Q: Greg I enjoyed your column on the update on flying cars quite a bit and I’ve achieved an age of wisdom that tells me these flying cars are still not ready for prime time. I’m also following the advancements in drone technology and the impact those will have on personal flying opportunities sans car and airport. Wisdom still prevails but I like where that is going and the apparent speed of the advances needed to achieve that.
You responded to a reader who asked about the Amphicar, another of my young man passions! My accumulated knowledge had not entirely dismissed the survivability of that dream, so I actively sought getting one of those for a couple of years as I found them to be really cool little cars/boats.
In reality, the Amphicar was neither a great car, nor a great boat, but a really great amphibious vehicle. (Maybe a good therapy project too).
Unfortunately, I discovered that I was a little late finding an affordable restorable project and really couldn’t justify or fund a road/sea worthy Amphicar either. So I turned to my garage and some rudimentary skills and produced a reasonable facsimile that I call AquaBuggy.
I thought at the very least you would find it an amusing diversion and a fair exchange for the enjoyment you provided me with your article. You can find some information on it at www.aquabuggy.com
It is a scratch built accumulation of parts that finds its miles on the local roads, lakes and rivers in the greater Davenport and Quad City area. While it is a ‘Frankenstein’ monster of sorts, I’d like to think my skills rendered a ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ result. Less of an assault on the eyes if you will.
Hope you find it worth the click, thanks for the fun article. Gary Sloat, email from Davenport, Iowa.
A: Gary, your creation is indeed more a good looking Bride of Frankenstein than the monster itself. After clicking your internet link, I was not surprised to see your well built, great looking AquaBuggy. It really is a fine example of building your own little car/boat from scratch and I’m sure it outperforms the original Amphicar in several areas.
Your buggy looks to be one of the many kit car buggys offered as far back as 1959 that were completed with the addition of a Volkswagen Beetle drivetrain. I used to attend many Buggy oval and off-road races back in the 1970s and being 100-percent road worthy, the VW buggys were all over the place. You can find them to this day at very reasonable prices and several companies still sell parts to keep them running.
However, your AquaBuggy is not a kit car Buggy by any means, as it currently is the only one I know of that floats, Thus, I contacted Gary for more details on the build.
“I cobbled all the parts together over several years. It’s a 1960's era fiberglass buggy body on a custom built frame. I describe the hull as a surfboard, and it’s formed with Styrofoam encased in fiberglass and attached to the frame. It draws about eight-inches not including wheels at full sag. The boat outdrive motor is from 1968 and I’ve had it going six-mph on a lake and a little faster going downstream in the river. Not getting all of the engine power out to the outdrive yet and I’m not sure it will but that would be exceptional. I romance the idea of retiring to build a few of these on spec but still have kids in High School and college. Might never happen but I like building stuff and can stick with it to completion despite skeptics. Thanks for sharing my folly with your readers.”
There are several AquaBuggy videos and photos posted on Gary’s link, which takes you to his Facebook page. I found out further that Gary is the Director of IT (Internet Technology) for his Davenport school district during the day and an undocumented garage engineer on weekends.
Interacting with Gary was enlightening, and he sure deserves credit for what he’s accomplished. As for the VW Buggy popularity, today Volkswagen has produced an electric prototype official VW Buggy currently being shown at car shows. There are some rumors VW just might produce for consumption soon to the joy of the many VW powered Buggy owners who still enjoy dune buggy style vehicles.
Also, I received several letters from readers about the Amphicar. One Pennsylvanian pointed me to a Disney Springs, Orlando, company called the The BoatHouse, which is not only a great restaurant it is a very special attraction that features 25-minute tours in real, completely restored Amphicars. Please see theboathouseorlando.com/amphicar-tours/ for complete information.,
The BoatHouse notes that it is the only place in the world that offers the unforgettable experience of a tour in a vintage, completely restored, Amphicar, of which less than 400 exist today. Their fleet of Amphicars was purchased from private collections worldwide.
Thanks Gary Sloat for your kind words and letting us know about your very cool amphibious AquaBuggy you created.