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Gibbs Aquada coming Stateside by '09

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Will Detroit build new aqua-car?
Entrepreneur wants to sell amphibious vehicles by '09
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Link to Original Article @ DetNews


BIRMINGHAM -- Alan Gibbs' enthusiasm is contagious as he talks about his Aquada, an amphibious vehicle that's a sports car on land and a speed boat at sea.

Gibbs, founder and chairman of Gibbs Technologies, showed off what he described as production-ready versions of the Aquada and Quadski, a personal watercraft that doubles as an all-terrain vehicle, at a news conference in Birmingham Wednesday.

After some early setbacks, the wealthy business mogul from New Zealand aims to begin selling the amphibious vehicles in the United States by 2009. He is also developing a land-and-sea vehicle with Lockheed Martin for military use.

If Gibbs' audacious dream becomes reality, Michigan could reap some of the benefits. His company is scouting locations for technical centers, sales offices and manufacturing plants in Michigan and several other states. It also plans to open an office in Metro Detroit in the near future to begin talks with potential suppliers, investors and government officials.

"Personally, I'd like to do this in Detroit," said Gibbs, who began developing the Aquada while living in Metro Detroit in 1998 and 1999. "The conceptual development was done in Troy. "

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. confirmed it has had preliminary talks with Gibbs Technologies.

"The biggest problem with Michigan is its winters, which make it hard to test the vehicles," Gibbs said.

Entrepreneurs have tried to build and market amphibious vehicles in the past with little success. The German-made Amphicar, a sluggish boat-car hybrid, was killed due to regulatory issues and lack of interest.

But Gibbs said his are different.

"The world has never had (an amphibious vehicle) that can go faster than a person walks fast on water," Gibbs said "And a fast walk on water is not much fun."

The three-passenger Aquada can reach 110 mph on the highway and 33 mph on salt or fresh water. The Aquada switches from boat to car in a matter of seconds. It will sell for about $85,000. An Aquada prototype crossed the English Channel in 2003, crushing the previous amphibious car record of 9 mph, Gibbs said.

With the steering wheel mounted in the middle, boating lights on the bow -- or is it the bumper? -- the Aquada looks more like a movie prop than a production-ready vehicle. But Gibbs said it will meet automotive and boating regulations.

Then there's the Quadski, an off-roading vehicle that's part ATV and part Jet Ski. It instantly becomes a personal watercraft when it gets fender deep in the water, creating the ultimate cabin toy. Ride to the lake, then cross it, all without leaving one driver's seat. The price? About $15,000.

Don't forget the Humdinga: A six-man military amphibian that can bring troops to a beachhead and then use its four-wheel drive to cruise right up the beach.

Gibbs announced Wednesday that his company was creating three divisions to handle what he believes will be a tidal wave of interest. He believes 5 percent of all vehicles would benefit from being amphibious.

"It's not just a niche technology," he told reporters. "Buses, SUVs, there's no limit to what we can make amphibious."

Who wouldn't want to jig for Walleye on their way to work?

It takes a man who's part entrepreneur, part diplomat and part salesman to make something like this happen. Gibbs' resume shows a little of all three.

It helps he's working with engineer Neil Jenkins, president and CEO of Gibbs Technologies.

Jenkins joined Gibbs in 1999 and the two assembled a crew of nearly 70 engineers to design and build prototypes in England. They spent more than 1 million man hours and $100 million on the project.

The vehicle's innovative design includes a composite body on an all-aluminum frame. The suspension system uses hydraulics, springs and gear mechanisms that allow the wheels to be pulled up to become a boat. That process eliminates drag and allows the boat to zip along on its composite hull.

"There were a lot of obstacles in building the Aquada, but moving the tires out of the way was one of the biggest," Jenkins said.

The company often turned hurdles into patents as it developed new technologies or adapted old ideas with new approaches. The company has collected 70 worldwide patents, Jenkins said.

Gibbs' plan might seem like a pipe dream to many. But if there's any place it has a chance to come to fruition, it's Michigan.

This state has more engineers and manufacturing experience than any other. Michigan knows cars. Michigan knows boats. And Gibbs believes the two should go together.
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I get a kick out of that seating arrangement. It can seat one more person than your standard roadster, and that should amount to something.

I personally hope this thing is mildly successful. Amphibious vehicles would mean we could potentially travel from America to Europe by car... Of course, I don't know if I could handle sitting in what would basically be a tiny boat for several weeks.

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This would be nice if you suddenly got caught in a flash flood.

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The car is cool, but I would never use it...the Quadski on the other hand...that's an investment I would make without a second thought...Being able to go out to the lake with one vehicle that is an ATV and jetski would rock!

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I get a kick out of that seating arrangement. It can seat one more person than your standard roadster, and that should amount to something.

I personally hope this thing is mildly successful. Amphibious vehicles would mean we could potentially travel from America to Europe by car... Of course, I don't know if I could handle sitting in what would basically be a tiny boat for several weeks.

Kind of off topic but, I could never understand why more manufacturers don't do this. Even some supercars (like the McLaren F1) have a central seating position. It just seems like a better seating solution and use of space, and it would make manufacturing for different countries a lot easier. Seems like it would be safer for the driver in side impact accidents as well. Granted, there is always the issue of entry and exit, as well as where to put the hvac/radio controls, and I also suppose it would prevent the use of a manual tranny.
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Just for the record, Tucker proposed central seating in his early proposals (1946).

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I really want a Quadski, I've seen a few pics and videos and it just looks too cool for words.

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"Personally, I'd like to do this in Detroit,"

Good, go for it! I can't think of a better place that needs the company, or a better place that could help the company. There's more relevent talent they need than they know what to do with in SE Michigan.

Edited by AxelTheRed
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