I’m confused. “What?” I repeat a second time, hearing Orlaith and Steve’s words but drawing a blank.
We’re drinking coffee and chatting, our first conversation, and I see their vintage baby blue convertible double-parked out front of the house. I’m thinking why, living just up the street, would they drive rather than walk and I’m not grasping how come they call it an Amphicar.
Turns out they hadn’t driven here so much as they had swum up the river in their car, a car that doubles as a boat.
Yes, you read that right.
And because it’s perfectly normal to go on spontaneous adventures with people you’ve known for less than an hour, we finished up our coffee and headed out to cruise the Rideau Canal.
According to amphicars.com, Amphicars were manufactured in Germany between 1961 and 1967 with a total production of less than 4,000 units. They are capable of over 70mph on road and 8 knots on water.
Owner David H. Neverth spent so much time answering questions from curious spectators that he wrote this 1965 booklet 60 Reasons Why I Love the Amphicar. His reasons included:
- Road clearance, 2 inches greater than a Jeep, make it an ideal off-road vehicle; a low first gear also contributes to its off-road capabilities
- Rear engined traction for “go” in mud and snow
- The car is truly fabulous in the water and remarkably stable even in 58mph winds on large waters
- It takes 18 steps to have a day of boating the conventional way but only 3 steps the Amphicar way
- Unlicensed children can drive the Amphicar – in water that is!
- Road salt will have a hard time rusting the double-heavy steel body through. The smooth fender wells and underside have no pockets where salt can accumulate
- The car is like one big bumper guard so it offers maximum safety in a collision
- A high capacity bilge pump, bilge blower, navigation lights and marine horn are standard.
- Triumph Herald Engine. An overly durable engine which was used in the Triumph Sedan. Made by Standard Triumph of England, makers of engines for European industrial and automotive use. A Triumph engine to be used in Swedish SAAB soon. Standard Triumph sells more sports cars than an other company in the world.
- The Amphicar Corporation is a sound company. It owns much of Mercedes Benz, even Mercedes Benz hub caps fit the Amphicar perfectly
I am enchanted by the simplicity of the undertaking. We lock an extra handle on each door to create a watertight seal. Steve starts the engine and drives into the water at the boat launch. He slips the land transmission’s stick shift into neutral to prevent the wheels from spinning but they will act as rudders, controlled by the steering wheel.
With a short stick on the floor he engages the dual propellers of the water drive, with its three positions of forward, neutral and reverse. The propellers kick in, the wake appears and we make our way down river towards the lock station and circle back, dry as a bone.
The Amphicar makes me feel all James Bond and it’s possible I covet this vehicle even more than the Citröen Deux Chevaux I’ve had my eye on for years.