Equally at home on land and water

By Bryan Laviolette

Millionaire industrialist Alan Gibbs has launched his latest creation, the amphibious Quadski. Bryan Laviolette, founder and editor of FastAmphibians.com, was among the first to climb on for a test drive.

We fire up the Gibbs Quadski - the world's first production planing amphibious vehicle - and head straight for the water. Just as the tyres start to get wet, we instinctively grab the brake lever because, well, wheeled vehicles aren't supposed to go in the water.

But then we remember that this wheeled vehicle is different. The fact that the Quadski can roll into the water is precisely what makes it special.

As a Gibbs marketing representative said, "That's when the magic happens."

After pushing a button to raise the wheels - the key feature that transforms the Quadski from land vehicle to boat - we squeeze the throttle lever and, as little as five seconds after entering the water, we're on plane.

Gibbs, founded by New Zealand industrialist Alan Gibbs, has been developing what it calls High Speed Amphibian technology for 15 years. But after teasing enthusiasts for years, it is finally going to start production.

The company has spent $200 million, provided entirely by Gibbs and his partner, Neil Jenkins, developing the technology.

Gibbs said it was never his intention to spend that much money developing the technology. Initially, he figured development would cost $25 million.

But, as he said, everyone needs a hobby, and he's had more fun doing this than he would have pursuing other hobbies.

"I think this beats golf," Gibbs said.

The ride is smooth and the Quadski feels well balanced, although our test drive was on a mirror-smooth lake, so we can't say how well it handles rough water.

It carves smooth turns, although the shallow vee of its hull means it doesn't turn as well as the best-handling personal watercraft.

As easy as it is to go in the water, it's just as easy to exit. After coming off plane, toggle the wheels down. Since the jet is always engaged, we can still power through the water until the wheels catch ground.

The ride is very smooth and the single-seat Quadski always feels stable. At 320cm in length and 160cm wide, it ought to.

Here's what the Quadski is not: it is not the ultimate rock-hopper ATV. And it's also not going to out-handle the most extreme personal watercraft. It features a single large dial for speed with an LCD readout in the lower right corner for other information such as tachometer and gear number. The LCD is virtually unreadable while moving.

But nothing detracts from whatthe Quadski represents. "We've obliterated the separation between land and sea transportation," said Gibbs.

Without getting off the vehicle, you can go from fishing in the middle of the bay to riding the trails. While the exact price has not been set, Gibbs said it would be "about" $40,000.

But with a plan to build just 1000 of the machines in the first year, Gibbs will limit sales to just five or six dealers, all of which will be in the east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States.


Fast in the wet

Quadski can travel at 72km/h on land or water, transitioning between the two in five seconds.

- NZ Herald

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