In the ’70s our sons, Bess and myself were building dune buggies as a hobby in south Georgia. We were known locally as the dune buggy builders of Adel.
Someone approached us one day and asked if we would be interested in buying an Amphicar. There were only 3,000 of these boat/cars manufactured in Germany in the ’60s, and I had always wanted one but thought the possibility was out of the question. But, here it was.
The owner lived only an hour from us and had passed away, and the family was settling his estate. Excitedly, we immediately went to see it and make an offer. Upon our arrival we found the unbelievable … the car was and had been sitting under a carport unused for years. It had low mileage, the tires had rotted and were flat, and the motor was locked up from sitting so long. I made an offer of $300 and, since no one knew what an Amphicar really was or its worth, we got it. We got it home and replaced the tires and had to replace one piston that had seized the engine.
We had our company name “Cutter & Dad Drilling Company” on the doors and drove it in all the nearby parades. Because of its age, we were concerned that all of the rubber seals and around the doors were probably rotted so we didn’t attempt to run it in the water for years. But that’s another story.
We drove it to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. We had mounted a CB radio in the Amphicar and on the way we were listening on channel 19 (the truckers’ channel). We had stopped on the side of Interstate 75 for a few minutes when we heard two truckers talking. “Did you see that D** thing? It had propellers on it!” Another trucker said: “Wonder why it’s sitting on the side of the road?” First trucker said: “Dummy, the driver is looking for the water!”
Upon arriving at our hotel, the Holiday Inn in Orlando, we found that the rod inserts in the engine had to be replaced. We did find that the engine was a Triumph TR3 and ordered parts to be shipped to the motel. Upon the parts’ arrival and with only limited tools and a large shade tree behind the motel, the boys and I managed to remove the engine, replace the inserts and reinstall the engine.
Once it was running, we drove the Amphicar on to Disney World and back to the motel, then headed home. About 100 miles from home the rod bearings failed again, so we pulled into a truck stop and checked Bess and Piglet into a motel nearby. Then Randy and myself caught a ride with a trucker back to Adel, where we picked up our pickup and the tow bar for the Amphicar and went back the 100 miles to bring everything home.
We again removed the engine and had a Triumph repair shop rebuild the engine.
All in all, we had a memorable trip to Disney World and an unforgettable trip in the Amphicar.
Years later, I was urged at a picnic with a group of drillers at a lake in Oklahoma to try the Amphicar on the water and it worked fine with just a few leaks, which were repaired later.
We took the Amphicar with us to Wyoming and drove it in Alcova Reservoir south of Casper almost every weekend in the summer.
When the oil drilling shut down in Casper, we left the Amphicar with a friend to look after. Three years later we went back to Casper but the friend and the Amphicar had disappeared never to be seen again. Today there are less than 300 Amphicars in the United States and they are worth upwards of $30,000. Oh well!
Porky once owned an Amphicar similar to this one but, like a big fish, it was the one that got away.