Every few years, I wake up bolt upright from a deep slumber, absolutely dripping with sweat, urine, saliva — whatever I can squeeze out of pores or orifices. When this happens I’m in a very panicked state, as I once again realize that Volkswagen — the company that built more amphibious vehicles than anyone — never commercialized an amphibious car. Last time this happened, I wrote about how they should have made an amphibious Thing/Type 181. This time, my focus is the VW Type 3.
Now you may be thinking, “Jayjay, you dipshit, you miserable, grimy jackass, Volkswagen never sold an amphibious car! I’d remember, because I visit that amphibious vehicles website!”
Okay, you, if that’s how you wanna play, fine. First, that amphibious vehicles website became a MILF porn site, as reported last year, and second, VW absolutely did make more amphibious vehicles than anyone—they just only had one buyer, the Nazis.
Yes, during WWII, over 15,000 Schwimmwagens were built, many many more than the next amphibious car runner-up, the Amphicar.
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So VW absolutely knew how to build amphibious cars. And even their non-amphibious cars could float, and they had no problem playing that up in ads:
It seems like VW was always dancing around amphibiousness, but never could really pull the trigger, which is absurd. They even had a precedent when it comes to selling recreational vehicles — the Type 2 buses had a pop-top camper version that you could buy right from a dealer — how many other carmakers had an actual camper right there in their normal lineup?
So, they really had all the pieces in place: technical know-how, a dealer network already accustomed to selling RV-type vehicles along with conventional cars, and the resources to pull it off.
I think an ideal platform to do this would be to have an amphibious variant of the Type 3 Squareback — VW’s mid-range station wagon.
I think a Type 3 over, say, a Beetle because this would be a more expensive vehicle, and so that should be reflected in the base car used, which meant the Type 3, at least until the introduction of the Type 4 in 1968.
Plus, the Type 3 Squareback would adapt very nicely to a watercraft. Here’s what I’m thinking, sketched quickly and feverishly:
You’d open up the back, wagon area of the Squareback by removing the side and rear windows, and making a tailgate at the rear — like a small pickup bed. A bulkhead/rear window would go behind the back seat, perhaps with a back window that could slide down to open access from inside the car to the bed/deck area at rear.
You’d retain the roof, though, and reinforce it with a roll-cage like structure, so it would be strong enough to act as an upper deck, complete with no-skid strips and a small railing/luggage rack.
The rear seat area would have lift-out roof panels, like a T-Top, and then those panels would flip over and hook to the sides, where they would act as ladders, having integrated rungs in them already. Clever, right?
The hood would be another deck area, and have no-skid strips on one side, and the other would have an inset opening in the hood, for access into the trunk area, or a cooler could be secured under the opening via latches on the trunk floor.
Steering would be accomplished with the front wheels acting like rudders, and propulsion could be as simple as bolt-on paddlewheels that replace the hubcaps.
Remember, it doesn’t need to be a good boat — just a fun boat, and this could absolutely be that.
The act of driving right into a lake is one of the greatest, most under-appreciated joys of motoring, and the amphibious Type 3 could pull it off. with the paddlewheels in the bed and the roof panels in place, it would be a decent commuter car, getting 25 mpg and having an enclosed trunk and a small pickup bed.
Boats are a hell of a lot of fun, and a little party barge thing is a great way to spend an afternoon with family and friends out on a lake or wherever. But trailering a boat is a pain, as is launching it into the water, storing it, maintaining it — it’s a colossal ass-pain, if we’re honest.
But with an amphibious car, all the major problems are solved.
No company in history may have ever been in as good a position to build and sell amphibious cars as VW in the mid-1960s. And yet they did nothing.
What a tragedy. As soon as time travel becomes available, correcting this injustice should be on everyone’s short list, right after killing baby Hitler and going in for the kiss behind the gym, instead of waiting until the car, when the moment was gone.