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1961-1968 Amphicar

Amphicar Roadability

As for its landworthiness, the Amphicar roadability was far better than you might imagine. It does list in turns to be sure, a function of its high center of gravity and the skinny 6.40x13 tires.

However, the all-coil suspension smooths bumpy back roads remarkably well, especially when aided by the weight of four adults aboard, and the unassisted worm-and-roller steering is responsive and not too heavy.

Red Amphicar
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
This red Amphicar once appeared in a TV public service campaign in western Washington State for car pooling. The manufacturer originally claimed 6.5 knots per hour (7.3 mph) in the water.

Hans Trippel was unable to remain afloat -- financially, that is. The reason, quite simply, is that he sold the Amphicar for too little to make a profit. The west coast port-of-entry price in 1967 was only a little more than $3,000.

That was about twice the cost of a Beetle, which might float in the water but couldn't maneuver under its own power. Still, few people really appreciated -- or needed -- the Amphicar's specialized abilities.

Though it was expensive for what was undoubtedly perceived as a small economy car, it's likely that the limited -- and noisy -- on-road performance and a marginal sales and service operation were far greater detriments than price for most buyers.

"United We Float, Divided We Sink" has been the motto of Amphicar enthusiasts for many decades now. We found the Amphicar a ball to drive and quite thrifty: a nice 32 mpg on land and about 1.5 gallons per hour over the briny deep.

We certainly wish we had one. If you do too, your chances are good. Of the some 3,000 that came to the U.S., only about 450 had been discovered as of the late 1980s. Anyone for a treasure hunt?

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