Most commercially available amphibious cars have been little more than novelties. The Amphicar 770 of the 1960s, for example, kind of worked as a car and kind of worked as a boat but wasn’t particularly good in either of those roles. The ultra-niche car/boat hybrid genre has come a long way since then, and the WaterCar Panther represents the current state of the art in amphibious vehicles.
What is a WaterCar? We made a documentary about the company a few years back, so be sure to check that out above for the whole back story. Founded in 1999 by engineer and entrepreneur Dave March, WaterCar set out to build an amphibious car that could perform well both and land and sea. WaterCar’s first prototype, known as the Python, looked like a fourth-gen Chevy Camaro and succeeded at being a far better amphibious vehicle than the original Amphicar. The Corvette-powered Python set amphibious vehicle speed records in 2010, reaching 127 mph on land and 60 mph on the water. For context, the six-engine, 2,700-hp AMG-Cigarette Racing Boat tops out at 80 mph.
But because of its low ground clearance, the Python couldn’t enter the water without a boat launch. March wanted a car that could hit the waves from the beach or practically anywhere, so his team began work on the Panther, a Jeep-inspired amphibious car equipped with a hydraulic suspension that can quickly lift and lower the car depending on the driver’s needs. The Python’s Corvette engine was traded for a rear-mounted Honda 3.7-liter V-6, which drives the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox. Motivation at sea is made possible by a Panther Jet engine driven by the V-6 and located in the middle of the rear bumper. The WaterCar Panther has a manufacturer-claimed land top speed of 80 mph and maxes out at 45 mph on the water.
Sales of the WaterCar Panther began in 2013, and the company has built a number of examples since then. According to its website, prices start at $158,000 for a base turn-key Panther, and $198,000 for a custom job. We’ve reached out to the company to find out how many units it has sold to date, and will update this story if we hear back. But if you’re looking to score a WaterCar Panther for less, there happens to be one for sale in Oak Harbor, Washington. Listed for $100,000, this 2015 model is said to be the 18th Panther built and comes painted in red with gray bodyside graphics. That’s certainly a lot of coin for a Jeep-shaped watercraft, and you can build a pretty awesome off-road rig using that same amount toward aftermarket parts. But will your Jeep ever truly be “all-terrain” if it can’t cross a body of water deeper than the height of its snorkel?
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