Labor Day weekend at Lake Wawasee in northern Indiana is the area’s last big hurrah of summer.
Its a calling to locals and their families and friends on and around the lake – the largest natural one wholly contained in Indiana – for one last weekend of summer fun. The atmosphere is festive and attracts many unique vehicles. One car in particular caught my attention some five years ago when I first started spending time there. And it’s more than just a car, it is also a boat!
The 1965 Amphicar Model 770 was manufactured by the Quandt Group at Lübeck and at Berlin-Borsigwalde in Berlin. It was manufactured from 1961-65 from pre-stocked inventory parts as the car had no design changes during its production run. And while parts were only manufactured through 1965, the car was sold until the company folded in 1968.
The cars were unique in that they were titled by the year sold, not the year manufactured. It was conceivable that a car sold in 1967 could have been manufactured in 1963, thus it would have been titled a 1967.
Plans called for the production of more than 20,000 cars a year, but only 3,878 were manufactured throughout the entire run. It was designed for and sold exclusively in the American market until 1964, when 99 left-hand drive cars were converted to right-hand and sold in the United Kingdom. A few were used by the Berlin Police Department for rescue operations.
The Model 770 is powered by a British Triumph Herald 1147 cc four-cylinder engine (1.1 liter or 69 cubic inches), which produces 45 horsepower.
When on land the rear-engine car drives the rear wheels by a four-speed manual transmission and is guided by the front wheels.
When in water a secondary gear engages the rear twin propellers. Steering while in the water is also done with the front wheels, which makes it less maneuverable than a conventional boat.
The Amphicar got its name from the fact that it went 7 knots (8 mph) in the water and 70 mph on land. When approaching a boat ramp or a mild incline from the water to land, the first gear is engaged while the propellers are running and you can drive the car right out of the water.
While performance on land and the water is modest, it was jokingly said to be the fastest car on the water and fastest boat on the road. Two Amphicars successfully crossed the English Channel in 1968 in 20-foot waves and gale force winds.
This particular car is regularly seen on the road and water, as evidenced from the lake weed hanging from the front suspension.
This car and others meet annually during the last week of July at Grand Lakes St. Marys in western Ohio. The event is not referred to as cruise-in but rather a “swim-in.”
Former President Lyndon Johnson owned a 1965 Amphicar Model 770 that he kept at his Texas ranch. It’s said that he was a practical joker who invited guests for rides that they would never forget. He drove the car down to his lake and started shouting the brakes were out before driving into the lake!