I realize that if there’s one thing amphibious cars don’t really need, it’s surprises. Being able to drive right off a bank and into the water is usually surprise enough for most people. And a Soviet amphibious car, well, you just don’t need a surprise here. It’s already pegging the needle on the bonkersometer. But this thing has one anyway.

This is called the Katomobil, and was built in the USSR by the “Demidov brothers.” I checked the internet and my big book of Soviet Cars and found no mention of the Brothers Demidov or the Katomobil. Except on this one site, the exhaustive and wonderful Amphiclopedia.

The secret of the Katomobil is that it is, as far as I can tell, the only car-catamaran hybrid in existence. The strangely-shaped sides of the car, with give the car a starfish-like face and long strakes down the sides are actually the twin pontoons of a catamaran, and lower down into the water. It’s pretty amazing.

According to the one source for information, the car uses a lot of parts from the Zaporozets 966, which makes sense. They also say it has a ‘Renault boxer’ engine making 30 or 45 HP, but I can’t think of a single opposed Renault engine from that era. A flat-twin from a Ural motorcycle is also suggested, with a fan and cooling ductwork from the ZAZ 966, plus an additional oil cooler.

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The body was all fiberglass, and from what I can tell, on land you had to enter by opening the side windows, gullwing-style. It’s possible you could drop the pontoons a bit to help, like in this picture:

Based on the design, I think the engine is in the rear, and the water-drive propeller may be mounted off the crank, Schwimmwagen-style. Maybe off the transmission, like an Amphicar? It’s really not clear.

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A small number were made between 1966 and 1974, and it’s not known if any survive.

I know this is wildly optimistic to even ask, but if anyone from the ex-Soviet Union remembers one of these, I’d love to hear from you!

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Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.