1964 Amphicar 770 convertible owned by Jeff Elson
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
While Americans like to hit the sand and surf during the warmer weather, Jeff Elson can do both without leaving the wheel of his four-seat Amphicar. The German-built convertible is known as “the sportscar that swims” for its ability to convert from a four-wheeled land vehicle to a boat in just minutes. With doors sealed and the bilge (drain) plug in place, a driver can plunge into the water, put the car in neutral and use a second lever to activate the twin screw propellers at the rear. The front wheels act as rudders. The Amphicar was a sales disaster when it was manufactured from 1961 to 1965, with less than 4,000 built and many still on dealer lots after production ended. Today, it has become a hot collectible, with, according to Elson, only about 600 such vehicles surviving and no others known on his home turf of Long Island. “The belly of the car is Porsche,” he says. “The engine is a four-cylinder Triumph, the steering is VW and it is all put together and it floats.” Until recently, enthusiasts were able to claim that the Amphicar was the only non-military amphibious vehicle ever put into production.
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
Since February 2014
WHERE HE FOUND IT
He bought it at a classic car auction in Arizona.
Elson took his Amphicar to local restorer AutoMat to bring the convertible back to life. “My Amphicar is a fifty-year-old car that has been restored to better than original condition,” he says. “The car was in good visual condition and AutoMat found and fixed all the mechanicals, electrical, interior and more.”
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“Be careful when you buy at auctions,” he advises. “Speak to car clubs that relate to your model car.” Experts cite rust, water seals and the high cost of parts as obvious issues on these cars. Enthusiasts can join the International Amphicar Owners Club, where drivers gather at shorelines around the country for periodic “swim-ins.” Elson recently posted a “maiden voyage” video of his ride on YouTube. A popular bumper sticker for these cars says “I Brake for Fish.”
Elson estimates the value of his restored ride at “over $100,000.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“I have always wanted this exceptional piece of German history,” he says. “You can drive on land at 70 miles per hour and then go into the water and travel at seven knots (about eight miles per hour). This is the only car that can swim with the fish. You cannot find a better Amphicar anywhere.”