Amphicars for sale
Last updated Jan 2016
First, why you DON'T want an Amphicar !
Just using it on land. Promise looks great doesn't it, you can avoid the traffic - just drive down the river, but it's not quite that simple. First, you are never alone with an Amphicar. As soon as you stop people ask questions, most of the time that's fine, but if you are in a hurry or just feeling grumpy then it's annoying. Also you are instantly recognisable, forget GPS tracking, in an Amphicar people know exactly where you were and when, and often have a picture on their phone to prove. Finally, you have to work out where to park it, values are such that insurance companies often insist on secure parking, certainly if you are leaving it for any time. On the road it was really designed for USA maximium 55mph speed limits so gets a bit vocal if you push it any faster.
Just using it on water. Well of course you need a slipway, or some sort of ramp access to river/canal/lake. That is much more difficult than it was, ask around and reply is often "I know where there used to be one". The city of Worcester UK has a population of over 100,000 and a major river through the middle - but no slipway. I have a UK slipway guide from 1966 and there were thousands, at least 80% has now gone. Partly development, partly fashion, the popular 1960s hobby of small day sailboats has mostly gone and - most annoying of all - the modern curse of health and safety bowlucks means many are now closed or blocked for "health and safety reasons"
Of course there is the sea, but Amphicar is made of steel with aluminium internal bits and so, really, it's best to keep away from corrosive salt water.
Legalities. I'm talking UK specific for this bit, in most of the world it is much easier. It's a car, you need an MOT, classic car road insurance and road tax. That's all straightforward and easy although the values of the cars are now such that road insurance is expensive - but that's just the start. For water you need a boat MOT (called a BSS) that costs over £100 and rules are retrospective so modifications (some inappropiate and illogical) have to be made to meet "current standards". Then there is insurance for third party damage to other water users, that is problematic. And don't even think of insurance for your Amphicar against sinking or salvage, that is not available. If Amphicar sunk in a river you would need to pay for a barge and crane to remove it then pay to fix it. If it sunk in a deep lake - like Loch Ness - it's gone forever, uninsured. Then, on almost every bit of UK water you need a licence, that may or may not be possible depending on the authority, it certainly costs at least £100 a year per river - yes most rivers and lakes are licenced individually so you have to deal with each individually, all have different rules, and as Amphicar has a petrol engine of over 1000cc they will often think it's a monster speed boat so are not keen.
Maintenance. Amphicar is like no ordinary car, things are done differently, oil seals for example are fitted reversed to normal, but what is really important, as many owners have found out, is attention to detail is critical or it'll bite your bum. Now nothing is technically very difficult but it takes time and care which really percludes paying someone to do it by the hour. To do it properly just takes too long, you either have to do it yourself or maybe have an employee to do it for you - and that person needs to be enthusiastic and prepared to read the manuals and learn and understand. Related to that, preventative maintenance is key. Old cars are normally maintained on a break-fix cycle. If Amphicar breaks on water bad things could happen, to be reliable it needs aircraft style preventative and scheduled maintenance.
OK, still want one, here you go then !
Background info and buyers guide:
Amphicars are rare so expect to have to travel. Don't believe anything you read in published price guides, there simply aren't enough cars sold to make the figures anything but a guess. The biggest selection of cars for sale will normally be found on the US based International Amphicar club web site. Traditionally prices are about the same throughout the world, maybe slightly less in the USA as there is more supply, they increase year on year by somewhere betwwen inflation and the general classic car value index.
A few years ago there were some record prices achieved at auctions in the USA, in one case over $100,000. Generally though cars sell for much less and follow the trends of the classic car market. That has been very boyant in recent years, in fact boyant to the point where many expect a correction in 2016. Certainly a lot of cars appear overvalued and although Amphicar is rare it's not Ferarri 250 GTO rare, there are as many as 1000 in useable condition around the world
Like most classic cars the increasing cost of restorations and, particularly in the case of Amphicar, the shortage of people who can do the work, results in an increase "spread" or range between the best and worst cars. There are many Amphicars around that even today are beyond economic repair
For many years the difference between the best and worst cars was maybe double, now it's nearer a factor of 10.
