles ever put on the car…not sure if that’s on land or if there’s a water odometer of some sort. This model the 770 has red top rubber bumpers trim, an itty bitty 4 cylinder (69 cubic inches, or 1147 cc) and was rated at 43 HP. It could reach speeds of 70 mph on land and 7 knots in the water, and I’m not sure I’d want to be in it when it was topping out on land or liquid.
This “concours ready” unit will win the hearts of everyone who sees it in action, concours or not. It sure has won mine. For more information and details on the restoration and the car’s history click HERE to see the listing on ebay. Keep a friend nearby to hold your beer when bidding on it. At the moment it has a “buy it now” price just a tick under $90k.