Occasionally you see something that grabs your attention in the automobile world and generates that boyish excitement that drives you to find out more. Such an event happened to me the other day when I heard about the WaterCar Panther. While it might be a strange name choice for such a car (why not the WaterCar Newt or Croc?) it certainly looks the business.
The nearest I’ve ever got to the excitement of an amphibious vehicle was while working with a friend as a window cleaner in London for two weeks one balmy happy summer, He drove a small Renault van which was bright yellow.
Much to my friend’s chagrin, I amused myself by drawing a large ‘4’ on each side in the daily-accumulated London grime. I guess karma got me back when we locked ourselves out one rainy evening as we were about to head home and my friend had to break a window – my side of course – to get into the van; I got miserably soaked as we headed back from the West End to Chingford.
WaterCar are a Californian based company formed in 1999 with the one ambition of building the world’s fastest amphibious car. In January 2010 WaterCar got themselves into the Guinnes Book of World Records with the Python (can they swim?). Able to travel at 60mph/52 knots in the water & powered by a V8 Chevvy Corvette engine, it was an impressive statement in a very niche field. It was no slouch on land either, able to accelerate from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds and reach up to 100mph.
While the Python looked a little ungainly, the newer design of the Panther is an altogether more familiar looking beast – on land at least.
With the aim of producing a car that the individuals at WaterCar would be happy to own, it was the look and design of the Panther that inspired WaterCar to make this version available to the public.
Rightly so if you ask me, it looks mighty fine both on land and in the water, although I do concede that driving one around Romford or Hull might not give off the same aura as these images taken in the famous Californian sunshine.
I think what is singularly, most impressive about the Panther is just how normal it looks on land, there’s no hint of a car that is the child of a Frankenstein mind that so many other amphibious vehicles tend to exhibit.
Powered by a Honda V6 V-Tec motor, the composite bodied Panther can reach 44mph on water and over 80mph on land. Yes, slightly less in the water than the ungainly looking Python – but this one looks great and you can buy it.
Scratch the fibreglass surface and you will find that the lightweight, chromoly framed car is filled with 32 cubic feet of US Coast Guard approved ‘closed cell styrofoam’ which, WaterCar say, makes it almost impossible to sink.
So we now know how it floats, but how does it do the impressive stuff? Well the Honda engine, WaterCar have noted, is built to last the rigours of daily use with good efficiency and more importantly for this application – long lasting. It puts up with what gets thrown at it basically.
Combine this engine with the transfer case (patented by WaterCar in 2004) and you start to get to the crux of how it all works so well. This is the crucial component that converts power from the engine to the jet and the transmission.
In the water the wheels are hydraulically retracted out of harms way giving the 4 passengers the excitement and thrill of a truly amphibious vehicle. I love it.
As a footnote, it’s great to see that, where possible, metal components have been built from stainless steel to avoid rusting problems. Considering the amount of classics still on the road despite the constant battle with rust, the Panther has the potential to become a classic in its own right in years to come – with minimal need for re-welding, the car should last a very, very long time. And with rising sea levels, perhaps a Panther is more of an investment than you might think. That’s if you can find £89,300 of course.
Images courtesy of watercar.com