Matthew Jones02 August 2012

Classified ad of the week; ’67 Amphicar

Need help avoiding the Olympic lanes? How about your very own boatcar thing? Will be slow. And possibly sinky.

1967 Amphicar

It's a car. It's a boat. It's probably a bit porous. And if you live in the capital, you'll be laughing your captain's hat off while everyone else is supposed to be stuck in traffic this summer.

Yep, this dunkable little chap will take on the Thames with as much spluttering vim as it will Tottenham Court Road. But before we brief you with the scant details we have on this particular example, allow us to impart some learnings on this rather intriguing vehicle.

Unquestionably the least revolting amphibious vehicle of all time (with the possible exception of our efforts), it's also the first mass-produced one. It was designed, reassuringly, by a man called Hanns and manufactured by the Quandt Group at Lubeck and Berlin-Bosigwalde between 1962 and 1967. 4500 were built, most of which were shipped (in a container, disappointingly) to the USA.

Performance is actually pretty respectable - they'll do 70mph on the road and 8 knots on water - in terms of road speed at least, that's the same as most of the period's ordinary saloons. Probably because it used a normal road car engine - a 43bhp Triumph Herald 1147cc. There's also Mercedes brakes under there, and the gearbox internals are from a Porsche 356, as is some of the fuel system.

Sounds good, no? There was one oversight. The whole thing was made out of steel. Much steel. Those rear wings are the highest ever to reach production (about an inch bigger than a '59 Cadillac's, fact fans). Which tends to turn into rust when introduced to water.

Nevertheless, owing to its, erm, peculiarity, it found fans in the TV, film and music industry - the Amphicar's appeared in cinema, erm, classics like "The Sandwich Man" (1966), "Rotten To The Core" (1965), "The President's Analyst" (1967), "Pontiac Moon" (1992), "The Avengers" episode "Castle Derth"(1967), Madonna's "Burning Up" (1983) video, Jamiroquai's "Summertime" (1996) and in the circa-1960 Come Alive Pepsi advert.

So, media coverage, nice proportions, amphibious faculties, much German goodness and a total design and development cost of $5m in the late 1950's - why on earth aren't we all driving Amphicars?

Because they were expensive. Ludicrously so.

But how can you put a price on a car capable of crossing the channel between Africa and Spain, San Diego and Catalina Island and England and France (the later was undertaken three times, once in a Force 6 gale)? Quite easily if you're an American car dealership and you've just consigned this one - £31,748 ($49,500).

Any TopGear.commers fancy beating the traffic with a little panache this summer?

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