Amphicar Forum Admin
The Amphicar Buyers FAQ
by Mike Israel
by Mike Israel
As you can see, this FAQ is terribly out of date, especially as it pertains to pricing. In recent years, the price of Amphicars has risen dramatically. A few things have contributed to this. First, the quality of many of the cars has increased significantly. As they have risen in value, it becomes easier to cost justify a top notch restoration. Likewise, many previously unavailable parts have been reproduced by folks like Hugh Gordon, Dave Deerer, Allan Wilcox, and others. Second, the interet, sites like this, and the Amphi owners club have helped people realize that these cars are not abandoned, there is a robust support network. The larger collector community has also taken notice of the Amphicar. 2 years ago one sold at Barrett Jackson for over $100k. This was considered an anomoly. Still, nicer Amphicars now regularly exchange hands at prices around $60k.
What remains unchanged below are the things prospective buyer should look for. Just remember, the bar has been raised. What was considered a top notch Amphicar in 2002 might only be considered average today. Also keep in mind that these have proven to be great investments. In 2002 I would have taken $25k for my Amphi. That same car has since undergone a FULL restoration and today I would not sell her for less than $65k.
August 2002. I have updated the FAQ to add some new information on pricing, parts, etc. Since this FAQ was first written more than two years ago a lot has changed. A number of factors have converged to make the Amphicar more popular than ever, the internet had really brought owners together and established a wealth of information that was not there until recently. The International Amphicar Club (http://www.amphicar.com) has new leadership and has really grown. The 2002 club meeting in Celina, OH had more than 60 Amphicars in attendance. The amphicar digest has grown to over 250 subscribers. Many new parts have become available, prices have gone up, cars have gotten better. It was time to update the FAQ.
So, you've been bitten by the waterbug and you want to buy an Amphicar. I can not blame you a bit. The Amphicar is, in many ways, the most extraordinary vehicle ever built. The creative engineering that went into it is a thing to be admired. The Amphicar attracts more attention than even the most expensive exoticar. For many people simply seeing one inevitably leads to owning one. They must be maintained but are fairly easy to work on. Compared to the Amphi, every other car is still just a car!
Before you dive in let me share some of my own, albeit limited, experience. Note that these opinions are my own and others may disagree.
Table of Contents
- Before you begin ... ?
- Where can I find Amphicars for sale?
- Should I buy one restored or should I restore it myself?
- How much do they cost?
- First contact with the seller?
- First Swim
- This document is Under Construction .. Additional Sections will follow soon.
OK, I do not want to burst your bubble but lets do an honest evaluation here. The Amphicar is not for everyone and if you are not going to give it a good home then I do not want you to buy one! If you get past this section and still want an Amphicar then there is nothing that will stop you from fulfilling your quest. A few things to keep in mind before you begin .
First off, realize that owning an Amphicar is not quite the same as owning an old Mustang or other classic and is certainly not the same as owning a new Miata. For starters, the maintenance requirements are much higher, especially if you use the car in the water. You probably should not think of your Amphi as a "second car". While the Amphi is certainly more fun than any vehicle you could ever own it does have its limitations. Even when new, the Amphi was regarded as a mediocre car and a mediocre boat. Most Amphicars have very low mileage and one must consider why so many owners put so few miles on them. The Amphicar lacks many of the safety and convenience which we take for granted in all modern cars. While there are some distance drivers, most Amphi owners use a trailer for any trip beyond 50 miles or so.
Do you have mechanical skills, or at least are you willing to learn? While the Amphi itself is generally sturdy you will find yourself doing a lot of tinkering, greasing, and maintenance. Note that you will not be able to drive down to the Amphicar dealer and there are not many mechanics around who have ever even seen an Amphicar. Regardless of the condition of the car when you buy it keep in mind the saying that "old stuff is old stuff". All Amphicars are now almost forty years old and the remaining NOS parts are the same age. Things will break and your ability to fix them will make Amphicar ownership much more enjoyable. The one saving grace is that Hugh Gordon Hugh of Gordon Imports Inc. provides exemplary support to the Amphi owner , he will gladly spend hours on the phone answering your questions and guiding you along.
