If you ask an Amphicar owner what is the most difficult part about driving one of these land/sea vehicles, they will probably tell you that it's answering the massive amount of questions they get from folks whenever they take it out for a spin.
We can understand that because when we've spotted an Amphicar at a car show, we try find the owner to find out more about it...who, by the way, can never seem to be found.
So we decided to learn more about the Amphicar by doing some research, and contacted some owners to find out the most frequent questions they get asked about their cars, along with their answers.
Who made the Amphicar?
It was designed and built in Germany based on amphibious prototypes developed by Hanns Trippel. A company called Amphicar Corporation of America was created to market the Amphicar, which was assembled in plants in Lübeck and later Berlin, Germany by Industrie-Werke Karlsruhe AG (IWK). There were connections with some other German manufacturers such as Borgward, Mercedes and BMW, and the engine 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.
What years were the Amphicar in production?
The Amphicar was built in Germany from 1961 to 1968. Total production was 3,878 vehicles. 3,046 Amphicars were imported into the United States between 1961 and 1967.
Why did they stop making the Amphicar?
When new, the Amphicar sold for between $2,800 and $3,300 which was pretty expensive at the time. But more importantly, in 1968 new U.S. Government EPA and DOT regulations went into effect that prevented the Amphicar from being imported. With the United States representing ninety percent of Amphicar's business, the company shut down.
Were there different models produced?
Most Amphicars were built pretty much the same. They were all convertibles and called "Model 770" due to its top speed of 7 knots on water and 70mph on land powered by a 4 cylinder Triumph Herald motor that was placed in the rear of the vehicle.
The Amphicar's electrics were basically a Lucas 12 volt positive ground system with certain items such as the horn, lighting and switches made by other manufacturers such as Hella and Bosch. An Amphicar could only be purchased in 4 colors; Beach White, Regatta Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua).
A special two-part land-and-water transmission built by Hermes (makers of the Porsche transmission) allows the 4 wheels and twin nylon 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.
How does it stay afloat and not leak?
The hull is made of steel, just as most regular vehicles. However, the steel is much thicker and great care was given to the assembly and to the joins to keep them leak proof. The two doors have rubber seals around their edges that press against seals on the doorframes when the doors are shut, which forms a watertight seal. There is even a second door handle inside that sort of pulls the door a little bit tighter shut.
Like other boats, the Amphicar has the required maritime equipment; water navigation lights, an electric bilge pump to expel any water that may splash or leak aboard.
If they are made of metal, won't they rust?
The hull is painted with marine-grade paint to inhibit rust and minimize friction in the water.
What kind of gas mileage do they get?
On land they can get 35mpg or more and on water they use about 1 to 1.5 gallons per hour.
Can you still get parts for the Amphicar?
Yes. When the Amphicar factory in Berlin, Germany closed for good in 1968, the remaining inventory of unused parts was eventually purchased by Hugh Gordon of Sante Fe Springs, California. Hugh's Gordon Imports remains the Amphicar owner's cheif source for spare parts.
How many are still left on the road?
There are about 700 Amphicars estimated to still be in some kind of drivable condition which is really a testament to how wonderfully they were designed and how much they are adored and cared for by their owners.