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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK


The car that swims

Is this the way to use our rivers?

Is it a car that thinks it is a boat, or a boat that thinks it is a car?

Keith Phillips takes the vehicle for a spin
Either way, this amphibious hybrid went on show on Thursday at the London Water Boat Show.

The vehicle's creator is hoping it will lead to the UK's under-used rivers being filled with water traffic.

[ image: You need navigation lights]
You need navigation lights
The road-going boats are being manufactured at the Dutton Marine workshop in the East Sussex, UK. Produced at a rate of 12 a year, they are the only models of their kind currently being made in the world for commercial use.

The engines are taken from Ford Fiestas and the bodies are glass fibre - but the concept lies more in the realm of James Bond.

The diesel-powered Commander model sells for just under £20,000. More than 40 of amphibious vehicles have now been sold over the last few years, many leaving for the US, the Arabian Gulf States and New Zealand.

Important extras

On water the commander travels at six knots, and on land it will do just over 90 mph (140 km/h) Needless to say, it is corrosion proof.

[ image: Hard to port]
Hard to port
To the casual observer it looks very much like a land vehicle. It is only on closer inspection that you see the aquatic extras like navigation lights, a bilge pump and jet steering.

"Hopefully, in five years, I want to see every river in the world full of these types of vehicle, says company owner Tim Dutton. "With most cities having rivers going through them - their most under-used resource - this is the way to go for transport, I think."

Customer Peter Curlender sees the advantages. He says: "I've moved to Florida and my friends who have boats have to spend a lot of time and money pulling them out of the water and maintaining them, and this seemed like a wonderful way of having a car and a boat at the same time."

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