Video: 60 years ago today, amphibious car motored from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the CNE

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Published August 22, 2022 at 12:39 pm

On August 22, 1962, Shirley Blatchford and Mrs. Hans Hinterseer drove into Lake Ontario at Niagara-on-the-Lake and emerged at the CNE in their Amphicar, an amphibious car. (Photo: Toronto Archives)

Sixty years ago today – August 22, 1962 – two women left from Niagara-on-the-Lake and drove their car to Toronto’s CNE.

No big deal? Well, they didn’t take the QEW. They took Lake Ontario, instead.

The 1960s were a crazy time so when Shirley Blatchford and Mrs. Hans Hinterseer drove into Lake Ontario at Niagara-on-the-Lake and emerged at the CNE in their Amphicar, an amphibious car, it was, if not common place, certainly well-known.

Well, there is precious little information on Blatchford or Hinterseer’s adventure that day, Amphicars, while certainly a novelty, were much more common from 1961 to 1966 before the U.S. government’s newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put out standards for vehicle emissions and safety regulations.

The Amphicar, not surprisingly, did not meet those standards.

The first Amphicar Model 770 was launched at the 1961 New York Auto Show and was manufactured in West Germany. Originally, the Germans were hoping to mass produce them for the Axis side in World War II.

While production stopped on the amphibious car in 1965, they were on the market from 1961 to 1968.

The amphibious vehicle was manufactured by the Quandt Group in two plants at Lubeck and Berlin-Borsigwalde with only 3,878 in total ever being made.

According to experts, the Amphicar offered only “modest performance” compared to most contemporary boats.

The Amphicar’s engine was mounted at the rear of the craft, driving the rear wheels through a four-speed manual transmission. For use in the water, the same engine drove a pair of reversible propellers at the rear, with a second gear lever engaging forward or reverse drive.

Once in the water, the main gear lever would normally be left in neutral. By engaging first gear as well as drive to the propellers when approaching a boat ramp, the Amphicar could drive itself out of the water.

One fun story about the car is the fact that President Lyndon B. Johnson, the successor to John F Kennedy, owned one. When he had guests over to his Texas ranch, he’d drive into his lake while screaming that his brakes had failed.

If you’re curious about the Amphicar, here’s a clip of British resident Kerry Cheese, who bought one of these rare cars from Canada and spent around £35,000 ($53,700 in Canadian currency) to bring it back to its original state.

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