Corvairs, despite what that skinny, Alan-Alda-impersonator Ralph Nader says, are fantastic. Even more fantastic are the Corvair Greenbriar pickup trucks. But to get to peak fantastic, you need to really step things up. Like making it amphibious. The good news is such a vehicle exists, and it’s even up for auction.
It’s called the Chevrolet Corphibian, and only one was ever built, in 1961, due to a grave error in judgement by the GM brass, who declined to put Corphibians into mass production. The Corphibian was a project by two visionary GM engineers, Richard Hulten and Robert Holm, who formed the Hulten-Holm company just for this project.
The Corphibian started life as a Chevy Corvair 95 Loadside pickup truck. The Loadside is interesting, because unlike the Rampside version, which had, duh, a ramp that folded down from its side to facilitate loading, the Loadside had solid sides like a regular pickup, but with a hump to clear the rear-mounted engine.
Originally, the Loadside was supposed to include a flat bed and an under-bed storage locker, much like the Volkswagen Type II pickup, but this feature was left out for production, likely for cost reasons. It’s less useful than the loadside, sure, but way easier to turn into a boat, as Hulton and Holm discovered.
Of course, a number of other modifications were needed to turn the truck into a boat, as detailed by our pals at Hemmings:
The duo started by extending the rear of the Loadside by two feet. The additional room would house the hydraulic reservoir and motors that turned – via a belt system – the twin propellers mounted behind each rear wheel as well as the electrically operated rudders behind each propeller. A hydraulic pump mounted to the stock flat-six engine provided the required pressure. They then sealed off the underside with a fiberglass “underpod,” as Hand called it, and added controls for the props and rudders in the bed.
GM tested and researched the Corphibian for two years before realizing that Amphicar sales didn’t exactly skyrocket, and amphibious cars would likely remain a small, niche market. Well, that attitude, sure.
The sad thing is that the Corphibian might just be the best design for a fun amphibious vehicle, even better than the most successful civilian amphibious car, the Amphicar. The Corphibian’s bed has the aquatic controls and seating, and as such is more like an actual boat — you’re out there, sitting high and well-exposed, the water all around you, not down inside some car seats, even if that car is a convertible. Plus, there’s always the closed cab you could crawl into if it was getting cold or wet or whatever.
Plus, I don’t see why those surprisingly flimsy-looking director’s chairs couldn’t be removed and the Corphibian used as a (admittedly hard-to-load) truck, if needed.
Hulten then stored the shit out of the swimmy-truck for about thirty years, until 1993, when he sold it to an enthusiast, the delightfully alliterative Wally Wheeler of Waterford, Wisconsin (Actually, it’s Michigan, but it works so much better with Wisconsin.) It was sold again, and now, it’s up for auction, on January 15-24.
Amphibious vehicles are just fun, period. If any Jalopnik reader ends up buying this, please let me know so I can beg you to let us do a Jason Drives about it.
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