An Early Amphibicar [1907]

Combination Launch and Automobile

Doubtless there are many automobilists who, while running along the road near an inviting sheet of water, have wished themselves afloat in a power boat, and many power-boatmen whose automobiling instincts have been aroused by the sight of a smooth bit of highway near the water. There is coming from France by steamer a machine that is capable of fulfilling both these wishes, for it is equally at home afloat or ashore -- a practical launch and automobile in one. Chugging through the waters of the lake, the machine can be steered toward the shore and run up the beach under its own power wherever there is a hold for wheels and not too stiff a grade; and vice versa, when the driver gets tired of the road he can turn and plunge into the water again.

This curious device is the work of a French engineer, M. Jules Ravaillier, who has spent years in developing it, and whose final trials of the machine in Paris, where it navigated the Seine and ran on the roads, attracted the attention of the French War Department. An American, George E. Crater, of Stanhope, N.J., saw the machine and was so impressed that he purchased it and also the patent rights for the world; he is bringing it to New York and will shortly have it running on the roads and the roadsteads of New York.

Essentially this boat-automobile consists of a steel power boat mounted on the wheels and running gear of an automobile. A four-cylinder, 20-h.p. gasoline engine, located just under the forward deck, develops the driving power. it drives a shaft and propeller in the usual power-boat way when afloat; when on the road, the shifting of a lever disconnects the propeller and engages a countershaft of the usual automobile type which drives the rear wheels through chains; the counter-shaft projects through stuffing-boxes in the hull. a change-speed mechanism of the usual style gives three forward speeds and reverse, which are available for use with the propeller or with the wheels. The axles, front and rear, pass through water-tight steel tubes in the hull. Wheels are of galvanized steel and have small solid rubber tires. on the road a speed of twenty-two miles an hour can be attains; as a boat, the speed is five and a half miles an hour.

A bank as steep as fifteen per cent can be climbed if the surface is reasonably good; but if the bank is very steep or soft, a special device is used. a capstan, near the bow, is driven by the engine through a shaft and worm; a rope fastened to any handy tree or boulder gives something for the powerful capstan to pull on, and the machine is steadily pulled out.

A seat at the after end of the cockpit is large enough for two people, while another seat after this, in a sort of shallow cockpit, will accommodate two more. The driver, skipper, engineer, chauffeur, operator, or whatever he is, steers by wheel which controls both the shore steering gear and the rudder.

(Transcribed from The Rudder, November 1907, p. 847.)

[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page. --LF]


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Leslie Field, 2000