With thousands of miles of shoreline plus hundreds of natural and man-made inland lakes and rivers and canals, boating is a big deal in Michigan. Although I do enjoy a boat ride now and then, I have no desire for boat ownership. But it was on this perfect summer day we went with friends onto Lake Saint Clair and stopped at the positively hopping Browns Bar in the middle channel of the St. Clair River on Harsens Island called where I encountered four pristine, beautiful, fully running and seaworthy Amphicar 770s, all in one place. Outside of a Amphicar club event or a museum, what is the statistical possibility of that?
Much has been written about these here, so I won’t get too into it. Made by West Germany’s Quandt Group from 1960-1963, with a total run of just 3,878, how many can possibly exist today? Most were sold in the United States and one was owned by none other than President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Harsens Island is not a particularly easy place to get to. It’s about 30 miles as the crow flies from downtown Detroit, and you need to take a ferry to get to the island. The little 1150 cc 4 cylinder can motivate these to 70 miles an hour. One of the owners said he has his tuned and running very well, and confirmed he could go on the highway a bit, but anything above 65, and it “starts to wind out pretty good”.
Twin props will get you about 7 knots! A quick online search found that one of these crossed the English Channel in 1965 in rough seas, but it sure seems that they are most content puttering along inland canals, ponds and small lakes.
Bottom line, then and now, these Amphicars are engineering marvels. I personally had never seen one in the flesh, and they brought a smile to everyone’s face on the lake that day. Kudos to their owners for not being afraid to put these ancient and well loved machines through their paces!
My oldest brother, a nephew and close friends own boats, and it is a lifelong dream for many to attain one. This actually is the best possible scenario to boat ownership: having a close friend or family member with a boat. Get invited, chip in some gas money, bring some food and beer and not have to worry about all the drama that goes with it for a short five month season. This includes: storage, marina fees, trailering, marina fees, insuring and maintaining a boat.
Bonus footage of one boat that I kept going back to:
I am a sucker for orange..orange anything really, and this vintage white and orange runabout was right as rain to my eyes!