Is it a boat? Is it a car? Is it both?
Onlookers were shocked recently to see this bright yellow vintage* car driving down a boat ramp and out into Sydney Harbour.
But they needn’t have worried — it was no ordinary car — and it wasn’t the first time it had taken to the water.
The car — a rare 1966 Amphicar 770 — is the latest purchase for the Gosford Classic Car Museum, which recently added the quirky* vehicle to its collection*.
Museum operations manager Jason Fischer, who has also floated the car on Brisbane Waters near Gosford, said the car was one of three thought to remain in Australia and about 100 known around the world.
Among the Amphicar’s many claims to fame is that it is believed to be the only amphibious* car mass produced for sale to the general public.
The West German made vehicle was launched at a New York car show in 1961 and had stopped being built by 1965 (although they continued to be sold).
The bright yellow model at Gosford Classic Car Museum was first sold in 1966 for $3395 but today is worth a whopping $125,000.
There were many reasons for its short lived popularity, including modest performance compared to other cars and boats of the time, and also because of the high maintenance* requirements.
Every time it went in the water, the car required greasing at 13 different points — one of which meant the removal of a back seat.
The vehicle can travel at up to 11km per hour on water and about 110km per hour on land — which is how it got its name Amphicar. Amphi comes from the word amphibian.
So did any Australians actually use the Amphicar?
Gosford local and pharmacist Rod Radford did. He bought the first of his two amphibious cars in 1965 to get home from his workplace at Ettalong Beach when there was no Rip Bridge over the Brisbane Water estuary.
“When I was rowing back and forth across to Ettalong I realised I needed something a little more comfortable to make my deliveries in, especially in the inclement* weather,” he said
Mr Radford saw a newspaper advertisement for the Amphicar, and took a trip to Sydney to investigate.
He ordered one and a few years later was the proud owner of the unique vehicle which he used for both professional and personal reasons.
“I had two of them and used each for five years and that was a reasonable life in saltwater,” he said.
vintage: something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.
quirky: peculiary, weird, strange
collection: a group of things or people
amphibious: animals that can live on land or in water.
high maintanance: needing a lot of work to keep in good condition
inclement: unpleasantly cold or wet
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
1. It is 1961 and you have just heard about the Amphicar being launched at a New York car show. It sounds interesting and you think you might like to buy one. Write a list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ to help you decide.
Extension: Such a quirky product could have had some quite interesting advertising material. Write a radio advertisement or design a print advertisement for the Amphicar.
Time: Allow approx. 20 minutes.
Curriculum links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking, Drama, Visual Arts
2. The Amphicar can be described as a ‘hybrid’ — something made by combining the elements or characteristics of two different things into one.
What two things do you think could be combined to create something else great? Perhaps you would combine two favourite sports, two household items or two kinds of animal. Draw a picture of your hybrid creation and write a detailed description of it including its benefits.
Extension: Brainstorm a list of as many funny hybrid animal names as you can. Examples: flizard (fly and lizard); wobbit (wombat and rabbit); etc.
Time: Allow approx. 30 minutes.
Curriculum links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking
IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT TODAY’S STORY
Tell us your thoughts on the story using your best spelling, punctuation and grammar. We will publish the best comments.