Paris, France 2005


Cody Reservoir, Cody Wyoming - 2004



 


As all folks who've ever had a working Amphicar know, piloting one on land or sea is a lot like getting a huge glowing tattoo on your forehead that reads "Run over here and ask me questions!"  Particularly if you stop for any reason. You can just forget your million-dollar custom mink-upholstered Lamborghinis and platinum-plated Rolls Royces: NO other vehicle attracts as much attention as an Amphicar except maybe the Oscar Mayer® Wienermobile, and even then, once they hit the waves it's just no contest.  It's gotten so that fielding the same questions from bemused onlookers over and over and over and over has become something of an in-joke among Amphicar owners.  So much so, that someone's actually done up the T-shirts shown on the right with just the answers.

Expert Amphibian Motorist Victor Connelly, age 4, sporting his AmphiFAQ T-shirt (available from Gordon Imports...See the Classifieds for contact info)
Click Vic's pic to view detail

Thanks to Club members Cap'n John, David Chapman, Mike Israel and René Pohl from whose websites a lot of the following information has been pillaged...If you're looking for good solid information about Amphicars or amphibious vehicles in general, you could do worse than dropping in on any of these fine fellows' sites.


Is this "Club" like some kind of cult or something? 

Hey! We resent that question! Just because some of our members enjoy donning ancient ritualistic Babylonian fish headwear before driving the car into the river or maybe have a couple-few figurines of Oannes, Lord of Drippiness on the dash doesn't mean we're kooks!  No way!


Who made the Amphicar?

In short, it was made by Amphicar, not by any other auto maker.  Designed and built in Germany based on amphibious prototypes developed by Hanns Trippel, it was hoped that the Amphicar would appeal to the then burgeoning American leisure market.  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), a subsidiary of Deutschen Waggon­ und Maschinenfabriken GmbH (DWM), the post-War rechristening of the same "DWM" firm that had once produced the famous Luger pistols. According to René Pohl, arguably one of the world's leading experts on amphibious vehicles, a total of 3,878 Amphicars were produced. Although no exact figures are available on how many have survived to this day, based on his experience as the world's largest Amphicar parts dealer, We estimate that about 2,000+- Amphicars may currently exist in one state or another. Another "guesstimate" often heard among owners at gatherings reckons that the number of still working (i.e. swimming) Amphicars might be "about 600".  Much more information about the history of the Amphicar can be found here.


Does it really go in the water?

Indeed!...But more importantly, it will drive back out That is the REAL trick!

(On a related note, the author always found the astonishingly often-heard question "How deep can it go?" perplexing, never really being sure if the questioners simply fail to understand what a boat actually does, or whether they might instead imagine the Amphicar could be some sort of submarine or have long spindly legs that extend to hold it up from the river bottom, and being a little wary of what visions he might conjure thereby, the author has never probed the matter further with such questioners...)

The Bilgemaster and crew on the Mullica River. Click to enlage.
(Click to enlarge image)


How fast does it go?
All Amphicars were known as the "Model 770".  It is said that the "770" referred to the fact that it could do 7 knots (about 8 mph) in the water and 70 miles per hour on land.  It's not like there was ever any "Model 769".  Even nearly 40 years later, most stock Amphicars can still cruise all day long at 60-65 mph...That is, until they come to a hill.

How much is it worth?

That at all depends on the Amphicar you're talking about: its condition, where it is, the time of year and a whole host of other factors.  Roughly speaking, a rust-free "swimmer" might set you back anywhere between $10,000 to maybe $50,000 for a very tidy example.  Much more info on this topic can be found in Mike Israel's excellent Amphicar Buyers FAQ, and it should be considered required reading for anyone really interested in buying an Amphicar. You can probably get a fair idea of what's being asked right now for Amphicars in all sorts of various conditions in the Club Classifieds. But by no means are the ASKING prices you may find there any barometer of what they actually are getting after the handshake. Some folks have a misguided notion that their car has a stack of $1000 bills hidden somewhere in the bilge which is reflected in the inflated prices often times listed.


How does it go in the water?

Basically, what you've got is a boat with wheels sticking out of it. The hull, or bottom, is all sealed up, and 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. Once the doors are shut (and if you are sure that the hood and the bilge plug, a sort of drain plug, are both secured), you just drive down to the water's edge and right into the drink. 

Once in the water, you put the land transmission's stick shift (similar to those in old VW bugs) into neutral, since there's no point in spinning the wheels in the water once you're afloat, and engage the dual propellers of the water drive with the smaller stick shift on the floor, which has three positions: forward, neutral and reverse. 

While waterborne, the front wheels serve as rudders, so that if you turn the steering wheel right, the Amphicar goes right, or rather "starboard", turn the wheel left and you bear off "port".  First-time "helmsmen" and "helmswomen" often remark on how responsive the steering is in the water: just like driving a car, which of course it is...sort of. The thing you have to remember in the drink though, is this: those land brakes are not going to work.  Why would they?  The way you halt a watering Amphicar is the same way you stop any other boat: you throw the props into reverse. 

