The Gibbs Aquada – an Aquatic Sports Car

James Bond would drive this British-engineered car that drives seamlessly from road to river. The first truly amphibious vehicle ever built, the Gibbs Aquada is the ultimate off-road vehicle. Engineered and built by Gibbs Technologies,
the Aquada is capable of land speeds in excess of 100mph. No slouch on water either, the Aquada broke the previous 9mph amphibious vehicle speed record by a long shot, clocked at 32.8 mph, driven by Sir Richard Branson (owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways) in 2003.

Gibbs Technologies built the Aquada to demonstrate their new high speed amphibian (HSA) technology. The Aquada is currently available only in the United Kingdom, where drivers must have operating licenses for both land and watercraft. It should be available in European showrooms by the end of 2005.

The Aquada is not yet approved for use in the USA, largely due to environmental concerns. Current models are not outfitted with airbags and emissions controls required in the U.S., but Gibbs engineers are working on models for U.S. showrooms. The Aquada was launched in the U.K. in September 2004 and interest has been keen, with some outlets dropping the price as production increases. Initially the sticker price was set at around $270,000, making the Aquada strictly a toy for the very rich. By the time it hits the U.S. market, it is predicted the price will be well under $100,000. America, with our abundant lakes, rivers and thousands of miles of coastline, provides a huge playground for the Aquada – which can also tow a waterskier.

According to reviewers, the Aquada is a competent three-seater sports car on land. With an automatic 4-speed transmission and capable handling, it will go 0-60 mph in about 10 seconds. Although one steps into the Aquada as one would step into a boat (there are no doors) the interior is more car than boat-like. Every component has been rigorously tested to ensure long lasting corrosion free performance. The body is an aluminum-bonded, bouyant material and the interior and exterior fittings are waterproof.

On water, it is uncannily like driving a “regular” car – except instead of tarmac, you are zipping over the waves. To enter a waterway, a single push of a button converts the car to watercraft in seconds. The Aquada “recognizes” it is in water. The wheels retract, using similar engineering to airline landing gear retraction. The roadworthy lights change to marine lights, and the engine stops driving the wheels and converts to propeller drive. The 175-horsepower 6-liter, 24 valve Rover engine powers the propeller that drives the Aquada through water. The high sides, overall design and wrap-around windshield ensure a fairly dry boating experience, should one be wearing a three-piece suit on a daily commute. Sir Richard Branson drove in across the English Channel in 1 hour and 40 minutes in June 2005, making it a truly viable aquatic vehicle, capable of cutting the cross-channel commute by as much as six hours.

To bring HSA further into the mainstream, Gibbs also has an aquatic SUV poised for production. Sales of the 4WD “Humdinga” are expected to be brisk once the vehicle is in production. The Humdinga is even faster on water than the Aquada, capable of 40mph. It will seat five, with ample space for luggage. According to Gibbs Technologies’ chairman Alan Gibbs,
“This 4WD HSA demonstrates that the technology is adaptable for a whole range of applications. It took us seven years, a million man-hours and tens of millions of pounds to develop HSA technology. With this latest vehicle, I’m sure that the technology’s potential is clear for all to see.”
Gibbs predicts that within a decade, HSA technology will be an available option on many automobile models in the average suburban auto showroom.

The history of amphibious vehicles is hardly new. The first combustion-engine amphibious vehicle, the Magrelen Amphibium, was built in 1899 in Denmark. In the intervening century many attempts have been made to capture a market share with various models, from the Swiss air-propelled Garbaccio (1913) to the 1961 V-8 Chevrolet Corphibian. For a cool million and change, Terra Wind Inc in South Carolina will sell you their “amphibious motorcoach yacht” which boasts more luxury amenities than most executive condominiums, including a hot tub and gourmet kitchen. There are other current aquatic concept vehicles, but none with the production and future planning of the Gibbs Aquada and Humdinga.

For those with not-quite-so-deep pockets, the Gibbs Aquada and HSA technology may well bring affordable aquatic vehicles into the mainstream and into your local auto dealer’s showroom.

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