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Cars That Can Swim

It's an idea that keeps coming back- a car that is equally at home in the water as on land. During World War II, the Germans built the Schwimmwagen or swimming car that was based on Volkwagen KdF Wagen, later the VW Beetle, via the Kubelwagen, the Nazis' VW-based Jeep. Between 1942 and 1944, over 15,000 Type 166 Schwimmwagens were built by VW and Porsche making it the most mass-produced amphibious car, ever. During WWII, the Allies had the Ford Jeep-based GPA "Seep" as well as the larger amphibians like the Studebaker Weasel and GMC DUKW "Duck."

Between 1961 and 1968, some 3,878 Amphicars were built in Germany with over 3,000 exported to the U.S. President Johnson had one at his Texas ranch and photos show President Carter driving an Amphicar. It was designed by Hanns Trippel, who is credited with designing the Schwimmwagen. The Amphicar was powered, or more aptly underpowered, by a 43-horsepower, 4 cylinder engine from the British Triumph Herald located in the rear. In the water, it was propelled by its twin nylon propellers and was steered by the front wheels serving as rudders. It was titled the Amphicar 770 because of it top speeds, 7 mph in the water and 70 mph on the highway.

Gibbs Technology Ltd. in the United Kingdom has developed the Aquada, an amphibious sports car with a composite body. The car features what the company calls High Speed Amphibian (HAS) technology that results in a 110 mph top speed on land and 32 mph in the water with great maneuverability. Indeed, the company has a video showing the Aquada pulling a water skier.

When approaching water simply push a button to automatically start the transition from car to watercraft. The hydraulic Retracting Suspension System lifts each wheel and tire assembly and retracts them into the wheel housing to greatly reduce drag in the water. This allows much higher speed compared to previous amphibious vehicles. Sensors makes sure the Aquada is in the water, not still on land, when wheels are retracted. Also, the transverse engine, transmission and power-take-off convert from conventional road travel mode to water mode. Now, the PTO powers the jet pump for propulsion and steering in the water. The water jet may be run in reverse to provide a low speed reversing capability The hull has a keel fin for directional stability and chines and strakes give exceptional maneuverability.

Rodedawg International Industries, Inc. offers an amphibious 4x4 built by the Beijing Automotive Works, Ltd. Based on the BJ5022 amphibious military reconnaissance vehicle used extensively by China's Peoples Liberation Army, it is available in three versions - eight passenger 4x4 SUV, four passenger 4x4 crew cab truck and six passenger 4x4 convertible. Rodedawgs comes with plush interiors and can be fitted with amenities like a sunroof and air conditioning. Since they are hand built, they can be ordered custom built to buyer's desires.

The Rodedawg is powered by a 2.8-liter, 91-horsepower Isuzu turbocharged diesel engine. For water travel, the vehicle is motivated by a rear propeller. Top speed is 70 mph on the highway and 6 to 8 mph in the water. Steering both in the water and on-land is done by the front wheels with power assist used.