The swimming sportscar

The Amphicar in the museum's collection

A swimming sportscar is the star attraction at the Lakeland Motor Museum this month – the perfect vehicle to cope with the wet summer we have had so far this year!

The Amphicar was made in 1966 and is one of the most unconventional vehicles ever produced. It had a top speed on land of 70mph but could be converted into a seaworthy boat at the flick of a lever.

A close up of the bonnet of the Amphicar

It could reach 10 knots on water thanks to twin propellers and it used its front wheels as a rudder. The Amphicar's engine was mounted at the rear of the craft, driving the rear wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission. In the water, the same engine drove the reversible propellers at the rear. A second gear lever engaged forward or reverse drive.

The two-door cabriolet was created by a German engineer called Hans Trippel who wanted to bring so-called car-boats to the masses. But, perhaps not surprisingly, there was little demand and fewer than 4,000 were ever made. Most Amphicars were sold in the United States.

A close up of the rear of the amphicar

Chris Lowe, Curator of the Lakeland Motor Museum, says: “With so few Amphicars ever made it means our example is highly prized and offers a rare chance to see one of these unusual vehicles close up.”

In the 1960s it was marketed as the “sportscar that swims”. Back then, in a marketing stunt, a small flotilla made it safely across the English Channel. One was even driven by a former owner of Belle Isle – the largest of Windermere’s 18 islands – making it a regular sight gliding across England’s largest natural lake!

Chris says: “We’ve heard many anecdotes from visitors to the museum who used to see one of these unusual vehicles driving around the Lake District and cruising along the waters of Windermere!”

Further Reading

  • Read more about Amphocar on Wikipedia (external link)

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