Have you ever driven or rode in an Amphi? Why not contact a member of the Amphicar club and arrange for a ride. Of course, for many people this will convince them that they want an Amphicar beyond a doubt. The person wanting a racing boat to tow water skiers will probably be dissuaded. Likewise, if you do not like attracting attention then you do not want an Amphicar. The Amphi is like a celebrity wherever it goes. You can expect cameras, camcorders, and lots of questions from onlookers.
Finally, many new Amphicar owners assume that the car is an assemblage of VW and Triumph parts. This is simply not the case as many of the parts are unique to the Amphi itself. The good news is that virtually all parts are available through Gordon Imports, Inc. The bad news is that the scarcity of some of these items makes them very expensive (think in terms of Ferrari parts more so than VW parts).
So, are you still ready to take the plunge? If so, read on ....
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Where can I find an Amphicar for sale... ?
Prior to purchasing my own Amphicar I had only actually seen two others and both were in museums. Fortunately, you should be able to find one outside of a museum but you will likely do some traveling to find the right one. I live in Pennsylvania but I purchased my own Amphi in Virginia. Prior to that I had looked at another in Georgia which seemed OK but was a a bit high priced given the rust problems in critical areas like the hood. While my car is now very close to a state I am pleased with I likely could have saved some money by looking at other Amphis first . Do not rush into a purchase, there are enough of them out there that the right car/boat will come along at the right price. (FYI, I also tell others to back up their hard drives regularly).
If you have decided that you want a "like new" Amphicar, and have the funds, you can not go wrong by giving Hugh Gordon a call at Gordon Imports Inc. Hugh will sell you an Amphi which has been fully refurbished from his stockpile of parts. In January 1999 the going price to place an order for one of Hugh's cars was $34,000 dollars. I need to validate the numbers but I think they are now pushing $45k. Given the condition of these cars they are actually a real bargain. Currently Hugh has a back-log of orders. Since he does all of the work himself you may have to wait a while to take delivery. I am told that the time from order to delivery is now almost four years and he is not currently taking orders (check with him to confirm).
As for other Amphicars, if you are reading this then you are already linked into one of the best places to find them. Many owners list their cars with the International Amphicar Club. During the warmer months I am told that the club listing generates about a sale per month. You may also want to check out some of the on-line classifieds such as Trader On-Line. It is harder to find cars advertised during the winter months but from what I have observed prices tend to be considerably lower in the off season.
In terms of traditional print there is Hemmings Motor News, a monthly publication available in many bookstores. In my experience the cars in Hemmings tend to be a bit on the high side but not by too much. I am sure the prices advertised are open to negotiation. I have never seen an Amphi advertised in the local paper but you can always look.
Finally there are the classic car auctions. Amphicars at auctions seem to bring in some very high prices for what are often just fair cars. A down side here is that you will probably not get the chance to take the car for a drive, let alone a swim. Here are some results from recent Kruse Auctions.
Approximately every six months someone reports buying an Amphi at an estate sale, from an old barn, etc. at some amazingly low price. If you ever come across one of these barnyard bargains and do not buy it yourself, please, please let me know about it. Make sure you tell me before you tell Mike Echeman or Hugh Gordon .
Once you have done your homework, and can tell a good Amphi from a bad one, be prepared to move quickly. The right car at the right price will sell very quickly. If you take a week to "think about it" then you may have missed your chance. You may be saying, "wait a minute, earlier he said not to rush into anything". Just to clarify, do not rush into a purchase without learning about Amphicars first. However, once you are an educated consumer be ready to move quickly.
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Should I buy one restored or restore it myself?
This is a question which many buyers will grapple with, especially if they come across an Amphi that "needs minor restoration". For many, this is a subject even more sensitive than religion or politics. There is no one right answer, much depends on what you want from the car, your level of skills, patience, tools, and what your spouse will let you drag home. Once again, the opinions expressed are my own, feel free to agree or disagree.
For some owners there is a real joy in taking a bucket of iron oxide and reshaping it back into a car. There are some truly fabulous Amphicars out there which started out looking more like scrap iron than anything else. If cost and time are no object there is nothing like knowing that the work was done right because you did it yourself or at least supervised the restoration. This certainly beats buying a car that looks good on the surface but sends fifty pounds of body filler flying the first time you slam on the brakes. A few words of advise before proceeding along this route.
