Get in Line Now: Gibbs to Sell 20 Aquada Amphibians
Gibbs Amphibians is selling about 20 of its Aquada amphibious sports cars.
Twelve years ago, Gibbs Amphibians built more than 30 Aquada amphibious sports cars and promptly hid them away in a storage unit. Now, the maker of fast amphibians is selling about 20 of the cars under a provision that allows them to be sold as collector vehicles.
Gibbs built the cars after its engine/transmission supplier, Rover, said it would no longer deliver powertrains. Ever since, Gibbs has used a few of those cars to demonstrate its technology and as the private play things of the company's owners. The rest have sat and waited.
The Aquada, a three seater with no doors and no road top, is capable of better than 100 mph on land. It can drive into the water, retract its wheels into the wheel wells in as little as four seconds and instantly become a boat capable of nearly 35 mph.
Gibbs Aquada Specs
Vehicle: mid-engine, rear-drive, no-door, three-passenger sports car/boat
Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V-6
175 hp @ 6,500 rpm
240 Nm (177 lb.-ft.) torque @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Water propulsion: Gibbs jet, 1 ton thrust (approx.)
Width: 2.046 m (80.6 in.)
Height: 1.498 m (59 in.)
Wheelbase: 2.490 m (98 in.)
Length: 4.810 m (189.4 in.)
Trunk volume: 200 l (7.1 cubic feet) approx.
Curb weight: 1466 kg (3,232) pounds
Top speed: 161 km/h (100 mph) (land), (56 km/h) 35 mph (water)
Acceleration: (0-100 km/h) (0-60 MPH) (land): 8.5 seconds (est.)
Transition time: 4-5 seconds
Gibbs Chairman Neil Jenkins said the company will sell the cars for $250,000, possibly a fraction of their true value since they are some of the only cars ever built that can travel at high speed on both land and water. Gibbs might be able to charge more but the real value of the vehicles is for them to serve as ambassadors for the technology Gibbs has spent 18 years developing at a cost of more than $200 million.
Gibbs views the products it has built such as the Aquada as ambassadors for its technology.
Many people hear about or see the Aquada and bring up the 1960s Amphicar 770 because it's the only reference point they have. With a top speed of 70 mph on land and just 7 mph on water, the Amphicar has been described as a bad car and a worse boat.
The Aquada looks a bit like an oversized, second-generation Mazda Miata, in part because it uses the Mazda roadster's headlights. Passengers enter by stepping on a ledge along the side because there are no doors. The driver occupies the middle seat slightly forward of passenger seats on either side. The Aquada is strictly a fair-weather ride since the only top is a sunshade bimini top and there are no windows. There's no air conditioning, either.
A 2.5-liter Rover V-6 from the Land Rover Freelander sits transversely behind the passenger compartment. Rover's 5-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels, as well as to the water jet — a unique Gibbs design — which spins anytime the transmission is engaged.
As a car, the Aquada takes corners with little body roll. With just 175 horsepower to propel 3,232 pounds, no one would describe it as fast. It will hit 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds. Water is where the Aquada truly comes alive. To transform the Aquada into a boat, the driver simply drives into the water where sensors determine if there is enough water to float. The driver pushes the land/water button to retract the wheels — the key component of Gibbs' High Speed Amphibian technology — then four seconds later, the Aquada is ready to plane.
Its water handling is very similar to a SeaDoo jet boat, and for good reason, since that was one of the design targets. It makes crisp, tight turns, leaning in aggressively on water. Gibbs spent a considerable amount of development time making sure the open wheel wells don't interfere with the hydrodynamics.
Gibbs was founded by New Zealand billionaire Alan Gibbs in the mid-'90s. Soon after, he merged his company with Krafthaus, owned by Jenkins, who is now chairman of what is today called Gibbs Amphibians. Together they've invested more than $200 million to develop the technology.
From 2012-15, the company produced the Quadski in Auburn Hills, an amphibious all-terrain vehicle that uses similar technology to that in the Aquada. Gibbs has licensed the technology to a ST Kinetics in Singapore for a 21-foot truck called the Humdinga, which is aimed at first responders. In fall 2015, it showed concepts for a two-wheel scooter called the Biski, a three-wheel reverse trike called the Triski and a side-by-side utility terrain vehicle that it calls Terraquad.
Gibbs executives have always said the company does not want to be in the business of building products using its technology. Instead, it would rather develop the technology and license it to established manufacturers. It considers vehicles such as the Quadski, Humdinga and Aquada as proofs of concept designed to demonstrate the technology and the prove the public's interest in it.
After the loss of the Rover engine, Gibbs intended to re-engineer the Aquada for worldwide sales. It viewed sales in the U.S. as critical for the car's success, but conflicting U.S. stopped the company from producing it. That's when it decided to pursue development of the Quadski and Humdinga.
Buyers of the limited number of available Aquadas will get a warranty and Gibbs has parts on hand to maintain the vehicles for the next 20 years, Jenkins said. They will be sold "ex works," meaning they will be delivered at Gibbs' headquarters in England. Those interested should not wait to contact Gibbs because the company plans to sell them first come, first served.
Prospective buyers can contact Gibbs Chairman Neil Jenkins at the company's headquarters in Nuneaton, England. Call +44 2476 388 828.