WaterCar Panther is Ambitiously Amphibious
Just in time for summer, a new promotional video has been making the rounds for the WaterCar Panther from the self-described makers of the world’s fastest amphibious vehicles. If you’ve ever been driving along the coastline and wished you could turn towards the water and keep on going, then this could be automobile for you! For a better look at the Panther, check out this promo video:
The idea of combining cars and boats is not a new one. There is a surprising history of a part-locomotive amphibious vehicle 90 years before the dawn of automobiles. Both sides used them in World War II and one Australian man named Ben Carlin managed to find and modify one of these “Seeps” (sea-faring Jeeps), despite many sinking during the war. With his new bride, he first set off from Montreal in 1948 for a honeymoon trip around the world. It took four false starts and many mishaps but the couple finally made it across the Atlantic two years later, after 32 days at sea. They continued on, and several adventures and a divorce later, Carlin incredibly became the only man to literally drive around the world, returning to Montreal ten years later in the vehicle he fittingly called Half-Safe.
California-based WaterCar also decided on a Jeep design for their Panther. The dune-buggy-boat has taken 14 years to reach this stage, after company owner Dave March tried out a few other concepts. The first high-speed amphibious vehicle he developed was based on a Camaro’s body, but while sufficiently sexy and functional enough to pull a waterskier, it was not deemed commercially viable. The best of the original technology was migrated to the higher sitting Jeep frame, with enough ground clearance and torque to allow water entrance from the beach. While not requiring a launch ramp made it more practical from an auto technician perspective, the design team realized that a bigger boat would make handling easier. They briefly moved to a larger truck’s frame but it was starting to get too technically complex and expensive so they switched back to the Jeep.
Similar to other carmakers pursuing independent auto careers, WaterCar lowered their cost by using off-the-shelf technology. Almost all parts of the Panther can be found in other vehicles except for three proprietary components: a fiberglass haul, the frame embedded in the haul, and a transfer case that sits between the transmission and engine to switch from rear-wheel-drive to the jet pump propelling it in water.
The open-top four-seater is powered by a rear-mounted 3.7-litre V6 from the Acura MDX, which goes through a four-speed manual Mindeola transaxle on land and a Panther Jet drive through water. A hydraulic off-road suspension retracts the wheels in as little as eight seconds, allowing the Panther to coast into the water at 24 km/h and keep going. It can reach speeds of 70 km/h in water and nearly 130 km/h on land, making things quite interesting for an auto mechanic.
While the Canadian legal situation isn’t yet clear for the Panther, it needs to be registered as both a car and boat in most of the U.S. It will be interesting to see how it is regulated around the world as there are already orders for the $100,000 vehicle from as far away as Dubai. WaterCar has gotten around federal regulations by selling the Panther as a turnkey-less kit, requiring the buyer to source and install the engine, which March says takes just five bolts.
The following inspiring video shows how a couple of auto lovers took their boat-car dream to reality!