Amphibious Chevy Corvair Is a Wet Dream

The Corphibian pickup is unsafe at any speed—or on any surface.

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You could get almost any idea past the brass in the heady heydays of the 1960s. Big engine in a mid-size car? Have at her. Special order drag-racer with extra-thin glass? Why not. Rear-engine, turbocharged flat-six coupe? Sure: Call it the Monza Spyder. Amphibious pickup truck, also with a mid-mounted flat-six? Sounds reasonable, too—hey! You knock that off right now!

Meet GM's aquatic Icarus, a machine that dared soar as high as imagination could reach only to be dashed to pieces on the unfeeling rocks of sales figure reality. A project cooked up by Chevrolet engineers, Richard E. Hulten and Roger D. Holm, the Corphibian was a running, driving, floating proof of concept intended for mass production. After much deliberation, the General decided that some ideas were just too niche-oriented to work (maybe they’d have had better luck with current-day BMW).

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Hulten and Holm were serious men, the kind with slide rules, middle initials, and neatly pressed slacks. They purchased a new Corvair 95 Loadside pickup from Matthew-Hargraves Chevrolet, rented a garage in Pontiac, Michigan, and set about creating an amphibious truck. The Corphibian was extended by two feet to house the twin props and electrically operated rudders, and the entire undertray of the vehicle was replaced by a fiberglass section made watertight.

Vintage footage shows the Hulten-Holm craft chugging about a lake like a bass boat with sidewalls, operated from the bed using a hand throttle and rudder arrangement. It's a bit like the Amphicar's more-practical pickup cousin, a shining example of an idea that never caught on.

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Just the one was made, and it somehow survived in private hands right through until the early 1990s until it was rediscovered by amphibious craft collector Wally Wheeler (who happens to live in Waterford, if you can believe that). Fully restored back to its original optimistic glory, the Corphibian crosses the block at Mecum Auction in Kissimmee, Florida, later this month. Grab your auction paddle and your fishin’ pole.

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