Amphibious WaterCar Panther

The California-based company WaterCar was founded in 1999 by Dave March as a personal project.

His aim? To build the world’s fastest amphibious vehicle. The result was the prototype WaterCar Python, powered by a 450bhp Chevrolet Corvette engine. The Python set a Guinness World Record for the fastest amphibious vehicle reaching a waterborne speed of 52 knots (60mph). More than 100 versions were built and tested before arriving at this version.

The four-seater WaterCar Panther is a production descendant of the Python and originally went on sale in 2013. Its hull is shaped like that of a boat and is composed of fibreglass filled with 32 cubic feet of US Coast Guard approved closed-cell Styrofoam, making the car virtually unsinkable. Power comes from a 3.7-litre, V6, 24-valve, Honda V-Tec petrol engine producing 250bhp. It drives through a patented transfer case capable of directing power either to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox or a water jet for marine use. A chromoly steel spaceframe provides the structure for mounting the drivetrain, suspension and other components.

The Honda engine gives the Panther a maximum speed of more than 55mph on land and an impressive 44mph (38 knots) on water. The transition from land to water takes less than 15 seconds. All the driver has to do is enter the water, put the transmission in neutral, pull a knob to engage the water jet, push a button to raise the wheels and the Panther is ready for action. A slipway is recommended for launching but as long as there are no obstacles greater than eight inches high, water entry from unprepared surfaces or causeways is fine too.

Once on the water, an electro-mechanical trim tab controls pitch, allowing cruising on the plane and improving both performance and comfort.

The example on display in the rotunda, owned by Prodrive, has been modified and upgraded by the company. A working vehicle, it is used by the Idle Rocks Hotel for fishing, water skiing and transferring guests around the coastline of St Mawes in Cornwall.