Oh, the humanity! I have bad news, everybody: the Lane Museum’s wonderfully ridiculous amphibious car, the French-built Hobbycar, is at the bottom of Percy Priest Lake. That’s bad!
The Hobbycar sank yesterday during the Lane’s annual amphibious car drive/float for their members. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, and the Lane’s Amphicar and a nearby boater was able to pluck the passengers from the sinking Hobbycar. The Lane pledges to recover the Hobbycar, though, so don’t give up hope.
I reached out to the Lane for their statement:
We’re sad to say that our 1992 Hobbycar is now touring the bottom of Percy Priest Lake. This morning, during our annual amphibious car ride event for members, it began to take on water and sink. Most importantly, nobody was hurt. Our Amphicar was nearby and came to assist the riders while they awaited help. We are grateful for the assistance we received from a nearby boater in getting everyone back to shore safely. We will begin recovery efforts to pull the Hobbycar from the lake immediately and will update you on that progress as it unfolds.
I’ve been promised photos of the recovery effort, so we’ll be sure to cover that as well.
We actually first heard about the Sinking of the Hobbycar from a reader named Piotr, who was one of the people who got a ride in the Hobbycar in the morning, and that two groups later (likely three people per group, plus the Lane’s driver) she sank, in the middle of the lake.
I’m actually quite familiar with the Hobbycar, having driven it on land and water for this episode of our video series Jason Drives:
I am surprised it sunk, to be honest; I know mechanically it likely wasn’t the most bulletproof thing, but it felt fundamentally seaworthy, at least. Perhaps there was an issue with the bilge pump, and it just took on too much water? It has a very low freeboard as well, so if it took on a bit of water to sit lower in the lake, there’s not that much distance needed for the lakewater to really get flowing into the Hobbycar and swamp it.
The Hobbycar is a rare and fascinating amphibious vehicle, so I hope the recovery efforts go well. This is probably the only one in actual use anywhere in the world, too, which won’t make restoration easy. It’s not clear if it was running, or sucked water into the intake, or anything like that at this point.
Still, if anyone can do it, it’s the team at the Lane. I hope to be there when it gets relaunched, ready to tackle the great greenish, fairly placid expanses of Nashville-area lakes.
Give us back the Hobbycar, you cruel, cold Deep. It’s not its time yet.
UPDATE: This morning I got an email from the grandmother of the kids that were on the Hobbycar when this happened:
“My grandsons and son-in-law were in the other amphibious car at the time. They are 5 and 9 and were the first ones to alert anyone about the sinking. We were so relieved they were ok and the other people were ok. The little 5 year old saw it first and 9 year old told the driver of their car. My son-in-law helped with the rescue.
Anyway, we celebrated their being heroes when they got home. We are so proud of them and their Dad.
They said the woman in the other boat couldn’t swim. It could have been a disastrous event, but it turned out well. I was amazed though, that they continued to take people out and that life jackets were optional for adults!
Having grown up sailing in the ocean, that is the first thing you do when you get in a boat. You can get hit in the head, or someone who can’t swim will pull you down in their panic...If anything, I wish the public would understand how important life jackets are. Even if they aren’t “cool” looking and uncomfortable.”
There you go. Wear your life jackets.