Amphibious Vehicles: Elite's Ultimate Mode of Transport

From planning family vacations to taking a shortcut to work, imagine having the option to choose whether you drive by land or water as easily as you decide what you want to wear.

Amphibious vehicles — cars that are successfully functional on land and water — are no longer only important and valuable to the U.S. military. Now they are the cars of the future, appealing to a new market — the buyers of lavish and sporty luxury vehicles.

The Aquada, a combination sports car and speedboat, will debut in the United States in the early part of 2009 to the tune of $85,000. Currently, it sells overseas for more than $200,000 since entering the U.K. market in 2003.

The vehicle "has the highest crash test rating ever, for any vehicle in Europe," according to Larry Weis, president and CEO of AutoCom Associates.

In addition to a front shaped like the hull of a speed boat and the body formatted to resemble the stylish and sleek looks of an Aston Martin Vanquish, the Aquada also boasts a powerful V6 engine from Land Rover's Freelander.

Created by Gibbs Technologies chairman Alan Gibbs, a native of New Zealand, the Aquada is a more advanced civilian amphibious vehicle, reaching speeds of 110 mph on land and 30 mph on water respectively, breaking the record for amphibious vehicle speed.

It serves as worthy competition for the 2006 Hydra Spyder, the first amphibian in the United States, with a V8 Corvette engine and similar speeds.

Taking seven years to complete, the Aquada surpasses its 1960s predecessor, the German Amphicar, which only achieved a speed of 70 mph on land and 7 mph on the water.

Paving the way for Aquada's grand entrance are three new military models in development for the U.S. Navy and Special Forces, produced by the newly partnered Lockheed Martin and Gibbs Technologies. These models will be equipped with the same technology employed in the Aquada.

The three models are:

the Terraquad, reaching 50 mph on land and 55 mph on water and resembling a tractor mixed with an Army tank.

the Amphibious Combat Craft-Expeditionary (ACC-E), traveling at 80 mph on land and 45 mph in the water, which appears to look a lot like a Hummer crossed with an Army tank.

the Amphibious Combat Craft-Riverine (ACC-R), cruising at 65 mph on land and 40 mph in the water, which looks like a mix between a platoon tank and a submarine.

All of these vehicles will be used for military purposes.

According to Lockheed Martin spokesman Ken Ross, the vehicles will be demonstrated this week in Washington if a permit from park services can be obtained.

"We're ready," Ross said. "We're just waiting on the permit, since the area we need to test in is in a park-protected area."