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What are Car Boats?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term “car boat” can be used either to refer to a boat powered by the engine of a car, or to an amphibious vehicle which can be used as a car or a boat, depending on the conditions. A number of variations on the car boat exist, from high end products produced by specialty manufacturers to versions made at home by hobbyists. One of the most famous examples of a car boat appeared in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, in which a car which converts into a submarine plays a prominent role.

In the sense of a boat powered by the engine of a car and sometimes built on the chassis of a car, a car boat is usually a home made boat. Car boats can be used for a variety of purposes, including navigating in the open ocean, and they are generally intended for practical, rather than recreational use. The approach to construction and conversion can vary, depending on the skills of the boat builder and the application for which the car boat will be utilized.

When people think of a car boat, they often think specifically of an amphibious vehicle with the ability to be used as a car or a boat. These types of car boats are sometimes built by enthusiasts as recreational vehicles, although they can also have some practical purposes. Manufacturers of sports cars and sports boats may also team up to create unique car boats which are designed for performance and speed.

Building a craft which is capable of being street legal and navigating the water is quite a challenge. Wheels tend to create drag, which makes a vehicle less functional in the water, and car boats must have systems in place to compensate for this, such as retractable wheels or wheel covers which can be used in the water. Other concerns include handling in the water as compared to handling on land, in addition to seaworthiness.

Whether built by a hobbyist or purchased from a manufacturer, car boats tend to be expensive propositions. The special design requirements necessitate a unique skill set and some very distinctive parts which can be expensive to acquire or fabricate. A premium is also placed on such watercraft because of their versatility and perceived desirability. High quality car boats are sometimes used in racing and other sporting events in which people have an opportunity to show off and compare their car boats.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By wavy58 — On Mar 28, 2012

My husband is fascinated by car boats, and he built one using a plan he bought online. It had to have a special transmission, but many of the other internal parts he got from an old car junkyard.

The hull of the vehicle was full of foam, so it could float with no problem. This is not a car boat made for speed, though. It’s more for floating along slowly and enjoying the looks you get from people on the shore.

I remember the first time we drove it out onto a lake. People on the beach were screaming when we first drove in, because they thought we were going to die. Once they realized that we were staying afloat, we started waving to them and smiling, and loud applause and cheers went up.

By seag47 — On Mar 27, 2012

@OeKc05 - I watched a documentary on the making of car boats once, and I remember that they used the same lightweight material to make the exterior as they use in regular boats. They also mentioned that it resisted rusting.

All of the car boats featured on this show had retractable wheels. You could still see the wheels, but underneath them was a solid piece of material on which the boat could glide across the water easily.

There is nothing quite as cool as seeing a red convertible racing across the top of the ocean. It created a wake just like a real boat, and the driver and passenger both had their hair flying in the wind like they do on the road.

By OeKc05 — On Mar 26, 2012

Car boats must have a special type of exterior material or coating. I know that people who live near the ocean complain because the salt in the air makes their vehicles rust, so I’m sure no one would drive a car boat made of regular car metal into the ocean.

My mother lives near the sea, and she is always complaining about having to wash her car so often. I kind of wish she would get a car boat so she wouldn’t have to worry with it. Though she would never take it out on the water, at least it would be made of something that wouldn’t rust, and she would get plenty of use out of it driving on the roads.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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