While the Amphicar is arguably the most famous amphibious car, other creations have also attempted to make boats out of land vehicles. Or vice versa, in the case of those converted jet-ski scooters. Regardless, the basic concept of combining boat and car has led to some interesting designs. And this week on Cars & Bids, you have a chance to get one of those designs: a WaterCar Panther.
Jeeps can ford the water, but the WaterCar Panther amphibious car can drive through it
Despite its looks, the WaterCar Panther isn’t a modified Jeep Wrangler. However, it does use some Jeep parts and was partially inspired by the off-road SUV. But explaining that requires understanding this amphibious car’s backstory.
The WaterCar Panther is the creation of engineer Dave March, who founded the WaterCar company in 1999, MotorTrend explains. More specifically, the Panther is the successor to March’s first model, the Python. With motivation from a Corvette V8, the Python set an amphibious car world speed record in 2010, topping out at 127 mph. That’s faster than some modern speedboats.
However, the Python had a problem. Because its design was based on a Camaro, it had poor ground clearance. As a result, it could only go in the water on a dedicated boat launch, MT explains. So, for its successor, March wanted something that transitioned between land and sea more easily. And, more to the point, was easier for everyday buyers to live with and maintain, FourWheeler reports. The result was the WaterCar Panther.
The reason why the WaterCar Panther resembles a Jeep is two-fold. First, aping the high-riding off-road SUV look means the wheels can retract further out of the water, FW explains. That cuts down on drag, meaning a higher top speed and less engine strain. Secondly, this amphibious car does use some Jeep parts: its doors are from a Wrangler.
But while it looks like a Jeep, the WaterCar Panther is anything but. It’s built on a custom chromoly-steel tubular chassis set in fiberglass. It technically has two engines: a rear-mounted 3.7-liter Honda V6 linked to a Panther Jet turbine. And it uses a four-speed Volkswagen manual transmission to drive the rear wheels.
There’s a WaterCar Panther for sale on Cars & Bids
Although the WaterCar Panther is a bit of a parts mish-mash, it does work effectively on and off the water. The V6 makes roughly 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, Cars & Bids reports, and lets the amphibious car go up to 80 mph on land. The Panther tops out at 45 mph on the water.
And don’t worry, there’s no shifting involved when you’re sailing, Driving.ca notes. Just shift into neutral, pull a knob, and press a button. Cars & Bids claims it only takes about 15 seconds. And speaking of Cars & Bids, there’s a 2016 WaterCar Panther currently listed for sale there.
This 2016 Panther is a stock example, from the Jeep YJ doors to the retractable 15” wheels, vinyl upholstery, and a bikini top. Other standard equipment includes the required highway and marine lights, an EMPI shifter, and a Livorsi steering wheel and gauges. And apart from a few scratches, scruffs, and some surface rust, the only real flaw is a crack in the drive system’s bezel. However, the seller claims the crack is cosmetic.
It’s been discontinued, so examples are hard to find
As of this writing, this 2016 WaterCar Panther is listed on Cars & Bids at $27,000 with five days left in the auction. Considering a non-custom Panther originally started at $158K, that’s a significant discount.
True, there are used Jeeps and new boats that cost less than that. But neither is quite as rare as the Panther. WaterCar closed its doors in 2020 due to an inability to meet upcoming CARB emissions regulations, MT explains. And during the Panther’s 2013-2020 production run, the company only made about 100 examples. That actually makes it rarer than the Amphicar.
So, if you’re in the market for an oddball, unique amphibious car, this might be right up your alley.
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