Be very cautious of abandoned restoration projects, this applies to any car. There are lots of little pieces to an Amphicar that need to be reassembled just right. If a large portion of the car is in unlabeled boxes you may find yourself with an incomplete, unsolvable jigsaw puzzle. If this is your fifth Amphicar restoration it may be another story but otherwise be careful.
Do not underestimate the cost of restoration. I know of one owner who picked up a "bargain" Amphicar. At this point he is $12,000 into body work alone and will be needing a lot of parts down the road. Unless you can do it yourself, good body work is not cheap. Even if you do your own work, paint and other products are quite expensive. Trust me, all of those little trim pieces, rubber gaskets, etc. add up very quickly. If you need a transmission they are increasingly scarce and now cost more than many people paid for their complete Amphicars.
Do not underestimate the time requirements. Many people who have restored their Amphicars report that it took two years or more before their first swim.
Have a plan. Go over the car carefully and determine what needs to be done in what order. If you are going to pull the engine to refinish the engine compartment then this is also the time to replace items like the clutch.
Should you decide to purchase an already restored car you will likely save money and will certainly save time. This is especially true for the higher quality restorations. The advantage is that the car will be immediately useable, the disadvantage is that you will not know the car as well as one you tore down yourself. How to examine such vehicles is covered later in this document.
Ask yourself what you want out of the Amphicar and how much time / money you want to invest. If you are looking to create a show quality car then start with the very best one you can afford. The price of replacement parts, body work, etc., can easily run to $60,000 if you are attempting to turn lead into gold. On the other hand, a car that may require $10,000 in metal restoration to make perfect could well be made fully serviceable for 1/5th that amount (hooray for fiberglass). A solid but cosmetically challenged Amphi is still as much fun as a perfect one.
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How much do they cost?
Since Amphicars are quite rare it is difficult to place a consistent actual value on them. The following is based solely on my own observations of asking prices. It would seem reasonable that some negotiation takes place. I have also noticed that prices tend to be higher in the Summer than in the Winter.
A fully restored ("as new") Amphicar will cost you $34,000 from Hugh Gordon as of January 1999 (I believe it is considerably higher now). These cars are restored to the highest quality and if you can afford it are the way to go. Unless you stumble across a car with 8 miles on it that has never been in the water this should represent the high limit. Some other possible exceptions might include 1st class restorations with upgrades such at the 1500 engine (not original but much faster).
The most expensive Amphicar I have seen was approximately $50,000. This car had 9 miles on it and had been in a heated showroom since new. It was sent to Gordons for restoration and is probably the finest example in existence.
True "project cars" or "basket cases" seem to vary even more widely. I know of one person who found a free parts Amphi with a "Please Get This Thing Out of my Yard" sign hanging from it. It was not much of a car but it had a lot of valuable parts. I have also seen people pay as much as $8,000 for what can kindly be described as "challenging projects".
Yes, there are exceptions to these rules and there are a few owners who picked up their Amphicars at prices the rest of us would rather not hear about.
The price of some Amphicars may seem high simply because the owner does not really want to sell but would certainly take top dollar if offered. You will not see these cars advertised but if asked the owner will often quote a price. I have no intention of parting with my own Amphicar but when someone asks I tell them $24,000 (which is a bit more than it is worth so I would probably take it and then buy another Amphi). I know another owner who does not want to sell his either but quotes $15,000 on what is frankly a very rough car . This "reluctant seller" syndrome further confuses the whole issue of Amphicar pricing. In other cases, owners will have spent far more than the car is worth on restoration and are then trying to recoup their investment. Of course you may also encounter the opposite situation, that being the anxious seller who needs cash and will take any offer within reason (recent stock market plunges have increased the likelihood of this scenario).
Nothing speaks like experience. From time to time I survey Amphi owners to find out what they have bought or sold their cars for in the real world. Before getting to specific examples, here are some words on the subject from Mike Echeman. Mike has bought and sold more Amphis than most of the original dealers.
