This is the story of Allen's 1965 Amphicar. While reading this story, you may click on any of the pictures to view that picture full size.
Picked up and trailered her home, our amphicar had 10,340
miles on the odometer. When we came to rescue her, she had been quietly
sitting in a museum in Texas for many years, but now the museum was closed. The
boat registration was last renewed in 1975. Sitting inside a museum had kept her
out of the elements and
allowed her to keep some of her original exterior beauty, but don't look too close; chrome is present but has
scratches, dents, paint chips, step on the brakes and they stay on, wheel bearings
complained about having to turn ... it was a small museum and the car basically sat. All
in all, there have been cars in much worse
shape that have undergone a total ground up restoration. This is NOT one
of those cases. This car is to be a fun car that can be used daily, take
family and friends out for a special treat, and who knows, maybe somebody
will feel inspired and "invent a better amphi" because of seeing or riding
Although we do try to take reasonable care of it, we don't plan on letting
her sit idle.
We won't worry if some bug guts get splattered on the windshield!
It isn't our "2nd" car,
nor "family" car but rather our "smile" car for all the joys it brings to people
who see it on the road and in the water.
But, back to the story of the "Museum Queen": What about those areas hidden from the general public...
|It isn't good to be able to poke your finger through the rusting battery floor, nor to to see the ground through the exhaust floor. The inside lower quarter panels were a little thin too. I don't think she'll float yet, but it doesn't look hopeless. I think we can do it!|
|What kind of previous repair material was applied here? As we further took the car apart, we discovered a 3 inch hack saw cut and a badly beaten out of round axle tunnel. And what is that boot really made out of?? It is very thin paper like material. On the other side, the clutch cable did have two strands of wire holding it together. Perhaps that explains why the clutch went just about to the floor to shift gears. Although she complained a lot, she would move under its own power on that first day of ownership! But we did only enough to make sure the transmission had some degreee of life.|
|The trunk area had seen better days too! Duct work was shot, but at least no mice had chewed the wiring. Gas tank seemed to hold gas better than the fuel line. You're kidding if you think the heater and defroster cables would move. Heater blower motor ... ah, this is Texas, you don't need no heater. Is there room for an air conditioner???? Can 43 HP move the car and an air conditioner at the same time???|
|And what about under those front seats? Do I really want to look?|
Well, some old elbow grease ought to get the situation in hand so
we can evaluate the hull better. A lot of the mess is oily sludge and
loose paint and that actually seemed to have helped minimize the actual rusting
of the hull. But it sure did have a lot of pin hole leaks but none larger than
Okay, lets take her apart, find ALL the leaks, replace a bunch of parts
to make her road worthy and sea worthy again.
To be able to fully examine the hull and fix the bad spots, the engine's gotta
come out. While its out, might as well clean it up and adjust the valves, etc.
And, it sure makes changing the oil a breeze.
Easing the engine out can be done by one person; it just requires a little hopping back and forth into the car to help guide the transmission along the bottom. I've taken it out both ways, straight over the transom, and as pictured here, giving it a slight twist and guiding the transmission over the transom with one hand. Yup, it is a pretty steep dive angle to go under the rear deck! By the way, I did shorten the final exhaust and add a slip joint to go through the transome so as to avoid taking the full exhaust assembly off. I hate rusty bolts!
|Ah, now we can weld up all those little pin holes in the hull. Thats what all those little bumps are in the bottom of the hull. How'd I know if the welds were water tight???...just add water. Right or wrong, I raised the front end a little, used a fire extinguisher between the axle tunnels where the transmission should be so we could clamp down the rubber boots and get enough water in the car to see where she was still leaking. Then we'd drain it out, re-weld, and try again. Remember that axle tunnel on the right...really debated cutting it out but managed to beat it back into a new definition of "round", but I think she'll clamp down ok. Notice the new battery flow on the right side of the picture.|
|It seemed like things would start to oxidize as fast as I cleaned up various places of the hull, so finally, I put on a coat of POR-15 to keep some parts from rusting while I continued to work on other areas. The picture on the right shows the POR-15 primer after 1 year of abuse standing up to what ever floats around in the bilge area.|
And how about a new exterior paint job while we are at it. Your eyes would bug
out too if you knew what that engine hoist had just down to your rear end! And
all that sanding...
Then some more sanding to find all the hidden corrosion. A little help via the sand blaster helps strip down to good bare metal in specially selected areas. One must be careful to avoid warping the metal. Then a good bath is really needed, so lets tow her out back for a good hosing down. Yes, the engine is still out ... rear wheels reassembled with the axles separated at the slip joint and you can still tow it around as needed, but I wouldn't tow her down the road partially assembled like that!
Body repairs made, it's time to put on a good sandable base primer. I used K200 from PPG.
Being a nice day, it felt better to wet sand the doors and hood outside. And the flat black rear deck allowed me to pretend for a while it was the muscle car I had in the early 70's, but the Triumph Herald isn't quite the same as that big 8 was...
|It's not original, but I like a black engine compartment. The motor mounts come from a Chevy, mount style 2381 as listed in most mount catalogs; or specifically, I used Pioneer # 602381 with a slight modification to fit the space ... drill mounting holes just a tad larger and grind off some rubber on one side of the mount where it attaches to the car. They work better than what was left of the original mounts. Oil plug lines up perfectly with the small bilge drain plug that my car has. By the way, the front wheel bearings cross to a Timken 30204 for the smaller outer bearing, and 30206 for the inner. Inner seal is a 65 x 85 x 10 such as a Nappa 25452.|
However, the trunk should be the exterior color with accessories accented in basic black.
|The engine gives off a trememdous amount of heat, giving most rear seat passengers the "hot seat". In an attempt to minimize engine noise and heat penetrating the passenger compartment, new heat shielding is being installed. The first layer is glued foil side down, then simulated leather is glued on top. The pad under the seat needs to be waterproof as dripping bathing suits would soak and quickly ruin the padding, so a double layer (not shown) is in order.|
|I could never get the original Amphicar horn to make a sound. Disassembly found some broken and corroded wires to the horn coil, but all my efforts to have it make a joyful noise, failed. However, an inexpensive mini horn from JC Whitney ( < $10 number 81__4699X ) will fit in the original housing if you make a few minor modifications. First, remove the old horn guts and use a dremel or simular tool to remove the center magnet, leaving some metal to tap for a supporting bolt. I used a 10mm x 1.25 pitch bolt (shortened to about 25 mm), drilled and tapped in the center to 10 x 32 to provide rear support for the replacement horn. Tapping the original horn housing and what is left of the center magnet, the new bolt will support the interior horn motor as well as provide a secure attachment to the original mounts. Wires are routed into the horn as in the original installation. As an added feature, I cut 3 little strips of vaccuum tubing to provide some additional support at the front. This JC Whitney horn works fine with the "positive earth" Amphicar.|
|The generator is a very tight fit. It has a metal pulley and fan. The mounting had to be reworked slightly to provide proper alignment of the belt over the water pump and down to the crank. A custom supporting spacer was turned down on a lathe to provide rear support. It just clears the distributor and doesn't leave much room next to the front spark plug.|
|Okay, back to the exterior paint job.... She's getting a glimmer of hope in her eye that we'll be swimming soon.|
Time to take it to the lake... The big moment of truth...do
we have a boat, or a boat anchor...
In all the excitement of the moment, I forgot to turn off the signal light. That gave the people on shore something else to laugh about. The good news was that we couldn't find a leak anywhere!
Thus, the story of Allen's car.
As with any restoration work, the job is never completely done.
But for now, lets have some fun and make some Smiles!
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