Hot Rod Ark: WaterCar Panther Amphibious Vehicle

Here’s something you probably don’t need: an amphibious vehicle.

WaterCar Panther a Jeep based amphibious vehicle
But come on, aren’t the best things in life the ones you blow a wad of cash on because they’re impractical? So meet your next $155,000 purchase: a custom WaterCar Panther. Hold on, a bargain can be had: a rolling chassis is available for $75,000, or you can go turnkey minus engine and transaxle for $126,000.

What are you getting for your six figures? Basically a 2,900-pound, Jeep-like, waterproof vehicle that can be driven or boated (the tires tuck up into the body with the push of a button once in the water). Think of it as the toy to bring along on your motorhome journeys; use it to get to town for supplies, then use it to play or putter on the water.

If you are looking for an amphibious ATV, check out the Quadski built by Gibbs Sports Amphibians.

Or think of it like this: the perfect travel companion, but not a daily driver. Listen, it’s worth every dime to revel in the miracle of modern technology that prevents you from sinking in your car. Just don’t open the door.

It features mostly off-the-shelf parts (meaning, you can fix anything yourself instead of needing a specialty shop). The A-arm suspension system has a nod to off-road designs, since the tall ride height was needed.

WaterCar Panther amphibious vehicle for fun
Other stats? Not under the hood is a Honda 3.7L V6 (rear engine). It’s around 280 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque. Before the Honda engine, the WaterCar folks tried the LS1, LS3, and LS7. They made too much power for the axle, driveshaft, and other lighter-weight components.

WaterCar Panther amphibious vehicle engine
The four-speed standard trans (there’s no automatic option; adds too much weight) comes from a Volkswagen bus. The rear features quick-change gearing like you’d find in a race car. A bilge pump, Yokohama/Weld rubber/rims, and lots and lots of rustproofing are also part of the package.

Despite the Jeep CJ-8 looks, it’s really best suited for very light off-roading, like the small amount of sand leading to the launch pad; the transfer case is a single-speed patented Panther Jet model.

WaterCar Panther a Jeep based amphibious vehicle sliding on water
To build one, it spends two weeks in a fiberglass shop becoming a body, then it takes around three weeks to build the rest. The exhaust system was the biggest challenge for WaterCar, as in street legality—there’s no catalytic converter. The other issue was how to cool the WaterCar on land, since the radiator couldn’t be up front with the benefit of airflow running through it, so a system of air ducts/fans was built. Fuel economy on land is around 24 mpg; in the water it depends on how you drive it, but figure around 2½ mpg.

WaterCar Panther on water
If you’ve hopped up anything that’s not a car, let’s see it! Hot leaf blower? Bitchin’ gas grill? Customized kitchen cabinets? Anything goes.

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