Cars That Were Never Made #10
A rugged, dependable 4x4 that can
cross the English Channel with ease
Err...does it come in black?
First things first. I am not the last authority by any means, but I have restored, owned, operated and studied military vehicles from every country for 20 years. The most impressive military vehicles, in my opinion, are the amphibious ones.
The RMA Amphi-Ranger is the only non-military 4x4 that can perform as well as a purpose-built military amphibious vehicle - and it was intended for private use.
A bit of history....
World War Two saw rapid development in amphibious vehicles, as they were desperately needed for beachhead landings.
The U.S. came up with the DUKW, a six-wheel drive swimmer based on a GMC deuce-and-a-half chassis. This is the workhorse that brought almost all of the Allied supplies ashore at Normandy.
An amphibious version of the Jeep was also built by the thousands, fondly known by many soldiers as the 'Seep'.
I'm not going to go into the dozens of military vehicles that the American, British and Russians built during and after the war.
By the same token, I'm not going to delve into the many, many private amphibious car ventures that led up to the Amphi-Ranger....save one.
Hello, cute little Amphicar
The 1961-68 Amphicar, also built in Germany like the RMA Amphi-Ranger, is a beloved novelty car that was very well designed and constructed.
Styled after the Ferrari California....and it shows
About 4,000 Amphicars were sold, and many are still on the road - and water - today.
The Amphicar, with twin propellers mounted under the rear bumper, is the most successful and versatile amphibious car ever made.
And if it wasn't for the price, the Amphi-Ranger would probably be still chugging along, too.
It is very difficult to dig up information about the Amphi-Ranger, but as far as I can tell, only 66 were made between 1985 and 1995.
The RMA (Rheinauer Maschinen und Armaturenbau) company closed its doors more than a decade ago, and parts have become very hard to come by.
As far as SUVs go, the Amphi-Ranger isn't much different than an older version of the Ford Explorer or perhaps a Land Rover 110.
Same amount of doors, the same 2.8 liter Ford V-6 found in a Granada, the same curb weight as an Explorer. And with a top speed of 88 miles per hour, the Amphi-Ranger is a nimble vehicle and delightful to drive.
And, if you feel like it, you can drive the Amphi-Ranger right into Lake Michigan - and out the other side.
Unlike the DUKW, Seep, or the Amphicar - which are all made of mild steel - the Amphi-Ranger was handcrafted out of seawater-resistant aluminum alloy.
Beep, beep! Move it, buddy!
There is another major difference to take note of.
Almost all amphibious vehicles - military or civilian - have a free-board that can be swamped in heavy seas or weather. This ain't good.
The Amphi-Ranger was designed with oil pipeline companies as their primary customer. Once you close the doors on the Amphi-Ranger, you're sealed in, and safe in any kind of weather. This is good.
The Germans, of course, build superb vehicles when they put their mind to it. But those automobiles are usually pretty damn expensive, too.
Very interesting video
The Amphi-Ranger is no exception.
In today's money, they cost more than 250,000 dollars new....which I'm sure is the reason the Amphi-Ranger is on this list.
It is, though, an extraordinary vehicle when you stop and think about it. And in my opinion, far ahead of its time. If you recall, the Ford Explorer - really America's first SUV - was introduced in 1990.
The Amphi-Ranger was released five years before that....and the damn thing could cross the English Channel without batting an eye.
How cool is that?