Canadian Technician: The authoritative website and magazine for professional auto technicians, mechanics, automotive repair shop owners, service managers in the business of repair, maintenance in the automotive aftermarket.
By David Menzies
With the arrival of summer and in honour of that beloved bittersweet beverage, lemonade, from now until fall, we shall present a look back at some of the most memorable lemons of yesteryear on a weekly basis. We're talking design disasters, marketing misfits, engineering errors and aesthetic abominations. In short, a car owner's nightmare but a technician's dream come true.
This week, a vehicle only Aquaman would pine for: the Amphicar. Is it just me, or is the Amphicar (a half car/half boat contraption) a dead-ringer for the vehicles driven along the byways of Bikini Bottom, the fictional underwater urban metropolis that is home to Spongebob Squarepants?
Alas, the Amphicar turned out to be a bit of a cartoon comedy, too - albeit the Amphicar's humour was unintentionally funny.
Indeed, everything about the Amphicar - a vehicle that could be driven on the road and or piloted across a body of water - was a tad inexplicable. For starters, just consider the Amphicar's place of origin, Germany - a country that has precious little coastline.
Secondly, one must question the ostensible need for manufacturing such a dual-purpose vehicle in the first place. Yes, it's an engineering wonder. But has there ever been pent-up demand for such a vessel? Granted, an Amphicar might be handy for a resident of New Orleans whenever a Katrina-like hurricane blows in for an unwelcome visit. But if one is simply into boating as a hobby, how's this for a concept: buy a boat.
Design-wise, one would think that any car that's meant to spend prolonged periods submerged in water would be properly rust-proofed and undercoated. The Amphicar wasn't. Can you possibly guess what went wrong? Alas, many an Amphicar sprung a leak and sank when corrosion took lease.
Even when it stayed buoyant, it wasn't unusual for an Amphicar to sputter to a halt once water got into its engine, forcing a mechanical seizure.
As you'd imagine, making a vehicle that would do double-duty as both a car and a boat meant several "compromises" had to be made. Translation: the Amphicar wasn't exactly the Bluenose when it came to sailing the ocean blue nor was it a speedster at the track. (In 1967, Car and Driver clocked the Amphicar's 0 to 60 mph time at a less-than-scintillating 43 seconds.)
Today, the Amphicar lives on as a head-turning curiosity - and a cautionary tale for anyone still obsessed with the notion of a flying car.