Under The Hood

1921 Auto-Boat: Floating along 40 years earlier than the Amphicar

Was this floating car for real?

Forty years before the Amphicar, there was the Auto-Boat, an amphibious vehicle built to haul up to seven passengers by New Yorker Paul Panketan. Although the Auto-Boat never became mass-produced like the Amphicar, some of its numbers were more impressive: five or seven passenger carrying capacity, 90 mph on land and 35 mph on water with retractable wheels to keep the tires above the water.

The November 1921 issue of American Automobile Digest reported: “The ‘Auto-Boat’ has a boat-like body, slender and graceful. All the controls are situated in the front seat. On land it will operate like any other automobile, developing a speed of nearly ninety miles an hour. When run into the water the mere shifting of a few levers converts the automobile into a speed boat with an estimated speed of thirty-five miles an hour. On entering the water the four wheels can be lifted in fifteen seconds by the moving of a lever. The mechanism is carefully protected from the water.”

The Auto-Boat on land, as pictured in the November 1921 American Automobile Digest.

The Auto-Boat on land, as pictured in the November 1921 American Automobile Digest.

American Automobile Digest further noted that European inventors had already been experimenting with amphibious motor vehicles, and that Mr. Panketan’s 90-hp, gasoline-engined “Auto-Boat” already carried patent number 471131.

The Auto-Boat in water — is this a legitimate image?

The Auto-Boat in water — is this a legitimate image?

The photos of the Auto-Boat in water appear doctored for the age leaving us wonder, did it actually float? We conferred with the “Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942” and no listing appeared, leaving us to believe no plans developed further for the mass production of the “Auto-Boat.” Surely this novel car wasn’t intentionally destroyed. If it’s not on the bottom of the Hudson River, perhaps it’s hiding in someone’s barn, waiting to be discovered.

Related Resources:

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5,000 prewar car listings appear in “The Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942,” one of my favorite books of all time.

 

 

One thought on “1921 Auto-Boat: Floating along 40 years earlier than the Amphicar

  1. Hookman Brown

    The photos look “photoshopped” though at that time it was obviously a different process.

    In the land photo you can see a hood ornament that does not appear in the water photo.
    Also in the land photo, the car appears much smaller and shorter than in the water photo.

    The land photo appears to be a photo/drawing superimposed over a photo background. The color shades are decidedly different.

    The water photo appears to be an actual photo of a boat, or something, in the water creating a wake, with a much larger photo/drawing of the auto boat ” cut into ” and over, whatever is in the picture.

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