For more than two centuries, forward-thinking engineers have dreamed up and created amphibious vehicles. It wasn’t until World War II that truly functional, mass-produced versions such as the American LVT Buffalo and the German Schwimmwagen came to be. Following the war, these designs inspired a host of interesting models, including the famous 1960s Amphicar. Though its performance in either car or boat mode left something to be desired, it proved an influential influence on the amphibian cars that would follow.
Cut to 2021, and some of the most impressive amphibious vehicles come from Southern California’s WaterCar, established by Dave March in 1999 and holder of 27 amphibious-related patents and the Guinness World Record for the fastest amphibious vehicle.
After much development and refinement of its Phyton prototype, the first production model, the 2013 Panther, was released, with its Jeep Wrangler-style body and performance on land or water. Panther’s performance was recently outdone by the release of the H1-Panther, with its Humvee-like design and several improvements in power and versatility.
The H1-Panther starts life with an original Humvee chassis which is fully disassembled and renovated, with heavy steel and cast-iron components replaced with lighter alternatives crafted from either aluminum or stainless steel.
Added to this are a sturdy 6061 aluminum hull and closed foam-filled flotation cells, as well as a Chevrolet LS3 Gas Engine, a Mercury Marine Bravo 2 Outdrive and a heavy-duty, stainless steel propeller, combining for 395 horsepower and 508 Nm of torque. With these upgrades, the H1-Panther can reach 70 mph (112 kph) on the highway and a staggering 35 knots on water.
This vehicle’s exceptional capabilities can easily take on any type of terrain, featuring a 4WD system, huge 35-inch mud tires, and a specially designed suspension that grants it a generous ten inches of ground clearance.
Moreover, the process of switching from a truck to a boat and vice-versa takes approximately 20 seconds, so you don’t need to interrupt your journey when the terrain changes. As far as fuel efficiency, it comes with a 38-gallon tank that provides a maximum range of 380 miles on land and 96 miles on the water.
On water, it performs as you would expect from a 6 meter-long boat, plus it’s surprisingly quick for a 2,268-kg beast. It is actually the fastest amphibious vehicle on the market right now.
On land, the H1-Panther offers power steering and brakes, making it feel and look like a typical pickup truck – the only difference being the modified bed, created to host the additional equipment.
The WaterCar is a generously spacious vehicle that can comfortably accommodate up to six passengers, with optional air conditioning for further convenience. The company is well known for its extensive range of customizations that allow owners to modify the appearance and layout of the cabin to their own specifications.
It takes 2000 hours to construct each H1-Panther and with top-notch components included, it’s no wonder the base price for one is a whopping $465,000. Granted, it’s the same cost as a high-end boat or a heavily modified off-roading vehicle, however, it’s a good price for the ultimate combo of the two.
Civilian amphibious vehicles have come a long way from the old-fashioned Amphicar, with the outstanding Panther-H1 leading the pack. Unlike the older models, this modern, state-of-the-art machine is unparalleled in its capacity to shift between land and water without sacrificing performance in either.