Rust is an issue but of course fixable using conventional methods, it just takes time and effort - an incomplete car is more of a problem, especially if the transmission is unknown. The Amphicar transmission is the single most expensive part, a new one off the shelf is over $16,000 (plus shipping from California) and although they can be rebuilt and some parts are common to other vehicles it is a difficult job and not many people do it right. The complexity and special gears made of special materials means any rebuild is unlikely to be cheap - but if an Amphicar has been neglected - especially if it has been standing for a number of years - it would be prudent to assume the transmission is bad. Checking the colour and condition of transmission fluid can be an indication but driving or dismantling is the only way to be sure.
Watch out for cars covered with marine paint or any epoxy coating such as POR15. It's an absolute pain to remove it (which you will want to do) sometimes dipping the shell or blast cleaning is the only option. Once sorted Amphicars only need standard paint, cavity wax and a bit of care to keep on top of corrosion. Anything else will come back and bite your - or a future owners - bum.
A number of improvement were made around half way through Amphicar production, most noticiable are:
Removal of shields around the propellors.
Moulding at bottom of side panel - car looks better and it improves structure.
Larger driveshaft tunnels.
All these changes were good, the later cars drive better and are easier to maintain, there is no real benefit to having an early car but choose on condition, that's what matters most.
So, colours, well they come in and out of fashion now just as they did in the 1960s. Lets get the non-standard colours out of the way first, Amphicars have been painted in all sorts of colours and during the 1970s there was a fashion for two tone (one car was pink and green), yellow, silver, purple, domestic appliance white etc etc. I don't think any look as good as the original 4 colours and certainly in terms of value a colour that isn't one of the originals is likely to have a negative effect.
Red is now and always has been the most popular colour, this can either be with white side bumpers and top (generally earlier cars) or black on later cars. Another change on later cars was the dashboard painted crackle black which was very much the sports car fashion in the late 1960s, this works best with red cars.
Green. The original fjord green is a minty green with white side mouldings and white top. This was not a popular colour through the 1970s, 80s and 90s and many of these cars were resprayed red in that period but it has become much more popular in recent years (similar colours are now used on some new cars) and it suits Amphicar really well. You can buy a new Fiat 500 in almost exactly the same shade.
Blue, These cars look more 50s than 60s and generally blue was used on early cars. Like the Green it was considered dated by the end of the 60s. It can be seen with black but looks better with white. It's a less common colour now but suits Amphicar well. Green and Blue both look nice with the wide whitewall tyres (although original spec wide whitewalls are not available and the original tyres are now too old to be considered safe).
White. White was always the rarest colour of the four. Original Amphicar beach white (which is more cream or ivory) was often specified by those who wanted to signwrite their Amphcar. White cars had a red interior and normally black side bumpers and top but some cars sold in the US had red bumpers and top, cars at the 1964 New York World Trades fair were shown with this combination.
I'm happy to travel anywhere in the world to appraise an Amphicar for sale. My charge for this service is around £300 ($450US 400EUR) a day.
So, long term ownership needs more commitment than most classic cars, to use an Amphicar safely and reliably it needs to be maintained more like and aircraft with work done on the basis of time and use rather than just when it breaks !
Did I mention numbers, 3878 cars were made, 98 of those were Right Hand Drive, most of the production went to the USA, number of remaining in use or restorable cars vary but is estimated between 400 and 1000.
Cars for sale in the UK,
None at the moment. (Generally 1 or 2 cars a year pop up on the UK market)
Cars for sale in the EU,
Roy at Potomac Motors in The Netherlands is a good place to start:
Bottom line, expect to pay upwards of £40,000 - (€50,000 or $60,000 US) for a safe, reliable and sorted Amphicar.