Disney World’s Kitschy Amphicars Are a Dying Breed

Disney World is famous for experiences that seem too magical to be true. From immersive rides to beloved characters, it’s a place where dreams (and sometimes nightmares) come true. But one attraction has flown under the radar, and many people don’t even know it exists. In a state like Florida, which sits barely above sea level, it’s no surprise that a Disney establishment has sought to treat visitors to a unique experience in a fleet of amphibious cars, aka Amphicars.

Taking a dip at Disney Springs

An Amphicar outside the Boathouse restaurant at Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, in April 2016
An Amphicar ready to launch outside the Boathouse at Disney Springs | Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

With the unusual claim as “the fastest car in the water and the fastest boat on the highway,” the Amphicar has become one of the most entertaining ways to experience Disney Springs. These amphibious cars are also known as 770s, boasting a top speed of 7 mph in the water and 70 mph on land, Mouse Planet reports. “The car of the future is here today,” advertisements read. “The sportscar that swims.”

Post-World War II was a unique time in the United States. Industry was booming, Americans were adopting automobiles en masse, and manufacturers were beginning to take risks. It’s easy to look back 60 years later and say no one would want a car that could drive in water, but the late 1950s and early ’60s were a brave new world.

The Quandt Group, which once co-owned BMW, produced 3,878 Amphicars in Europe through the decade. Of those, 3,046 ended up imported to the States.

The Amphicar isn’t getting any younger

Sure, the Amphicar could swim, but that wasn’t what people wanted. The price was in line with what a new car would cost. About $3,000 in 1960 dollars is roughly 10 times that in 2021 due to inflation. But most people didn’t need a car they can drive on a lake; they wanted something reliable for the road.

Unsurprisingly, the Amphicar’s demise came quickly as sales tumbled. Because EPA and Department of Transportation safety regulations restricted sales to the United States, the cost of modifying Amphicars to meet U.S. guidelines was too high.

Today, only about 400 are left globally, and the Boathouse at Disney Springs is where they’re most famous. Though the Amphicar was initially designed for water, it wasn’t meant to be a tourist attraction with dozens of rides per day.

According to Mouse Planet, workers performed $65,000 to $75,000 worth of retrofitting on each Amphicar to make it reliable in the water. Many things can go wrong when a car only travels on land; it’s no surprise that taking it into the water introduces many potential complications. If you’re in the market for an Amphicar, auctions are tracked at Classic Driver.

About Amphicar tours at Disney Springs

The Boathouse is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and Amphicar tours begin an hour earlier, at 10 a.m. The price is high (though perhaps not for Disney) at $125 per ride, but it can be discounted for guests dining at the Boathouse’s restaurant or visiting the gift shop, unsurprisingly named the Boatique.

Lasting about 25 minutes, tours ferry guests around the central lake at Disney Springs for unique views of the outdoor dining, shopping, and entertainment complex and interesting information about the Amphicars. Up to four guests can ride in each car, and the sight of the captain turning the wheel to float through the water is likely to instill a magical feeling in even the most jaded cynic.

RELATED: Some Disney Magic Can’t Hurt the 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV’s Release