Friday, July 13, 2007

Aquada amphib goes 110 on dry land, and pulls water-skiers

In World War 2, Volkswagen produced 15,000 Schwimmwagens that could "drive" across rivers when their propellers were lowered.

In the 1960s, Schwimmwagen designer Hanns Trippel developed a civilian version. The Amphicar was a boat-car hybrid that could seat four and make a quck transition from highway to beach to lake. It had mediocre performance on land and water, but did provide a high degree of fun. An Amphicar is featured in the James Coburn movie The President's Analyst. John Lennon may have had one on his estate, Lyndon Johnson had an Amphicar at his ranch, Jimmy Carter drove one, and Madonna drove one in a 1985 video.

Technology has advanced considerably since 1961, and a new company, Gibbs Technology, is about to launch an amphib for the 21st century. It appears to be a much better car, and much better boat, than the Amphicar was.

Unlike the Schwimmwagen and Amphicar, which used the front wheels for in-water steering and a propeller for propulsion, the new Gibbs Aquada has retractable wheels, which greatly improves boat-ability. Off-the-road propulsion and steering are done via a water jet with 2,600 pounds of thrust, not a propeller. Aquada uses a 250-horsepower V6 engine. Top speed is 35 mph in the water (fast enough for water skiers) and 110 mph on the road (fast enough for speeding tickets.

The driver sits front-and-enter, with two passenger seats in the second row. There are no doors -- you climb over the side to get inside. Transition between wet and dry takes less than 10 seconds. The Aquads senses when it's on dry land, and won't allow the wheels to retract unless it's in the water.

Gibbs envisions the Aquada selling in much stronger volumes than any amphibious car to have preceded it. After spending more than $100 million and one million hours of development work over the last decade, the company has determined sales could reach over 100,000 Aquadas annually in five years' time. Gibbs also hopes to license its technology to other manufacturers. The engineering achievements are impressive; and even dealing with both maritime and highway laws was a major job. For example, boats need white lights facing the rear but cars can' have them.

In 2004, an Aquada prototype set the record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel, accomplishing the feat in less than two hours. Production of the Aquada is slated for late 2008 with the earliest examples arriving in early 2009. It will sell for about $85,000. Gibbs is also developing a military version, the Humndinga; and Quadski, a high-speed amphibian Quadbike/All Terrain Vehicle. CLICK for more. (info from Gibbs, Wikipedia, Motor Trend)

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