Holland Michigan
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Amphicar owners take dive, drive on Lake Macatawa
Monday, September 12, 2005
By Shandra Martinez
The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP -- If he had not seen it with his own eyes, 4-year-old Brady Bush would not believed there are cars that can drive on land and water.

"I only saw it on TV. I thought it never existed," Brady said after he got his first glimpse of a rare Amphicar. "It just sinks its wheels and drives away in the water."

Brady was one of about a dozen spectators who waited more than a hour Saturday morning at Dunton Park to catch a glimpse of a pack of Amphicars that took a swim across Lake Macatawa. They missed the crossing, which began down the shoreline from the park at the backyard beach of Ed Koops, who organized the Amphicar Swim-In.

Fortunately for Brady and others, Michael Baumgardner got lost on his way to the poker run and ended up at the park, where he gave demonstrations of his red 1963 Amphicar.

For Lois Grotler, the red four-seater brought back memories of when she saw her first Amphicar 40 years ago floating cross the Grand Haven channel.

"It was so cool," the Zeeland resident said.

On Saturday afternoon, Baumgardner was joined by a fleet of Amphicars. Their owners gave demonstrations and rides. An engineering technologist from the Dearborn Heights area, Baumgardner enjoys seeing the reactions to his unusual vehicle.

The Amphicars were the only civilian amphibious passenger automobile to be mass produced. The car floats thanks to a steel hull that allows only the tires and brake lines to protrude underneath. In addition to headlights and parking lights, an Amphicar has navigation lights. "You literally have two of everything," said Baumgardner, who must register the vehicle as both a car and a boat.
 

Nearly 3,900 Amphicars were built in Germany from 1961 to 1968, with the majority shipped to the United States, where they sold for $2,800 to $3,300. "They think only 1,000 are left in various stages of restoration," said Baumgardner, who bought his fixer-upper Amphicar for $700 30 years ago when he was just out of high school. He had to borrow the money from his parents. He had fallen in love with the vehicle since first spotting it as a 10-year-old.

He began collecting unusual cars before he could drive. At 14, he bought his first vehicle, a postal jeep, at an auction.

His daughter, Michelle, 19, already has extracted a promise from him that she will inherit the family's swimming car. Her sister, 10-year-old Susan, has laid claim to Baumgardner's fire truck.

For now, the Amphicar is the perfect vehicle for family outings from Amphicar club gatherings to showing it off at community events.
"A lot of people don't believe me when I say we have a car that goes in the water," Michelle Baumgardner said. "Then we have to take them out and show them. We creep up to the edge and dive right in."


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