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With tips for Fido-friendly travel, road trips on a budget, and much more, PlanYourRoadTrip.com is our favorite new trip-planning website.
|And Now for Something Completely Different, a Fiat 850-based Amphibian|
|Written by D.H. Lecter|
|Friday, 25 September 2009 04:46|
Jeff Johnson brought his seaworthy Fiat 850 to last week's Cars and Coffee and it certainly made waves in land-locked Irvine.
You just never know what's going to show up on any given Saturday at Cars and Coffee; that's what continues to make the event so popular and last Saturday certainly was no exception. Among the muscle cars, hot rods, the exotics, and what seems like dozens of late model Porsches, something always seems to stand out. In this instance, approaching from the distance, the size and shape was somewhat recognizable yet not. Getting closer, and with a car gathered around the car I asked myself, "What is that?" Then people started talking, saying that it's an amphibious Fiat, like the German-manufactured Amphicar from the sixties, a car that not only drives but floats as well. I just had to check it out and spoke with the owner Jeff Johnson, who has spent much of the last 25 years constructing this one-off car/boat.
Jeff told me that the car/boat started life as a custom frame. For motive power on land he chose a 900cc Fiat engine and transmission out of an early seventies Fiat 850 convertible, which at the time magazines like Road & Track raved about and to this very day still turn heads, albeit somewhat slowly given its 85 miles-per-hour top speed...going downhill. Jeff fabricated the hull from aluminum panels that were pressed, stamped, and then either riveted or bolted aluminum panels to the frame. Forward motion in the water comes from the combination of the Fiat drivetrain mated to a Jet Ski engine via a clutch drive mechanism. The amphibious nature of the combination required a custom-designed suspension with leaf springs that can raise and lower the wheels in and out of the water as needed. When I stood back and thought about it, it was obvious that Jeff had engineered a very impressive vehicle.
And the Cars and Coffee crowd, who has generally seen just about everything, seemed to be impressed as well. It was obvious that Jeff was enjoying all the attention and tried to answer all the questions as best he could. The car is currently for sale on eBay (thus we really couldn't put it in our "Not Found on eBay" department could we?) with no reserve so by late Sunday night it will have a new owner. With Amphicars--which now command princely sums when restored to comparable condition--this could be the viable alternative if one wants the land and sea capabilities in a single vehicle. And being a one-off, you would be driving something totally unique.
For more details and photos, visit Jeff's just-launched web site fiataficionado.com.