August 2002. Amphicars still shock me when I think about how they have really
entered the big time price wise. They are very much in demand and bring some very respectable prices. It's up to the individual buyer and seller but my thoughts regarding where prices seem to be are as follows.
There are many different opinions out there. No one can address each possibility and factor which can effect price. The only thing for certain is that Amphicars are quite valuable these days.
1. $4 to 6000.00 (rusty but complete with no real body damage other
than substantial rust. Doesn't run, engine may be froze but can be
2. $7-9000.00 (runs but won't swim, needs work)
3. $9-15,000.00(this is a wide range. These cars run and swim but
are not cosmetically where they should be.
4. $16 to 20,000 (this is a pretty nice car which looks good, works
good, but still won't be perfect.
5. $21-25000.00 ( this is a tough bracket where you might find alot
of different cars. Ideally this is a pretty nice car but one which may
have had a quick resto and/or has been restored from a poor shells to
begin with. It would not judge well. It may not hold up well. It's probably missing those minor "correct details" which some would not notice but a true collector would not accept.
6. $26-30,000 (this is where you might or should find nice
originals. These are cars for example which might have original quarters(and we know that is not common on an amphi) which are still presentable but may soon need repaired. The original quarters will tell the informed amphi buyer that most likely the car has been well kept and is very solid. Once the quarters are repaired correctly the buyer is ready for years of enjoyment without major rust repairs showing up in a few years.
7. $31,000 and up( These are cars which came from group #6 which
were not only excellent cars to begin with but have had quality repairs or upgrades). Obviously top notch restorations would also be in this group. The current price on a Gordon Imports like new restoration is in the $45K range with a substantial waiting period.
I discussed the above assessment with David Chapman a well know Amphicar expert from the UK. He agrees and wanted to mention that prices in Europe are within 10% of the usual US prices. He said they are a bit softer in Germany at the moment.
Thanks for your website to help educate the future amphicar owner. It should be noted that many Amphicars are sold which cross price ranges and conditions. Bargains can still be found. In general I don't feel Amphicar buyers can be well informed unless they have owned one in the past. It's unlike any other vehicle and you almost need to own one to get a feel for quality, price and condition. Present owners and future buyers are lucky to have a supply of parts, quality amphi repair and restoration shops to rely on and a great group of owners. Now that alone makes an Amphicar worth owning!!!
On to some specific examples ...
An Amphi owner out West says:
Hi Mike. Heres my info.
- What was the asking price? $10500
- What was the selling price? $10500
- Year Purchased: 2002
- Where did it get sold through (ebay, paper, etc). Ebay "Buy it Now"
- What was the honest condition of the car? Good shape, unrestored. Needed new top tune up new generator and regulator, and minor battery tray rust repair to float.
- How much money did it need to make it "right" So far... Roughly $ 1500. This includes a few extras, Petronics, Water puppy bilge pump Amphicar service sign ... and so on...
- Any other comments. I feel I got an excellent deal having found the car on ebay from a local seller.
Another West Coast Amphi owner says:
I paid $12,000 in November, 2001. The asking price was $12,500. I bought it in Canada off of this Yahoo list. It cost me $1400 to ship it to California via enclosed carrier. After registering the car, I was able to drive in the water right away without doing anything to it. Upon its purchase, I bought a rubber floor mat, some door seals, and I am now, after maybe 50-75 trips into the water, replacing all the tranny seals and the clutch disk (which was damaged due to oil leaking through the worn out pilot shaft oil seal). Condition? Solid mechanically. Needs cosmetic work (leakage abatement) and a new paint job. It leaks somewhat, but not enough to make it dangerous in the water unless the bilge pumps broke or if I were to stay in for hours and hours (which I would probably never do anyway even if it were watertight!).
An Amphibian down South notes (Aug 2002):
HI MIKE. I HAVE SOLD 2 AMPHIS LATELY. # 1 ASKED 14,000 SOLD 12,000
CONDITION #4 USEABLE BUT NEEDED LOTS TO BE RIGHT 10,000? # 2 ASKED
22,500. SOLD 20,000. THIS WAS IN JAN 2002. VERY NICE CAR PROBABLY
NEEDED 2,500. TO BE MINT. SOLD BOTH THRU THE CLUB WEB SITE.THANX!
