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No Beach Out Of Reach: Dutton Reef Amphibian

Chris Haining January 21, 2016 All Things Hoon, Redusernab Quick Take 16 Comments

On Monday’s bonus round of Mystery Car, the unnamed machine was correctly identified as the Amphicar 770, disappointingly quickly. There can’t be many folk in the Redusernab who haven’t yet learnt of the many limitations and design compromises of the famous ’60s amphibian, its mechanical make-up was limited by the technology of the time, and one of the reasons for its metal construction was that Glass Reinforced Plastic was still only just beginning to become popular in boats, let alone boats which were actually cars.

So it was with genuine excitement and interest that I came across the Dutton stand at this year’s London Boat Show, where the latest release from Tim Dutton’s lovingly operated company was exposed to public gaze for the first time.

“Floaty” was an inspired choice for the license plate, and “No beach out of reach” is an inspired slogan for the product. The Dutton Reef is the first in a line of two-wheel-drive amphibians which use mechanical components from the Ford Fiesta for their motivation on land, in this case, the Fiesta MK8. You know, the one .

The 1600cc power plant is recommended, presumably for reasons of performance on land. In the water the Reef is still a full-displacement design so you’re limited by physics to a hull speed of 6mph, there’s no breaking over the hump and onto the plane, which is absolutely fine. Yes, there have been planing amphibians over the years, but all of these have required sophisticated wheel retraction systems to cut drag, which adds complication and weight. And expense. Machines like the Gibbs Aquada were priced way beyond Kings Ransom and closer to GDP of Belgium levels.

The great thing here is that the Reef is still A Fiesta, but one which can cross water. Exluding several quid’s worth of donor vehicle, the Reef costs just shy of £20,000. You can save money and use a cosmetically challenged or impact-damaged machine as a basis, as long as the majority of mechanical components are intact, and Tim and his Team will go through the labour intensive programme of work to turn your humdrum hatchback into the envy of the yacht club.

The display car was pre-production, and judging by the tonneau over the cockpit I assume interior details aren’t yet finalised. But if there is substantial carry-over from the Fiesta itself, it should be rather nice, and assembled rather well.

On top of that, I think the Reef is actually a rather handsome thing. Even the high chin characteristic of the amphibian doesn’t stand out too badly, and the latest generation Fiesta headlamps integrate quite well.

The most interesting thing, though, will be finding out how the Reef drives. Part of the conversion involves relocation of the engine to the centre of the car, making the Reef essentially a mid-engined open top Fiesta Sports Car… which can be used on water.

If I ever swing the opportunity to put one of these through its paces on road and river, you can bet that I’ll be feverishly writing up my accounts with determination and passion. The very concept feels so much more appealing than the metal tub with a Triumph Herald engine that represented the cutting edge fifty years ago.

(All images (apart from third down which was from dailymail.com, of all places) copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2016. Plenty of interesting stuff to be read at )

  • 0A5599

    If they build a version that can handle desert along with other amphibious duties, they could get a license plate FLOA5599. Watch out for bulldozers.

  • “…correctly identified as the Amphicar 770, disappointingly quickly.”

    The wider shot gave a bit too much away. Few cars have a horn and navigation lights on the hood like that, although as nanoop pointed out, the Holstentor at the center of the steering wheel is itself sufficiently conclusive.

    • nanoop

      … and if your knowledge of mediaeval architecture has a hole there, the manufacturer plate under the radio would help, too.

      • Oh, sure, go ahead and give away all the tricks of the trade.

    • Yes, it’s almost as if I forgot this was Redusernab.

  • karonetwentyc

    My God – I had no idea Dutton was still around. The last time that I can remember seeing one of their vehicles, it was one of these in the mid-’90s:

    • crank_case

      Dutton have a fascinating history, read an interview with Tim Dutton in a recent Kit car magazine. They used the Sierra name before Ford, but Ford sued them anyway. