As you may have guessed by now, I absolutely love fun and impractical summer cars. Late one night as I was browsing the internet, I came across something strange. Bleary-eyed, I saw a video of a Mini Moke drive into a lake, float with some buoyancy and propel itself away into the distance. I then dug a little deeper and got the scoop on this odd, modern-day Amphicar.
Lazareth is a small-volume automaker based in Annecy, France — home to Lake Annecy, the third largest in France, and the cleanest lake in Europe. Lazareth has been making unique and one-off vehicles since 2005; their offerings range from the Amphibian — based on the go-kart-like Mini Moke and propelled by a 400cc single-cylinder engine — to a Maserati-V8-powered motorcycle called the LM 847.
The Amphibian was designed with Lake Annecy in mind. As in many beautiful tourist regions, the roads can become congested and it can be difficult to get around during the high season. As a result, I understand the Amphibian perfectly. Why spend hours in traffic driving around Lake Annecy when you can drive straight through?
A Lazareth Amphibian can be yours for 25,000 Euros. The 400cc motor has a top speed of 55 mph on land and 7 knots on water. For those who aren’t familiar with knots, that translates to roughly 8 mph. An additional 9,900 Euros will get you the 4WD drivetrain, which is the priciest add-on. Although it’s not a performance car, the Amphibian’s ability to cross a body of water is a cool trick — and this is definitely a cool toy.
Before Lazareth Motors produced the amphibious Mini Moke, there were a few other amphibious cars in automotive history. Among the first was the Volkswagen Type 128 & Type 166, otherwise known as the ‘Schwimmwagen.’ Produced from 1942 to 1944 for the German forces during World War II, the Schwimmwagen is the most mass-produced amphibious vehicle, with a total production number of 14,265. It wasn’t until 1961 when we saw a second amphibious car, the Amphicar. It was also manufactured by Germans — this time with leisure in mind.
The Amphicar debuted at the 1961 New York Auto Show, and it was produced by the Quandt Group, a low-volume West German automaker. Styled like the 1950s American cars with fins, under 4,000 were produced, making surviving models quite rare today. They weren’t particularly great cars, nor great boats, but they were novel because they could do both — and they were certainly were responsible for many “look what I can do!” moments. Notably, President Lyndon B. Johnson owned an Amphicar and would scare his passengers by pretending the brakes went out and careen down a hill into the lake on his property.
Although the Lazareth Amphibian isn’t legal for road use in the United States, I would love to have one — solely for use on a vast lakeside property that I don’t own, but surely will someday. Find a car for sale
Sam Keller is a visual artist from Brooklyn. He runs the Instagram account @hamptonwhipz, capturing classic cars in the Hamptons, New York City, and anywhere else his travels take him.
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