ST. MARYS — Cars that swim? That’s the nickname for the Amphicar, the only civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass-produced. Some 3,878 Amphicars were built in Germany from 1961 to 1968. Of those cars, 3,046 were imported into the United States.
The Amphicar has a top speed of 7 mph on water and 70 mph on land. An Amphicar is moved in the water by its twin nylon propellers. A special two-part land-and-water transmission built by Hermes (makers of the Porsche transmission) allows the wheels and propellers to be operated either independently or simultaneously. The “land transmission” is a 4-speed-plus-reverse unit similar to those found in the old Volkswagen Beetles. The “water transmission” is a 2-speed offering unique to the Amphicar featuring single forward and reverse gears. In the water, the front wheels act as rudders.
When new, an Amphicar sold for between $2,800 and $3,300, depending on the year. All Amphicars are convertibles and were originally offered in only 4 colors: Beach White, Regatta Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua). You will find many today that have been customized with paint and accessories. Some of the more unique include one adorned with Pink Flamingoes, one painted to resemble the Bat Mobile and another to resemble a huge Rubber Ducky.
Amphicars have been honored guests at the Celina Lake Festival for more than 20 years, and 35 to 40 Amphicars are expected during the festival, which is being held July 24-26. The cars will begin to appear on Tuesday and Wednesday of festival week as they drive around town and cruise along in the lake. Their official festival appearances include a Swim-In on Friday evening, and the entire contingent of Amphicars will take part in the Grand Parade on Saturday evening.
The Celina Lake Festival offers plenty of summer fun for the entire family including a huge collector car show, the world’s largest car/boat poker run, a large craft show, a 5K run, COSI on Wheels and music by Erastus on Friday night. On Saturday night, dress like you’re back in the 70’s and want to Rock and Roll All Night as the Kiss tribute band, Mr. Speed takes the stage. Sunday is a special treat for the kids with lots of free fun including a kids fishing derby, pontoon rides, kiddie tractor pull, archery and canoeing, Along with the Amphicars, other top attractions this year will be hot air balloon rides, the Saturday evening Grand Parade and the Friday night, Fabulous Fireworks over the lake.
The Celina Lake Festival takes place in Celina July 24-26 in Lake Shore Park along the northwest corner of Grand Lake St. Marys. Admission and parking are free. More information about the festival is available atlakefestival.com.