On Monday’s bonus round of Mystery Car, the unnamed machine was correctly identified as the Amphicar 770, disappointingly quickly. There can’t be many folk in the Hooniverse who haven’t yet learnt of the many limitations and design compromises of the famous ’60s amphibian, its mechanical make-up was limited by the technology of the time, and one of the reasons for its metal construction was that Glass Reinforced Plastic was still only just beginning to become popular in boats, let alone boats which were actually cars. So it was with genuine excitement and interest that I came across the Dutton stand at this year’s London Boat Show, where the latest release from Tim Dutton’s lovingly operated company was exposed to public gaze for the first time. “Floaty” was an inspired choice for the license plate, and “No beach out of reach” is an inspired slogan for the product. The Dutton Reef is the first in a line of two-wheel-drive amphibians which use mechanical components from the Ford Fiesta for their motivation on land, in this case, the Fiesta MK8. You know, the one . The 1600cc power plant is recommended, presumably for reasons of performance on land. In the water the Reef is still a full-displacement design so you’re limited by physics to a hull speed of 6mph, there’s no breaking over the hump and onto the plane, which is absolutely fine. Yes, there have been planing amphibians over the years, but all of these have required sophisticated wheel retraction systems to cut drag, which adds complication and weight. And expense. Machines like the Gibbs Aquada were priced way beyond Kings Ransom and closer to GDP of Belgium levels. The great thing here is that the Reef is still A Fiesta, but one which can cross water. Exluding several quid’s worth of donor vehicle, the Reef costs just shy of £20,000. You can save money and use a cosmetically challenged or impact-damaged machine as a basis, as long as the majority of mechanical components are intact, and Tim and his Team will go through the labour intensive programme of work to turn your humdrum hatchback into the envy of the yacht club. The display car was pre-production, and judging by the tonneau over the cockpit I assume interior details aren’t yet finalised. But if there is substantial carry-over from the Fiesta itself, it should be rather nice, and assembled rather well. On top of that, I think the Reef is actually a rather handsome thing. Even the high chin characteristic of the amphibian doesn’t stand out too badly, and the latest generation Fiesta headlamps integrate quite well. The most interesting thing, though, will be finding out how the Reef drives. Part of the conversion involves relocation of the engine to the centre of the car, making the Reef essentially a mid-engined open top Fiesta Sports Car… which can be used on water. If I ever swing the opportunity to put one of these through its paces on road and river, you can bet that I’ll be feverishly writing up my accounts with determination and passion. The very concept feels so much more appealing than the metal tub with a Triumph Herald engine that represented the cutting edge fifty years ago. (All images (apart from third down which was from dailymail.com, of all places) copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016. Plenty of interesting stuff to be read at www.timdutton.com)
No Beach Out Of Reach: Dutton Reef Amphibian
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.