P.S. WE JUST BOUGHT 4 CARS FOR 17,000. 1 NICE ORIG.
1SOLID, APART. 1 SAVABLE 1 PARTS..
Another one purchased in 2001
- What was the asking price? Ebay auction with a minimum reserve of around $6,000
- What was the selling price? We won the auction at $6,400
- Where did it get sold through (ebay, paper, etc). Ebay
- What was the honest condition of the car? Rear lower quarters for about the last 4" rusted through severly. Some missing parts, such as lenses, horn, etc. All windows were busted out by kids while sitting in a field. Overall a very restorable amphicar that other than rear quarters was very solid.
- How much money did it need to make it "right" Not there yet but expecting about $10,000 minimum.
- Any other comments. Looking forward to finishing the car!
Yet another one from out West ...
Hello, bought last year (2001). Excellent body up resto. Near concourse quality. Found through club. Paid $28,500. Have put $1500 into it. Feel it would sell for $32k-$35k today. Needs nothing. Has 100 miles on resto. Found it to be cheaper to buy already done, if done right, as this one was. Actually thinking of selling. No time to use-better to have someone use it. Know anyone looking for a very correct/nice one?
In the heartland of America ...
Purchased: Nov 99
Asking price: Online auction. Opening bid was a mere $500.00. $2,000.00 reserve.
Selling price: You mean what I paid for her? $2,500.00. DIRT as far as I'm concerned!
Sold through: Would rather not name the online auction as I continue to search for another.
Honest condition: Poor. Motor seized, all quarters needed repair,new door skins,misc. rust
repair throughout, missing one visor and one backup lens.
$ to make it right: So far spent $8000.00 on body and she's ready for paint. If I'm lucky I might sink
another $3000.00 into her thus investing a total of $13,500.00. Reality could get
me to around $15,000.00.
Here is a posting from Bill:
Mike, I purchased a red 62 off e-bay in October 2001. It was located in Chicago and described as apart, but complete. I factored my cost for getting it to Bellevue Washington into the purchase price and would say that I paid just under $10,000.00 for it. It is COMPLETELY apart. Brake lines off, all brake parts in boxes wiring harness out, pedals out, steering column apart. It is a "rolling chassis" at minimum level. The engine/transmission was tossed in the engine compartment and fully assembled. The transmission was advertised as "supposed to have been rebuilt". The engine was not seized, however had not been attempted to start. The windshield is a piece of plastic. the side glass was all in the car and had sloppy overspray on it. It came with a new interior kit. It appeared from the photos and conversations that this car was someone's project that ended upon their death. It looked like it could be painted with little prep work and reassembled. The bad news, The body filler had never cured properly. Either due to poor mixing or high humidity when applied or just bad product. When the body shop tried to sand and prep it for paint the filler on the car was like goo. The net result is that instead of $1500.00 for paint I will probably spend $5500.00 to remove the goo and re-do it. I don't blame the seller for this, I don't see how he could have known. The good news! I also have a Blue 64 that I had Bill Syx do the bodywork and paint on. I have an engine that needs to be reassembled and a NEW transmission that I bought from Gordon's 6 years ago for that car. In order to speed up the process of getting the 64 driving I put the engine/transmission from the red one into the blue one (after test running it on the ground). The engine runs GREAT. It does not smoke or have any funny noises and idles good. The transmission shifts fine in all gears and the props turn both ways. The clutch does not seem to chatter or slip. In short, the power unit is great! The transmission seems noisy to me but I do not have seats or sound deadening installed yet. I have been told that Amphicar transmissions are quite noisy and I am hoping that mine is normal. Final Impression. I got a fair deal. I had not expected the body filler problem, but the good powertrain offsets that. It has a new interior kit ($800.00 worth and I think I got a new top too) After paint and finding the "missing links" I estimate I will have spent about $18000.00 for a car that will rate about a 8.5 to a 9.0 on a scale of 1-10.
