A company called Gibbs Sports Amphibians has been working for 15
years to bring to market several high-speed amphibious vehicles, including
a car called Aquada, based on their patented technology that allows these
vehicles to perform at amazing speeds on land and in the water, unlike just
about all previous amphibians. Having spent well over $200 million in
development they’ve created a variety of vehicles that allow the
wheels to tuck up into the body virtually eliminating excessive drag in the
water while being sturdy enough to perform like a conventional suspension
You may recall, if you’re old enough, a little car called
Amphicar built in the early 1960s. It was dismally slow in both
environments, and could not tuck in its wheels, but was cute and quirky
enough that a few thousand were sold. Judging from collector car show
appearances, it seems most of these survived.
Now, along comes Gibbs with “high-speed” amphibians
– a car/boat, a quad/jet ski, some emergency/military vehicles
– proving that being an amphibian does not have to mean being slow.
We first encountered the Gibbs folks when they hosted a press event
during the development of the Aquada amphibious car. That was in 2007,(Archived Story) as they were moving their R&D facility in suburban Detroit to take
advantage of engineering and supply resources here. Even though the Aquada
has been readied for practical use, regulatory hurdles have proven so
cumbersome that it cannot come to market, at least for now. The government
can’t decide whether it is a boat or a car and can’t conceive
that it is something entirely new that deserves some regulatory creativity.
But, Gibbs is not thwarted and they continue development Aquada and
other vehicles. The design they’ve patented is applicable to vehicles
large and small. Development of large cargo and personnel amphibians for
military and first-responder use continue simultaneously with the smaller
quad runner/jet ski that we’re announcing here.
Enter the new Gibbs Quadski, capable of 45 mph on both land and in
the water. That means you can be jamming through the woods as fast and fun
as with many quads then drive it right into the lake where it takes less
than 5 seconds for the wheels to retract and another 3 to 5 seconds to
accelerate and plane out at full speed, as fast as many jet skis. What a
Watch the Gibbs Quadski in action
Quadski’s design projects an air of sport and fun. On land it
looks like a tall, sort of gangly quad. Once in the water with its wheels
retracted it looks like a rather wide and large jet ski. Body colors are
bright and brash.
Power comes from a 1.3-liter, BMW, water-cooled motorcycle engine
making between 160 and 175 horsepower mated to a six-speed automated
transmission. All that power is used in the water to accelerate and plane
quickly but the power is electronically limited on land since it’s
way more than needed there. The Gibbs engineers needed to make only a few
alterations to match this high-tech engine to its new use.
We had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to tour the
under-development factory in suburban Detroit that will soon be producing
the Quadski and we got to examine and observe the vehicle’s
performance with Gibbs’ chairman, Niel Jenkins, at Gibbs’ test
facility - a large, water-filled gravel pit surrounded by hundreds of acres
of forested trails just beyond the Detroit suburbs. Our colleague,
journalist and amphibious vehicle expert, Bryan Laviolette
(www.FastAmphibians.com), put it through its paces as I filmed and Jenkins
filled us in on all the details.
After the first lap of the dry trails through the woods Bryan had a
big, dusty grin on his face that lasted the whole time. One of the
development engineers led him though the trails with a conventional quad
then turned him loose on the lake, where he just couldn’t get enough.
Bryan praised the performance and handling commenting on the stability and
the ability to slide a bit under control.
Then, he just drove it straight into the water, paused floating for
just a few seconds while he actuated the wheel-retracting system, then was
off like a shot making an impressive rooster tail. Back and forth across
the lake he jetted carving out well-controlled turns leaning confidently
into each one. The shallow hull design makes a difference, he later said.
It managed its aquatic activities very well, though “it doesn’t
turn as well as the best-handling personal watercraft.”
For those who have the means and love these dynamic toys there will
no longer be the need to have a personal watercraft and a quad runner. For
somewhere around 40 grand (approximate price of the first year’s
production, perhaps in the high twenties once production ramps up) you can
have both in one vehicle, and be the first on your block – or should
I say lake – to have one. One disappointment for some will be that,
in spite of all that power and panache, it will be a one-person vehicle. No
provisions, at least initially, are made for a passenger and it will not be
appropriate for pulling a water skier, since the latter requires a spotter
on board. More iterations of the Quadski will come in due time, we expect.
Chairman Jenkins calls this “an entirely new form of
transportation,” and he’s not exaggerating. Quadski will be the
first fully sorted out, mass-produced, high-speed amphibious vehicle to
reach production. We could see them on sale at a small number of
U.S. dealers east of the Mississippi within a couple of months. As
production increases, so will the number of dealers. Export may be in the
future as well in a few years.
You can place an order now or get more details at
www.gibbssportsamphibians.com and we’re told they expect to begin
deliveries in November.
We’re hoping this will begin to pave the way for approval and
production of the Aquada in the not-to-distant future as the first
practical, mass-produced, high-speed amphibious car.