Top five amphibious cars

James Foxall
Written by: James Foxall
Posted on: 21 July 2016

The human race is notorious for pushing boundaries.

But the technological marvel of the motorised carriage was never going to be sufficient for some. Why can’t it fly too? Or maybe even float?

Cue madcap inventors combining boat hulls with car bodywork, road wheels with propellers and sound engineering with blind faith.

It wasn’t until the Second World War that the amphibious car was really addressed. And although handy for moving soldiers, the concept hasn’t really caught on as a commercial entity. Odd that.

But there have been plenty of brave attempts. Here are some of our favourites…

1. Amphicar

Floating Car Amphicar

Floating Car Amphicar

The first ever mass-produced amphibious vehicle was the Amphicar. This four-seat convertible was built in Germany between 1961 and 1966. Its then state-of-the-art rear-mounted 1.2-litre Triumph Herald engine drove the rear wheels plus a pair of propellers to 70mph on the road, 6mph on water.

Although one critic cruelly dubbed it ‘a vehicle that promised to revolutionise drowning’, nearly 4,000 Amphicars were sold, mainly in America. Former US president Lyndon Johnson owned one. He apparently enjoyed frightening guests who weren’t aware the car could swim by pretending the brakes had failed and driving into a lake. The comedy of it...

2. Dutton

Floating Car Dutton

Floating Car Dutton

Littlehampton is the location for British inventor Tim Dutton’s outfit. He built his first amphibious car in 1989 and his business is still going strong with more than 230 sold.

Dutton’s Reef is based on a current Ford Fiesta but with some crucial modifications. It has an entirely plastic body for example, which cleverly gets round the ‘water leaking through door seals’ problem by having said doors above the water line. It features an exhaust that doesn’t come into contact with any water and suspension arms that are covered in three coats of marine paint.

Want four-wheel drive? No problem. The similarly thoroughly-engineered Surf is based on a Suzuki Jimny 4x4.

3. Gibbs Aquada

Floating Gibbs Aquada

Floating Gibbs Aquada

Looking a bit less like a small trawler than some other amphibious cars, the Aquada was a New Zealand-built prototype designed to combine the best of both car and boat. It could manage 99mph on land and 31mph on water when it was unveiled in 2003.

The following year, Richard Branson used the Rover V6 powered device to break the record for an amphibious vehicle crossing the English Channel.

4. Rinspeed

Floating Rinspeed

Floating Rinspeed

Considering they live in a land-locked country, the Swiss have a healthy appetite for amphibious transport. Delightfully wacky design company Rinspeed has been responsible for a couple, the Splash and sQuba.

The Splash uses lightweight bodywork, a Polaris jet-ski motor plus a hydrofoil system. It actually skims the water, sitting 60cm above the waves. On the road, it can manage 144mph and goes from 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds.

The sQuba is straight out of the movies. Based around a white Lotus Elise, it is supposedly a descendent of the white Esprit James Bond uses in The Spy Who Loved Me. The car has been designed to go underwater with the occupants using scuba tanks to breathe. They left the roof off ‘for safety reasons’, according to its designer.

5. WaterCar

Floating WaterCar

Floating WaterCar

After building an amphibious car powered by a Chevrolet Corvette’s V8 engine, WaterCar turned its attention to a slightly more prosaic product: an amphibious off-roader.

Its Jeep lookalike, the Panther, is on sale to the public and has been designed to be a true go-anywhere vehicle. It’s got a 3.7-litre Honda engine that powers a jet ski-like impeller when at sea. With retractable wheels, it’ll do 44mph on water, 55mph plus on land.

You could be the happy owner of one for a mere £100,000. Add it to the Christmas list perhaps?

Thirsty for more? Check out our Top 5 Flying Cars.

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