California Amphi Owner Says:
I own three Amphicars. The first one was purchased about ten years ago and the restoration process is still not quite complete. After attending Celina two years ago and watching everyone having a great time with THEIR Amphicars (sure, I hitched a few rides with some wonderful folks), I jumped on a car for sale in the Jan/Feb 2001 newsletter. The asking (and selling) price of $8950 was a steal. A 1964 in good floatable condition, all original (it shows its age in places but is a good drivable car). I went through it and changed all the hoses, front wheel bearings, engine and trans mounts, rechromed the front bumper and headlight rings, powder coated the wheels, new tires, battery, floor mat, and a few other things. Probably spent about $2000 since the purchase. Oh yes, the third one. While purchasing number 2 above, the seller threw in (for free) another one because I expressed such an interest in the poor little "parts" car sitting in the shed. It was missing some of the rear drive train, suspension parts and door (which I've since located and replaced). The floor pan is also a bit rusty but it will float again!
Here is a February 1999 posting from Neil Gorman who purchased his Amphicar in 1998:
I paid 19,500 last year for a strong Amphi. Was a trailer queen, mid #1; now
strong #2 after driving and swimming. To have paid less and to have gotten
less would have been sheer folly. With the cost of transport (Ohio to Louisiana)
and taking a remarkable restoration to a higher level with Hugh's help, I'm still in
for less than 22,000.
Have turned down more than that from one fellow with a 72' Hatteras. He wanted
it for a "dinghy" on davits on the bow of his yacht. Could have gotten more than
25k easily, maybe 30k (he really wanted it as did another mariner). But, the salt
water and atmosphere here would have torn it up. .... I love my '66 and its NOT
for sale, at any price.
Another owner, with a beautifully restored Amphi states (in 1999):
I would say that my car is worth around $18,000. (from the looks of what other people
ask for cars, it would be higher, but I think many of the cars for sale are priced too high.
I guess what I'm saying is the $18K is a good number, not an unrealistic one).
Here is a lengthier story but I thought it was a good one from someone who is now on his 3rd Amphi.
Somehow, all Amphicar lovers catch the disease. Here is my story.
I always wanted to include an Austin Healy 3000 in my car collection.
English cars were my first love! Hemming's Motor News was my source for the
years of searching that I did. I kept seeing Amphicars listed as "Am" is
just before "Au". I had always loved lakes and kept thinking that an
Amphicar would be a great way to explore the numerous small lakes located in
my town (Valparaiso, Indiana). I had always wanted to do that.
I probably read at least 10 articles written by a variety of automotive
journalists from many car magazines. They all said the same thing. "It is a
terrible car and a terrible boat and it should have never been built".
Luckily, against my better judgment, I looked at a car in Andersen, Indiana
in June of 1991. When I asked the owner "How is it in the water?", he
responded by saying "Oh no, I hate water. I bought the car because I thought
it would be a novel car to fix-up, but I would never take it off the road!"
I knew of Hugh Gordon, so I phoned him. He suggested that I get a garden
hose and fill the car with water to test it for leaks. This seemed logical,
and after convincing the seller that he should let me do it, I proceeded
with the strangest thing that I had ever done. Miraculously, it didn't leak
a drop, so I bought it for $9300.
I had told my wife about my Amphicar research, so she thought that I was
nuts. I wondered if I was!
It didn't take long for me to realize that these articles proved that
automotive journalists don't know what they are talking about. I was raised
around boats and know lots about cars and I couldn't figure out what these
guys were talking about. You people know how great Amphicars are. In my
opinion, these magazine articles helped put the nails in the coffin!
I am now on my third Amphicar; I ordered a restored one from Hugh. Remember,
the restoration wasn't rushed. It was finished in September of '99. This car
is great and I will probably keep it indefinitely, unless I find a right
hand drive car! If anyone has a lead, please notify me.
I always tell people that "Amphicars are only good for one thing: fun!"
First find the right car and then worry about the price. As with all classic cars, the addage to buy the best that you can afford probably applies. The key is to do your homework ahead of time so that you do not spend as much for a wreck as you should for a gem.