Like other boats, the Amphicar has a full complement of required maritime equipment: water navigation lights, an electric bilge pump to expel any water that may splash or leak aboard, and US models (i.e. most Amphicars) also have a special timed bilge blower fan that blows out any fumes that may have collected in the hull before the engine will start--a safety feature required in any inboard motorboat in the USA. 

As for the question "How does it go it the water?," an Amphicar can cruise along at about 8-10 miles per hour, depending on the current.  That's not nearly fast enough to pull water skiers, but isn't that a bit like criticizing a pig doing the tango?  So what if the pig is a little slow or sloppy in its chops and steps? What's really notable is that there's a pig doing the tango!, Right?  For those interested in the further particulars of Amphicar operation at land and sea, please our online version of the original Amphicar Owners Manual (if you are a member) given to the original buyers of this most original vehicle.


Can you still get parts for it?

Sure! The fact that back in the day they had planned to manufacture something like 30,000 Amphicars, but only ended up selling just short of 4,000 means that many extra parts did eventually find their way onto various shelves and warehouses after the manufacturer shuttered production.  As for the engine, being a very common 4-cylinder 1147cc Triumph unit, spare parts will likely be available for it for as long as internal combustion engines are used.  Of course, some items like the special hood (or bow) mounted green-red navigation light lens are getting scarce, but for the most part one can still find pretty much everything one might need.  Parts aren't cheap: think "Mercedes" instead of "Volkswagen", but they're out there if you need them. 

Perhaps the Amphicar world's chief supplier of parts and priceless free repair and restoration advice is Hugh Gordon of Gordon Imports, located Santa Fe Springs, California, and many many other Amphicar parts and services suppliers can also be found in the Club Classifeds

Another growing source for this or that Amphicar part or collectible, sometimes whole vehicles, is ebay. To perform a full international search of all Amphicar-related items now on ebaythat automatically weeds out most "keyword spammers", those bozos who just lob the word "amphicar" into their auction text (along with the name of every other vehicle in history) just to grab your attention for their completely unrelated crap , click here.


Are they all the same?

Most Amphicars are virtually identical, although there are some small, but distinct differences between early and late models. (and between the 2 Amphicar factories too) These include, but not limited to the heater placement, shock mountings, lower body lip, & dash treatment, among others.

They were available in 4 colors;

  • Regatta red with white/charcoal interior & white top
  • Lagoon blue with Yellow/white interior & white top
  • Beach sand white with red/white interior & black top
  • Fjord green with apricot/white interior & white top

There was at least 1 black car Produced, some emerald green for the Berlin Police and 50 special ivory cars that had red tops and side trim made for the cypress gardens and the 1964 world's fair. 


What options were available?

 

A few were also produced as emergency rescue vehicles with a full compliment of equipment.

You could order an anchor, flares, paddles, fire extinguisher and even a shower that connected to the bilge pump! An AM / FM / Short-wave / Marine band radio (as seen to the right) was also available.

Would you believe an amphibious camper was available too?

How fast do they go?

They can go about 70+ mph on land and about 6 knots (7 M.P.H.) in the water in spite of some of the earlier ads would have you believe.


How do they operate in the water?

They have twin screws for the water and the front wheels act as twin rudders


How do the doors seal?

The doors have 2 seals (much like a refrigerator) and separate water locks to keep you from accidentally opening the door while in the water.


What are all those knobs for?

They operate all the various controls of the car such as lights, wipers, etc. No, they weren't labeled at all.


How do you shift them?

There are 2 shift levers on the floor. One for the standard 4 speed land transmission and one for forward and reverse operation of the twin props.


How deep can they go?

All the way to the bottom if you forget the bilge plug! ;^) 

I think you must mean to ask is what the freeboard is.  It is about 21". The front bumper is just above the water and the rear of the car sits just slightly lower due to the rear engine.


This car sank in 2004 after the rear deck of his house-boat pushed it under with the top and windows down, as a result of a wave. Nobody was hurt and the car floats again.


Vintage picture of an Amphicar being rescued.

Can they sink?

Yes they can! Just like any boat, if there is a problem that brings on more water than the vessel weighs, it will sink (read "buoyancy"!).
Click here for an incredible story of an Amphicar salvaged after 17 years under water!

Not to worry! It is not common and these cars are very sea worthy in spite of the bad press they endured in the press early on.


This car spent 17 years under 52' of water and it is being restored in Florida now.



How much were they when new?

Sales were slow due to the high initial cost of $3800 at the time, however Later on a brand new Amphicar could be had for as little as $900!


Click for an original buyers order


How are they in rough water?

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!

Two other Amphicars traveled 350 miles down the Yukon in Alaska (1968).


What is the fuel mileage?

On land they can get 35mpg or more, on water they use about 1-1.5 gallons per hour.


What engine do they have?

Power is provided by a rear mounted 1147cc triumph herald 4 cylinder engine


Are parts available?

Yes, most parts can be obtained easily, however they are sometimes a bit pricey. To combat the high costs, Many people have started manufacturing various high quality reproduction parts.


Please send any suggestions for additions or corrections to this Amphicar FAQ to us


Copyright ©2002-2006 International Amphicar Owners Club. All rights reserved.
Last updated May 07, 2013