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The powerplant was the 1.1 L (1147 cc/69 in³) engine from the British Triumph Herald. Many engines were tried in prototypes but the Triumph engine was "state of the art" in 1961 and had the necessary combination of performance, weight, cool running and reliability. This engine remained in production in the Triumph Spitfire until 1979. The Amphicar engine had a power output of 43 hp (32 kW) at 4750 rpm. Called the "Model 770", the Amphicar could achieve speeds of 7 knots in the water and 70 mph (113 km/h) on land. Later version of the engine were 1300cc and 1500cc with up to 75HP. Some Amphicar owners have fitted these engines to improve performance.
Some would comment that Amphicar wasn't a very good car and wasn't a very good boat because of modest performance in and out of water but in many parts of the world it is capable of breaking the speed limits on both.
Amphicar steered with the front wheels which made it very easy to "drive" in the water but not as manoverable as a normal boat.
Production started in 1961, after 1963, cars were assembled from the parts which had been supplied for the over-estimated sales of 20,000 per year, and production ended in 1968. Most cars were sold in the United States. Cars were sold in the UK from 1964. Total production was 3,878 vehicles before the company folded.
Although perhaps somewhat underpowered by modern standards, and even described by some period reviewers of the 60s as "neither a great car nor a great boat," a well maintained Amphicar can be a remarkably agile and pleasant vehicle to drive on both land and water. The fact that such a high proportion, estimated at approx. 1,000, still exist more than forty years later of the 3,878 produced must itself serve as a testament to their very high initial production quality, and of the lengths that many owners will go to maintain and restore these beloved vehicles.
During the fourth week in July, Amphicar owners convene at Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio. These events are called Swim-ins , and are designed to give owners a chance to interact with one another.
A mint example fetched $115K plus 8% buyers premium at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale in 2006.
In popular culture
An Amphicar is featured in the James Coburn movie The President's Analyst, where Coburn and the character named "Kropotkin" use the car to make an escape. USA President Lyndon B. Johnson had an Amphicar at his ranch, a period picture shows him taking Walter Kronkite for a ride across a lake. There are also pictures of USA President Jimmy Carter driving an Amphicar. In music culture there are reports John Lennon had a white Amphicar on his English country estate around 1968. Madonna is seen driving a blue Amphicar in the 1985 video of "Start me up"