Willamette River meanders through Salem, Oregon
Amphicar Antics
Bonnie Wayne McGuire

This Saturday (May 22, 2010) was a typical Spring day complete with rain, snow and hail...so we relaxed a few hours enjoying Huell Howser's adventures. Don't you love his down to earth California Gold stories spun with his cheerful southern drawl? As he puts it, "Peopleís stories are what itís all about....I want our stories to reveal the wonders of the human spirit and the richness of life in California, including its history, people, culture and natural wonders." Today Huell's episode was  his captivating ride in an amphicar. We know how thrilled he was, because we felt the same when we went for a ride in Bill and Giny's amphicar  in 2006.

Sister Giny and her husband Bill live in Salem, Oregon close to the Willamette River. During one of our visits they treated us to the wonderful experience of what it's like to drive up to a river, or lake and just keep on going. Here we go!...Hope you enjoy it too...

Not far away we encounter the Willamette Queen.

Passengers board the riverboat Willamette Queen at its home port in Salem, Oregon for an historical venture down the Willamette River to Portland. The Willamette Queen is the first sternwheeler to make the trip since 1916 when riverboat travel between the two cities was discontinued. High water required the boat's two smoke stacks be 'reclined' to gain a bare 2 feet of clearance beneath one of Salem's bridges. A highlight of the two-day excusion is passage through the locks at Willamette Falls in Oregon City. Captain Richard Chesbrough's at the helm.
Captain Chesbrough comes out to joke a bit with Bill. They'd raced their rigs before. But it's really funny to see the expressions on the faces of the passengers. Just like Huell said....the sight of a car sharing the river with boats is a mouth dropping experience.
The look on her face says it all.

The Amphicar was built in Germany from 1961 to 1968. Total production was 3,878 vehicles. It's the only civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass produced. 3,046 Amphicars were imported into the United States between 1961 and 1967. The vehicle is rear engined and uses a 4 cylinder British-built Triumph Herald motor producing 43hp. All Amphicars are convertibles, and the civilian models were originally offered in  Beach White, Regatta Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua) colors. The backbone of the Amphicar's electrics is basically a Lucas 12 volt positive ground system with certain items such as the horn, lighting and switches made by other manufacturers such as Hella and Bosch.

The Amphicar has a top speed of 7mph on water and 70mph on land. Hence, it was dubbed the "Model 770". The Amphicar is moved in the water by its twin nylon propellers. A special two-part land-and-water transmission built by Hermes (makers of the Porsche transmission) allows the wheels and propellers to be operated either independently or simultaneously. The "land transmission" is a 4-speed-plus-reverse unit similar to those found in the old Volkswagen Beetles.  The "water transmission" is a 2-speed offering unique to the Amphicar featuring single forward and reverse gears.  In the water, the front wheels act as rudders. How about a peek at one in motion?

When new the Amphicar sold for between $2,800 and $3,300, depending on the year. Later model years actually sold for less than they did earlier. No 1968 model year Amphicars were directly imported into the USA. This was because of the U.S. Government's EPA and DOT regulations went into effect beginning with 1968 model year vehicles. This caused a major financial disaster for the Amphicar Corporation since the USA sold about 90% of all Amphicars. The factory in Berlin, Germany closed for good in 1968. The remaining inventory of unused parts was eventually purchased by Hugh Gordon of Sante Fe Springs, California.  Hugh's Gordon Imports remains the Amphicar owner's primary source for spare parts.

Looking up....instead of down.
Giny's taking pictures of us as we approach the ramp.
Hope you enjoyed the ride...Here are more interesting stories about Amphicars.
Bill and Mel heading home again. This was so much fun. I guess we were the last one's that got to ride in the car before it was sold. Here's a nice story that was written about Bill and his amphicar in 2003.