Not too long ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased the iconic submersible Lotus from the ‘Spy Who Loved Me’ for $866,000. Musk was bummed to learn that the car was not a fully functional ocean-faring supercar. He is now setting about making that lotus actually usable underwater, which got us thinking– there are a handful of vehicles out there that are capable of venturing on the water.
Ferdinand Porsche was an automotive genius with few rivals to his acumen. Proof in point: the amphibious version of this remarkable military vehicle that came out in 1941. Basically an armored Beetle, its lack of a radiator made it tougher to kill on the battlefield. I’m glad the Germans are our friends again, because they make hellacious cars.
The Duck Boat (DUKW)
There’s no telling how many Allied troops were hauled ashore by this bad boy. It could carry 25 soldiers or 5,000 pounds of cargo. GM built 21,000 of them between 1942 and 1945. At least 14 are known to still be in use. In fact, private companies use them to haul tourists around major US cities. One of the best known are the Boston Duck Tours, and their occasional duty as championship parade vehicle.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson owned one of these handy little vehicles. It could go from land to water and back again, though over time most models would usually spring a leak. The former president used his Amphicar to play a joke on guests at his Texas ranch. He would drive them around in it, then floor the gas and aim it straight at a lake while screaming, “OH MY GOD! THE BRAKES ARE OUT!” Apparently LBJ never worried about re-election – or how his car smelled, for that matter.
Unlike our other contestants, these beauties are still being built today, in Fountain Valley, CA. One model, the Python, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the fastest amphibious vehicle on record: 60 mph in the water. It’s powered by a V8 from a ‘Vette. One can be yours for a mere $200,000.
James Bond’s Lotus Esprit
This sportscar–turned-submarine played a major role in the 1977 film ‘The Spy who loved me.’ The thing sat in a Long Island storage locker for years, until the lease on the building ran out and the owner couldn’t be found. This is the version we were talking about earlier. The thing can actually maneuver underwater, though its onscreen conversion to a land vehicle was purely a special effects gimmick.