The CAR Top 10: cars that are also boats

Published: 15 May 2015

De Marchi F50 in Venice

► Top 10 amphibious cars
► Well, mostly amphibious
► Some more effective than others

It’s never been immediately clear why you would want to sail in your car. But the amphibious madness keeps coming.

1) VW Type 166

VW Schwimmwagen

You can always count on a good war to generate some mad ideas. During WWII, for instance, the VW taught its Kübelwagen military off-roader how to doggy paddle, producing the 128 and later 166 Schwimmwagen in the thousands. We’d call it the most popular Amphibian ever, but the Poles, French, Dutch and Russians probably wouldn’t agree.

2) Gibbs Aquada

Gibbs Aquada

It looks like some horrendous mid-1990s Chinese Citroen DS tribute, but the Aquada demolished the Channel crossing record for amphibious cars in the hands of Richard Branson. Gibbs’ other inventions include the Humdinga, an amphibious SUV ‘designed specifically to access remote and hostile terrain’, and the Quadski ATV, aimed at rescue services.

3) Bond’s Lotus Esprit

James Bond Lotus Esprit

Momentarily dazzled by helicopter baddie Caroline Munro’s ample chest, Rog drives his Lotus off a jetty into the Med. Fortunately the Esprit’s body is made from the same stuff used to make boats (and by the looks of things, Monroe’s bikini) and it turns into a sub.

4) Amphicar

Amphicar

Okay, so the military needs amphibious cars, but civvy street? Amphicar was the first to test the water, with its weird mix of weedy 43bhp Triumph Herald engine and faux-Cadillac fins. Constructed not from corrosion-resistant fibreglass, but mild steel. Hey, why not just build the thing from Alka Seltzers?

5) Ferrari Barchetta

Ferrari Barchetta

Barchetta means ‘little boat’ in Italian, and was used to describe stripped-down sports cars like Ferrari’s raciest 166s from the 1940s, and this much later 550 roadster. Fiat’s slash-cut 1990s coupe was a Barchetta in name only, but we can imagine a few owners pushing theirs into the drink after a quote for a new cambelt.

6) Wooden F50

Livio De Marchi F50

Ferrari’s 550 Barchetta wasn’t much of a boat – with an emergency hood rated only to 70mph it didn’t like the wet much. But Venice-based sculptor, Livio De Marchi’s crazy wooden F50 couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Here it is cruising the canals of his home town (and the world’s least car friendly), Venice.

7) Dutton Surf

Dutton Surf

Despite narrowly escaping a jail sentence for selling a dodgy Suzuki-based amphibian judged by a judge as not fit for purpose, kit car legend Tim Dutton has bounced back to make this, er, Suzuki-based amphibian. Dutton managed to cross the channel in one of his creations in 2006. It took seven hours.

8) Watercar Python

Watercar Python

Dutton’s Surf will set you back over £30k, but you’ll need £130,000 to snare a Python, the world’s fastest sea-going car. This Corvette-powered amphibious convertible SUV will do 60mph in the water, or more precisely, planing above it, and 125mph on road.

9) Buick Riviera

Buick Riviera

The nautically-named luxury coupe had been around since ’63, but for ’71 gained a new look courtesy of Bill Mitchell’s team including a boat-tail rear end that borrowed from the earlier Corvette Stingray. We’d wager the handling was also at sea.

10) Rinspeed Splash

Rinspeed Splash

At the press a button, the rear wing of this 2004 Geneva concept spins round to become a hydrofoil, while two others drop down from the the flanks, giving a 50mph top top speed on water. Rinspeed followed it up with the even dafter sQuba, a zero-emissions underwater Elise. Even Audi hasn’t felt the need to fill that niche. CAR actually drove the sQuba - read the review here.

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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