Aquatic vehicles are not new but they are rare with military forces and extrovert inventors being the main inspiration for some of the strangest and downright bizarre amphibious vehicles to tour the seven seas.
Although always touted, amphibious vehicles have never really taken off due to a wide range of factors such as cost, rust, practicability and the issue of what the cars would run on above and below the sea line.
There have been several attempts made to readdress the balance, leading to the top 20 amphibious cars being created and experimented with.
First up is the Rinspeed sQuba, which as the spelling of the name suggests, is the primary vehicle in terms of being able to propel its passengers under water, with the car being able to drop to a depth of ten metres. Based on the Lotus Espirit, which was used by James Bond in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ to drive underwater in Sardinia, the car allows passengers to breathe via an integrated oxygen tank of compressed air.
Rinspeed have also released the Splash, a car which uses blades to hoist it 23 inches above water level and allows it to glide at 50 miles per hour across an aquatic surface. Pushing one button will see the car transform into a sea-faring vehicle with a hydrofoil system. The blade of the system rotates until it is under the water meaning that the passengers experience the sensation of feeling like they are flying over the water.
For many motoring enthusiasts, disfiguring a Lamborghini Countach is tantamount to vandalising the Mona Lisa. However, UK firm SeaRoader decided to opt for an experiment whereby the Countach had a couple of optional extras added which not even the Lamborghini designers had considered. Hydraulic rising wheels, a hydrofoil and twin propellers were connected to the model in order to allow it to move gracefully from land into water.
Designed for the military by Gibbs, the Humdinga is powered by an impressive 350 brake horse power engine which lets the vehicle run at 100 miles per hour on land and 40 miles per hour along waterways. With a four wheel drive system, the Humdinga finds different types of terrain accessible which even vehicles such as Land Rovers or Jeeps would struggle with.
Inevitably, if the Americans have a two-in-one land and amphibious vehicle, it is likely that another global superpower will have a military vehicle which can do something similar. In this case China have created the ChinaDuck, weighing 8.3 tonnes and measuring 10 metres, supported by the Dongfeng EQ2102 which was modelled on Nissan’s Condor.
British designer Tim Dutton has been inventing new concepts for more than 40 years, however it was 20 years ago that he first came up with a vehicle which could be used on land and sea. The Dutton Surf is the culmination of those efforts with four wheel drive fitted to the car/boat in order to allow the car the opportunity to pull itself out of the water after its aquatic adventures.
Powered by a 7.2 litre Caterpillar diesel engine, the Hydra-Terra as its name suggests is a vehicle suitable for both ground and water. Capable of seating 51 people, the owners claim that the contraption is unsinkable, with even the plug holes inside the vehicle being replaced by buoyancy foam. Unlike most vehicles this one is designed to glide across the water, as opposed to swim underneath the surface.
The Belgians have always had a unique perspective on innovative designs and their take on an aquatic land vehicle is as curious as ever. The Amfibidiver looks like a 1930s motor racing car but is actually also a submarine. Created out of an old aeroplane fuel tank, several bikes and a former sailing boat hull, the vehicle harnesses power from five electric wheelchairs but appears to have no roof to cover the driver and his sidekick.
Sir Richard Branson famously drove the Gibbs Aquada across the English Channel, with the British businessman and adventurer creating a record for the fastest time to cross. He was helped by the vehicle’s ability to reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour on land and 30 miles per hour when ploughing across the sea. Another important aspect of the vehicle was its ability to transform itself from land transport into a sea-faring vessel in under ten seconds.
Gibbs also designed the Quadski, a cross between a quad bike and a water ski which allows users to drive across the beach and then plough through the waves in one movement. It is a favourite of emergency services as the vehicle can allow them to reach previously inhospitable parts of a beach, riverbank or lakeside which other vehicles may have trouble in reaching.
As its name implies, the Hydra Spyder is a vehicle which is just as comfortable on the water as it is on land. The Ł112,000 cost may cause some to step away but those who want to drive the vehicle will be impressed by the massive 444 brake horse power engine which has been used in the Chevrolet Corvette. Equipped with special floatation foam to make it unsinkable, the Hydra Spyder offers the driver a four point suspension system which retracts the wheels as the car converts itself into a boat.
Technically the fastest amphibious car in the world, the WaterCar Python can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour in in the water. On land the car can travel to speeds of 125 miles per hour and can race from 0-62 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds. The car is supported by a Corvette V8 mill engine, allowing the driver and passengers to enjoy themselves on land and sea.
With something as forward thinking and futuristic as an amphibious land vehicle, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the Japanese have taken on the task of trying to create one. Isuzu’s Nagisa design never made it beyond the drawing board, however the amphibious car looked like a mixture of Jaws and a camper van and would have had great potential use to drivers had Isuzu progressed beyond the prototype stage.
Although it looks like a military vehicle, the Chinese firm JMC created the Amphi-Pickup to transport people and goods across the great rivers of China and have also had success in selling the vehicles to other countries. It is based on the Isuzu four wheel drive model but unlike the Isuzu it can only reach a top speed of 70 miles per hour over land. On water the vehicle struggles to reach 7.5 miles per hour.
Now more commonly seen on the streets of London giving tourists a unique insight into the city, the DUKW ‘Duck’ was commissioned for military use during the Second World War. Created by General Motors but left behind by the Americans after hostilities in Europe ended, the vehicles are driven along the streets of the British capital before entering the Thames to continue the tour along the river.
The Netherlands have already embraced the amphibious tourist bus and the idea is now about to be trialled in Scotland. The Amfibus was tested with 50 passengers on a trial run. Styled similarly to an American school bus, the Amfibus can reach a top speed of 62 miles per hour when being driven on land, whilst it slows to a more leisurely nine miles per hour when on water.
Looking like an acquatic version of the A-Team’s truck, Volkswagen’s Schwimmwagen was around way before George Peppard and Mr T. even considered playing soldiers of fortune. The vehicle’s history showcases a darker side of Volkswagen and Ferdinand Porsche as the amphibious machine was originally built for the Wehrmacht to use during World War Two against the Allies because of its ability to go anywhere in battle.
Baiyun’s Amphi-Jeep is as its name suggests, an amphibious Jeep which is based on the Chrysler Jeep model. It means that the Amphi-Jeep is one of the few vehicles which can handle almost every form of terrain thrown at it, from water to mountains. It has been used abroad by telecommunication companies who are able to fit wires and equipment in inhospitable places.
One of the most successful amphibian cars ever is the Amphicar, which was originally produced in 1961. The car went on to sell more than 3870 models and allowed the drivers to reach speeds of 70 miles per hour over land and seven miles per hour on water. Amphicar was built with a 41 brake horse power Triumph Herald engine, making it one of the more reliable vehicles constructed at the time.
Finally in the grand tour of amphibian road vehicles is the Terra Wind, a combination of a motor home and a motor boat. At 42 feet long, the vehicle is one of the longest to ride the waves and at $550,000 it is also one of the most expensive to do so. The craft weighs 14 tonnes but has been designed to make the vehicle as lightweight as possible to avoid any potential hazards such as sinking.