It's a car. It's a boat. Actually, it's a car and a boat. A German development, the Amphicar was aimed at the American market, where it debuted at the 1961 New York Auto Show. Said to have been the product of 15 years of research and development at a cost of $25 million, it was the brainchild of amphibious vehicle pioneer Hans Trippel, who had been active in that field for 30 years.
Power came from a 1,147 cc Triumph Herald engine, located amidships and driving through a German Hermes transmission. On land this was directed to the independently-sprung rear wheels and in the water to twin propellers. The front wheels did the steering in each case, acting as rudders when in the water. The doors had special seals to keep the "hull" watertight, and the front compartment contained the fuel tank, spare tire and tools.
"Anyone who can drive an automobile can operate an Amphicar either as a car or a boat," said the company advertising. It came complete with Coast Guard-approved navigation lights. 3,878 were built through 1967 and 3,046 of them sold in the United States. At $3,395, it was about the price of an Austin-Healey 3000.
The Amphicar's cuteness earned it a certain following. No less than "Uncle Tom" McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated opined that "the guy who owns one of these at any of our thousands of lakes this summer will be the hit of the season."