Summer’s here, folks. Time to get out on the water and have some motorized fun. But isn’t it such a bother to tow your boat all the way to the landing? What if you could just drive it there? You wouldn’t have to worry about trailer parking, and you could even go alone, in case nobody else wanted to get up so early to catch the best fish.
But finding the right amphibious vehicle can be confusing. There are so many features to consider. So we’ve devised an awards system a la Consumer Reports to help you pick out your own, each highlighting a specific and important aspect of splash-and-dash purchasing.
The Fastest Water Entry award goes to the British-built Alvis Stalwart. The Stalwart runs on a properly British Rolls Royce 6.5 liter 8-cylinder, which means that running downhill and with a decent tailwind, it can catch some air. Perfect for quick water entry. Not the quickest thing over water, though, especially with its 5 ton cargo capacity.
The Most Profit Potential award goes to this gigantic bus, operated by Splashtours in Rotterdam, Netherlands. No, it’s not fast in the water, but it’s an eye-catching yellow, and it looks safe, so your customers will drop their $20 $30 $40 like an unwanted barnacle. Note: the Splashtours bus also won the Least Appropriate Promotional Video Music award.
The Most Likely to Enter Le Mans award goes to the Sea Lion. I mean, look at it. It’s a bubble top endurance racer straight off the 1972 Mulsanne. Powered by an apex-seal spitting fun and quirky Mazda rotary engine, the Sea Lion has a claimed top speed of 120-some mph over land, and 60-ish over water. It was built to break records, so if there’s any way to quantify the coolness of a water-walking racecar, please call Guinness.
Most Seraphically Intimidating Military Hovercraft goes to the Soviet-built Zubr Class. No, you’re not safe on land. Especially if you live anywhere near a beach. A rocky shore won’t protect you, either, because the Zubr Class, as the world’s largest hovercraft, can mount a 5-foot wall with ease, then spit three tanks, or whatever configuration of its 150 ton capacity the commandant sees fit, onto your front lawn. Fighting back might not be a great idea, either, since it carries a full complement of cannons and missile launchers.
Our Longest Service Award goes to the venerable and venerated DUKW six-wheeler. Built by GMC and Sparkman & Stephens over a deuce-and-a-half chassis, the “Duck Truck” entered service in World War II ferrying men and supplies from larger landing craft to shore. The British Royal Marines still use four of them for training.
Our Most Optimistic award goes to the Amphicar, which sold from 1961-1968. The happy little German convertible worked. It really did. But with only 43 hp, it wasn’t fast, and that was trouble for America during the birth of the muscle car era. Said one owner, “”We like to think of it as the fastest car on the water and fastest boat on the road.” But if it was good enough for President Lyndon B. Johnson, it’s good enough for us.
The award for the Most Usable amphibious car goes to the Gibbs Aquada. Developed in 2004 by experts in boating and car design, the Aquada holds over 60 patents and the record for the fastest English Channel crossing in an amphibious vehicle. We chose the Aquada since its 175 hp V6 gives it a planing speed of over 30 mph, so you can tow a skier behind it, but it can also crest 100 mph on land. Plus, it copied the seating from the McLaren F1, and that’s always nice.
In service since 1986, the Landing Craft Air Cushion, or LCAC, wins our Most Practical Military Hovercraft award. It’s a little faster than the Zubr, and undoubtedly more maneuverable. It can only carry 60 tons, but only has a crew of 5. It’s the Miata to the Zubr’s Dodge Challenger. Machine guns and grenade launchers round it out nicely.
While the Gibbs did so with ease, the Least Likely to Actually Cross the English Channel award goes to Jeremy Clarkson’s Nissunk pickup truck. Clarkson has always been a pragmatist, so rather than fiddle with goofy engine configurations, he simply welded tight a Nissan pickup and dropped a giant outboard on its tailgate. And somehow…it worked.
So what say you, Academy? Any major upsets here? Any drive-to-shore machines you felt should have won instead? Talk to us at the afterparty. And by that we mean, in the comments.