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First Contact with the Seller
So, you have just spotted an ad for the Amphicar of your dreams. It is your favorite color, and the price seems right. At this point it is time to act quickly but not in haste. Fairly priced Amphis in good condition tend to sell quickly but this does not warrant buying one sight unseen. It is time to give the seller a call.
I will not the quality work that others have already done. Instead, I strongly urge you to print out and read the Used Car Buyer's Checklist which was originally published for British Cars by the Scions of Lucas. Most of the material is applicable to all vehicles including Amphicars. Start with this document first but then add the following questions (after all, the Amphi is also a boat).
1. Is the car complete? Are any parts missing or damaged?
This is very important as certain Amphicar parts are either difficult to locate or very expensive. Items such as the Rust in the rear fenders is common and can be repaired, extensive rust in areas such as the rear deck-lid, hood, or doors is quite a problem. Trim pieces (i.e. chrome bits) are available but they are not cheap. The cost of a replacement pole light will leave you gasping for air. Pay particular attention to the transmission as this is the single most expensive item on the Amphicar. By now you should have ordered a copy of the parts catalog from Gordon Imports. Price out the missing items to see where you stand.
2. Is the car currently licensed, insured and inspected (where required)?
In my experience many owners who are trying to hide serious mechanical problems will hide behind the excuse that the car is not registered, inspected, insured, whatever. They will use this as an excuse for why you may not drive the vehicle out on the open road. This is not always the case but should raise a caution flag. If the car has been sitting in a barn for 20 years you should not expect it to be registered, etc. If the vehicle is lacking one of these items is there an area where the owner will be able to let you drive it (at cruising speed with some turns thrown in)?
3. Is it seaworthy? When did it last swim? Will the owner demonstrate it in the water?
An Amphicar that is not seaworthy is equivalent to an airplane that can not fly. I looked at one car where the owner stated that it was certainly seaworthy but would probably need new door seals before taking it in the water. This translated into, the hull leaks like a sieve, every seal is dry rotted, and the bilge pump is useless. If the current owner uses the car regularly both on land and in the water then there is probably little question regarding the cars ability to float. If it has not been in the water, and the owner does not want to take it there this does not rule the car out as a candidate it simply should factor into the evaluation and the price. Of course if you are buying a car in the middle of winter and every body of water is frozen then do not expect to water test the car. Again, the various seals are readily available but expect to spend almost $300 dollars to replace them all. If the car has leaks due to rust just remember that rust damage is almost always worse than it appears.
Now keep in mind that there are two types of Amphicar owners in the world. Those whose cars leak some water into the hull and liars. Seriously, most Amphicars will take on some water. The key is that they should NOT be taking on lots of water. My car, which seems consistent with what many other owners report, will take on what I estimate to be about 2-5 gallons in a 15 minute session of active swimming. This is well within the capacity of the bilge pump which I might briefly cycle every 15 minutes or so. A solid Amphi should NOT be spewing water from the bilge continuously. As for the mythical Amphi that takes on no water ever, it is possible and it may be out there somewhere swimming about with Nessie.
4. Fiberglass, Plastic, or Metal? When were the rear quarters repaired, how were they repaired?
Eventually all Amphicars have, or will need to have, the rear lower quarters replaced. Water gets trapped in here and the original design to keep them dry (sort of a big piece of caulking) did not work. Newer repairs are best done with lead fill at the seams and then the inside treated with an epoxy based product like Gluvit. That being said, the quality and type of repair may vary widely.
Metal repairs are always the best. Fiberglass is OK, Bondo is bad. Recently someone introduced iberglass quarter panels but I have not seen them installed on any cars yet. Many cars do have non-metal repairs and they work well. The key here is to find out what body repairs have been made, or will be needed, and how they were done. If you are paying premium dollars they should be metal. If you are getting a great deal you can be less picky. When I purchased my Amphi the previous owner swore that all repairs were done in metal, he said he threatened his body man with death if he used Bondo, etc., etc.. Well, either he was duped or I was. When bubbles eventually started appearing I got out the sander to see what was going on underneath. The plastic filler must have been almost 1/8 inch thick, I switched from the sander to a grinder to remove it all. It looked great before I started using it in the water and his bodyman was clearly a Bondo genius. Lesson learned, bring some small magnets or a "spot rot" gauge and verify that metal was used where seller says it was.
