Have you ever wished that you could drive through the river to avoid the traffic? Well, maybe soon you can.
Gibbs Technologies Ltd. is about to begin marketing the Aquada, a vehicle with what it calls “amphibian” technology. With just the press of a button, this sporty convertible becomes a speedboat.
The Aquada is expected to be available in the U.S. in 2009 with a price tag of $85,000, according to Holly Clark of AutoCom Associates, Gibbs’ public relations firm. The company arrived at that price by considering the cost of a motor boat and the truck and trailer typically needed to pull it, Clark said. A small fleet of pre-production models were sold in Europe in 2003, where the price exceeded $200,000.
Gibbs, which is based in the U.K., plans to move its production to the U.S. and open three companies here. One of them, Gibbs Amphibians, would manufacture the Aquada. Currently, 10 of its Aquadas are being tested in Michigan by Gibbs engineers.
The company says the vehicle can simply be driven right into the water. It takes about five seconds for the wheels to retract and for the power to switch from a four-cylinder, 175-hp V6 engine to water-jet propulsion.
(Never heard of a 4 cylinder V-6 before)
“There is a second of panic when you drive the car into the water,” Clark said, “and then it is so much fun!” More from ForbesAutos.com
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But keep in mind that some waterways may require a boat license.
The vehicle, which has a five-speed automatic transmission, can go up to 100 mph on land, and up to 30 mph on water (enough oomph to tow a water skier). It supposedly transitions from water to land just as easily as it does from land to water.
The Aquada has three seats and the steering wheel is in the middle of the dashboard. The driver sits in the center, slightly forward from the other two seats. There is no grille, for obvious reasons. All venting to the engine is from the top. There are no doors either (all the better to perfect your cool hop-in-the-car move).
The company said the vehicle was the product of a seven-year development program, more than one million man-hours, and 60 newly patented technologies. Many challenges had to be overcome in the creation of the vehicle. For example, the aerodynamics of a boat are different than that of a car; if the front of a car were lifted like the bow of a boat, the car would flip at high speeds. A white light shining backwards on a boat is mandatory, but a white light shining backwards on a car is forbidden.
Alan Gibbs, the company founder, built his first amphibious car in New Zealand in 1995 because he wanted to go boating on his holiday property without a truck and trailer. He started Gibbs Technologies in 1996 in Detroit and moved the company to the U.K. in 1999.
Gibbs plans to sell the Aquada in the U.S. in 2009 for $85,000.
He said in a press release that developments in lightweight materials, engine technology and vehicle architecture made the Aquada possible.
He also said he expects that 100,000 high-speed amphibious vehicles similar to the Aquada could be sold annually in the U.S. within five years, based on his company’s market research. That would make it the first land-and-water vehicle to be commercially successful.
Alexander Edwards, an automotive research analyst with Strategic Vision, said that 100,000 units per year in the U.S. is a “very optimistic view.” He cited the fact that sales of all automobiles currently available in the $85,000 price range is about 100,000 units per year. He also pointed out that there are about 115,000 “active” boaters in the U.S., defined as those who use their boats everyday, in some cases for transportation.