Video: The return of amphibious cars

updated 8/10/2006 11:02:15 AM ET 2006-08-10T15:02:15

A motor coach with all the style and convenience of home, isn’t so new anymore. But let me float this by you: You’re driving along the highway, you come to some water and you just keep going.

“Typical until you see the back and the propellers. It’s an amphibious vehicle,"said Amphibious Manufacturers Vice President, Julie Giljam.

Julie Giljam and her husband John, the designer, own Cool Amphibious Manufacturers. Their philosophy: Any vehicle should be able to pull up to the highway service stop and the lakeside marina.

“When you take it from land to water and people don’t know what it is, people freak. We’ve had people run down with chains; people call 911 and tow trucks. You don’t expect to see a motor coach on the water, and even better is when the water boats come up. We tell them we’re lost. Do you know the way to I-95?,"said Giljam.

John Giljam first built a boat. Then he put a motor coach, built from scratch, on top of it.

All tricked out, the Hydra-Terra costs about $1.2 million. Slightly more than the company’s bread and butter tour bus: The Terra Wind.

“It seats forty-nine passengers and two crew. Runs eight knots on the water and does tours in cities," said Julie.

There are thirty-three out there on the road and water. With a price tag of about $220,000.

“We’re all brand new technology. It’s the only vessel proven unsinkable. Pull the plugs out of the bottom of Hydra Terra with forty-nine passengers and their feet don’t even get wet,"said John.

If you want to get wet, slide behind the wheel of the Hydra Spyder on the water. Technically it’s an SUV because of the size and weight. But, car is not a proper term for it as far as technicalities go.

“You’re getting the Spyder 4-seat convertible. Comes with a Corvette engine. Proven to put out 470hp, 5-speed manual transmission. Full marine package. That’s a base unit," said John.

The Spyder is 7-feet wide and 18-feet long. On the road think about 120mph at 15-16 miles per gallon. On the water you can open it up to 60mph. Sure it’s cool, but it will cost you. The base model is $155,000. If you want some bells and whistles it is close to $200,000 and don’t forget the insurance – you’re going to need the policy for a car and a boat.

“In the manual it’s going to say to wear the life jacket. Do I expect anybody to put it on? No. Probably not," said John.

As you’re approaching water from the road, what do you have to do? It’s just like any boat. Put the plug in the back. Drive into the water and flip two buttons. The wheels come up, the doors close. It converts to marine mode and takes about ten seconds.

From conception to water it took about nineteen months to develop and some serious cash.

“I told my wife to quit telling me when we got past $600,000. Last I knew we had gone past $800,000,"said John.

John doesn’t think he’s spinning his wheels. Within eighteen months he hopes to be able to start producing about 60-70 Spyders per year.

“There are not hundreds of thousands of people who are knocking our door down. But, people are interested in it. It’s a rich man’s toy. Yes, that’s correct. If you’re going to spend $200,000 on a car, you are a rich man. And, it is a toy.


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