Braking For Fish: The Story Of Amphibious Cars
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We’ve all dreamed of driving our very own “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” but that thought has always been a fantasy. How could cars really fly and drive through water?
As the video below shows, driving in water is possible (sorry, no flying cars yet).
The history of amphibious vehicles is an interesting one. Various sketches and proposals for amphibious vehicles, even including a horse-drawn carriage, date back to the 1700’s. During the tumultuous times of World War II, countries raced to create new technology to put them a step ahead of their enemies. One of the foremost technologies was the amphibious car.
Creative Commons License, Flickr, John Lloyd
Several different types of amphibious cars were built and tested during that time, mainly for military use. After the war ended, there was a lingering interest in bringing amphibious cars to the public. Thus, the Amphicar was born. After being introduced at the 1959 Geneva Salon by inventor Hans Trippel, the Amphicar became popular with inquisitive drivers and went into mass production.
The Amphicar, being the only non-military amphibious vehicle available at the time, sold surprisingly well for being such an oddity. Over 3,700 cars were produced and sold in the next eight years of production. Marketed in both Europe and North America, the manufacturers invested heavily in the car’s production, shipping the majority of their stock to North America. Over 3,000 cars were shipped to the US, with a retail price of $2,900 each.
License Creative Commons, Flickr, Andreas Levers
However, in 1968, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) passed new regulations that hindered production and the use of Amphicars. The strange vehicle that once soared in popularity was almost totally forgotten.
License: Creative Commons, Flickr, Roger Wallstadt
However, in 1967, the prominent James Bond film series revived the idea of amphibious cars. In the film, The Spy Who Loved Me, the main character and protagonist, James Bond, drives an amphibious Lotus Esprit across the beach and straight into the sea. The movie’s popularity revived interest in amphibious vehicles, and collectors and car fans alike began searching for Amphicars in working condition.
License: Creative Commons, Flickr, Ellen MacDonald.