Monday, December 16th, 2019

Veteran car maker announces new amphibious models

Published on February 11, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

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Worthing-based Tim Dutton has been producing amphibious vehicles since 1989 and has just announced two new models for 2016, the two-wheel-drive Reef and a four-wheel-drive model, the Surf.  These are the first new cars he has produced for 14 years. Amphibious cars used to be a rich man’s plaything or the remit of the military, but as the climate is changing and the world’s flood waters rise higher and higher it suddenly seems like rather a good idea to have an amphibious car stowed away in the garage for (literally) a rainy day.

Dutton’s methods are unusual.  Rather than building the vehicle from the ground up, he uses a donor car and turns it into an amphibian.  The modified cars are fully compliant with all vehicle regulations, so perfectly road legal, the only difference is they have dispensation not to include airbags, as they would explode every time the vehicle docked (awkward).  On land the vehicles travel like a normal car but, as you’re entering the water, at the flick of a switch, or rather the pull of a lever, the jet-propellers kick in and you’re off.

Using a donor car brings the costs to within manageable levels, in fact you can buy a kit from Dutton for as little as 9,000 GBP.  Or if you prefer you can supply him with the donor vehicle and he’ll build your Reef for you for less than 20,000 GBP, and even put it through the MOT at the end of the process.  That’s a far cry from the six-figure price tags often associated with custom amphibious vehicles.

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The Reef requires a newish Ford Fiesta Mk8 (from 2008 onwards) and for a Surf you’ll need to source a Suzuki Jimny, any model, any year. The metal exterior of the donor car is removed and the engine and chassis are placed on top of a molded plastic Dutton hull.  Once everything is sitting nicely, a plastic deck is placed on top and the hull and deck are molded together to form a single waterproof body.

There are obviously many modifications made in order to waterproof the car completely; the steering arms and drive shafts, which are the only components going through the hull, are “sealed for life” incorporating high-grade stainless steel ball bearings with integral rubber seals.  Anything that could potentially leak is sealed.  The exhaust is mounted directly onto the engine and exits at the transom so that none of the system comes into contact with water.

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Dutton has been in the car business for almost 50 years making Dutton the oldest car company in the world to still be entirely owned by its founder.  He is a world record holder for twice crossing the English Channel in amphibious cars but is more widely known for his kit cars, 8000 of which were produced between 1969 and 1989.

Whether you’re worried about climate change or you just fancy owning a car that you can drive into the sea and, more importantly, back onto land, keeping one of these in the garage may not be the worst idea you’ve ever had.

 

www.timdutton.com 

 

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