50 year milestone for ‘the sportscar that swims’

A front, rear and side photo of the Amphicar inside Lakeland Motor Museum.

It may sound like something from science fiction, but one of the Lakeland Motor Museum’s most unusual exhibits – an amphibious car built to ‘swim’ through water – is marking its 50th birthday.

The ‘Amphicar’ is one of the most unconventional cars ever produced and was marketed as the “sports car that swims”. A small flotilla made it safely across the English Channel in the 1960s and one was even driven by the former owner of Belle Isle – the largest of Windermere’s 18 islands – making it a regular sight gliding across England’s largest natural lake.

The 1966 Amphicar displayed at the Lakeland Motor Museum celebrates its 50th birthday this year. With a top speed of almost 70mph on land, the four-seater convertible could be converted to a seaworthy boat with the flick of a lever. It could then reach 10 knots on water, aided by twin propellers and using the front wheels as a rudder.

The vehicle was created by the German engineer Hans Trippel, who aimed to bring so-called car-boats to the masses with an amphibious equivalent of Volkwagen Beetle. In the end, there was a lack of demand and fewer than 4,000 were ever made.

Edwin Maher, Director of the Lakeland Motor Museum, says, “The Amphicar is the only amphibious mass-produced passenger car ever made and at the time it was revolutionary. However, it didn’t sell as well as the German manufacturer originally hoped and today, examples like the one we have at the Museum are highly prized.”

He adds, “There are also plenty of anecdotes from local people who used to see one of these unusual vehicles either driving around the Lake District or most memorably, easing through the waters of Lake Windermere. It is hard to believe that our Amphicar is now 50 years old - it certainly was ahead of its time!”

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