Does the car sound like what you are looking for? If so, there are a few more things you should do before the big visit.
1) For starters, keep in mind that the Amphicar family is a close knit bunch and owners often know about other Amphicars. Try posting a message on the amphicar-lovers digest. Recently a car was offered at auction which another list member quickly identified as a sunken recovery which had been for sale in his area for a long time.
2) Place a call to Gordon Imports Inc. If the owner does their own work they have probably ordered parts and may have discussed their car with Hugh Gordon. At the very least they will be able to tell you what was ordered and they may also know about the specific car. If you know the car requires parts you may want to inquire about prices and/or order a parts catalog so that you have a more exact idea of what you are getting in to.
3) Contact the International Amphicar Club. Is there another Amphi owner in the same area as the car that you are interested in? See if that person will join you for the inspection and/or will take a look at the car on your behalf. At the very least, you should bring a skeptical friend along with you.
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There are a few more sections I would like to include before this one. Eventually I will do so but I felt the first swim was important enough to include sooner rather than later.
Let's assume that you have not had or seen the car in the water previously. Maybe you purchased it in the winter, maybe it just completed restoration, maybe it just came out of a barn for the first time in 35 years. In any event, this is your maiden voyage. By now you have made sure all the seals are in good shape, rubber axle boots secure, etc.. The purpose of this FAQ is not to tell you HOW to prepare your vehicle for its maiden voyage but rather how to conduct that voyage.
Now the temptation is going to be one where you would like to bring all of your family and friends along, perhaps with a video crew thrown in to capture the monumental event. Don't do it. Pick a weekday when it will be quiet at the boat ramp, your goal right now is not to attract but to test the seaworthiness of the vehicle. Ideally you want a large concrete ramp rather than some mud trail leading into the swamp. Bring along a friend (just one), a flashlight, a tow cable, etc. You may want to remove the rear seat. While this will make things much noisier, it will be much easier to see what is going on. This should go without saying, but do not take your maiden voyage into ice cold water. No matter how strong a swimmer you may be, hypothermia can still kill you in a matter of minutes.
When you get to the launch area make sure that you have inserted the bilge plug (check it again). Have you latched the front hood (check it again). Do NOT latch the rear deck, you will want to be able to take a look inside. Is your bilge pump working? If not, go home and fix it (ideally you have a backup pump installed by now). Is your bilge pump the factory original unit? If so, go home and replace it. Make sure you have your tow rope and flashlight handy. Latch the doors with the water locks (check them again, it is amazing how many Amphis make an emergency exit from the water due to unlatched doors).
Now, with your Amphi at a COMPLETE stop, engage the props. SLOWLY enter the water (the water wheelies can come later). Even at a slow speed this will be an exhilarating and memorable moment. The first time the hood starts into the water and then pops up a few moments later is something you will never forget. At this point you should be floating. If there is water pouring in around the doors then back up now, otherwise ... congratulations.
OK, slowly go out a just few feet once you are floating. Make sure you are not in a spot where you are a hazard to other boaters. Turn around facing the ramp (in case you need to get back on land fast). Disengage the props and just let the car float. At this point you are looking for leaks. Open the rear deck-lid (I told you not to latch it). Look inside the engine compartment, look behind your seat (that little square opening in the floorboard). If there is a water coming in around the axle boots that is a bad thing, head for shore. If water is pouring in at a rate fast enough that you actually see it pouring in then you should probably head for shore. Float around for 20 minutes or so. If your bilge pump is keeping rather busy then it might be wise to fix the leaks and come back another day. If you are dry, or there is only a small amount of water (probably too little to bilge), then it is time to go for a short cruise.
Drive around the water for a good 30 minutes or so. Keep the ramp in sight. Stop every 5 minutes or so to check things out. It is probably easier to leave the deck-lid open at this point. Same rules apply as in the float test. At this point you may well be taking on SOME water. Again, if your bilge pump is constantly spewing this is not good. As a general rule, your pump should cycle briefly every fifteen minutes or so to remove no more than 2-5 gallons at most.
OK, more to come.