By Gary Gastelu
Who says cats can’t swim?
California-based WaterCar is now taking orders for an amphibious vehicle called the Panther.
Developed by Fountain Valley Bodyworks, the Jeep CJ-inspired dune buggy-boat has been in the works for 14 years, says company owner Dave March.
Built on a chrome-moly frame with a fiberglass hull, the open-top four-seater is powered by a rear-mounted 3.7-liter V6 from the Acura MDX that sends power through a four-speed manual Mindeola transaxle on land and a Panther Jet drive through the water. A WaterCar-designed the transfer case switches between the two.
A hydraulic off-road suspension retract the wheels in as little as eight seconds, allowing the Panther to be driven into the water at speeds up to 15 mph and just keep going. It has a top speed on water of 38 knots — 44 mph to you landlubbers — and can crack 80 mph on the street.
Recent efforts to sell an amphibious car in the U.S. in recent years, including the Gibbs Aquada, have come up against federal regulations governing original equipment manufacturers. WaterCar gets around this by selling the Panther as turnkey-less kit that requires the buyer to source and install the engine, which March says takes just five bolts. The price is $100,000, but WaterCar can help to arrange having a complete vehicle finished for about $125,000.
The Panther needs to be registered as both a car and a boat in most states, and the regulations for both vary greatly across the country. And the world. WaterCar already has 25 orders on the books from as far away as Dubai, even though it hasn’t yet launched its marketing blitz.
Been having trouble deciding between a car and a boat for that midlife crisis?