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Making a Big Splash

What about a car that can travel across water?  An amphibious vehicle is the sort of machine that really captures my imagination and sends it spinning from one daydream to another.  But will it really be a dream for so many, or will it become a vehicle that everyone will want and everyone will be able to afford?

Across the ditch in September 2009, a few young entrepreneurs (whose daytime jobs were aeronautic engineers) managed to cross the Cook Strait in a van which they bought for $2500.  After a few essential modifications, Adam Turnbull and Dan Melling took it across the sea from Picton to Wellington.  On the open road, the van could easily travel at 100 km/h.  But on the water, its top speed was around 9 km/h.  So it’s possible.  Now where’s that arc welder?  Maybe I could do that to my Nissan Navara ute.

Now to something a little more upmarket; not a van this time, but a vehicle made in Australia and one that looks more 4×4 in its shape.  With a top speed of 100 km/h on the road, the Australian built Platypus has serious 4×4 ability and is capable of seven knots on the water.  What this machine has going for it is that it can withstand heavy seas.  The Platypus would have to be the amphibious vehicle I would prefer to be in if I was to head out to sea off the coast at Freemantle.  Boyd Wyatt, the Australian designer/builder of the Platypus amphibious 4×4, said, “I love what others have done with their amphibious concepts, but I decided to make a vehicle that was affordable to the people who would really use them.  I figure there’s a vast market of people who live in coastal regions who want a genuine, working amphibious 4×4, not a high speed US$200,000 sportscar.  So I set out to build such a vehicle under US$50,000, and I’ve done that with room to spare”.  This is a real cool vehicle, so Boyd can be contacted at should this machine tickle your fancy.

So what’s left?  The Aquada and Rinspeed.  Let’s take a look at the Saleen Aquada amphibious vehicle first.  The Saleen Aquada is a land and water vehicle that is capable of reaching 64 km/h on the water.  The Saleen Aquada drives like a sports car on the road, and then once you hit the water, the vehicle will become like a speedboat on water.  Only a very calm Sydney Harbour sea will do, however.  A lake, calm sea, meandering river or estuary is more like the place you’ll take the Saleen Aquada.  Very cool is the simple press of a button and drive into the water fun factor.  The wheels automatically rise.  Entry to the water is via beach, boat ramp, slipway or directly from the water’s edge.

The Rinspeed “Splash” is another very ingenious amphibious vehicle.  Again at the push of a button, a cleverly thought-out hydraulic mechanism transforms the sports car into an amphibious vehicle.  Frank M. Rinderknecht designed the machine, and clever it is.  A highly complex integrated hydrofoil system enables the “Splash” to ‘fly’ at an altitude of about 60 cm above the water.  On smooth water, the “Splash” is capable of reaching a top speed of about 80 km/h.

Surely we are going to see more of these types of vehicle on the road.  Maybe the Chinese will catch on, and we’ll see a mass production of cheap amphibious vehicles suddenly burst onto the market.  People are going to love driving these vehicles to work if it is going to cut their commute by 30 mins or more by venturing, via the direct route, across the water to the office.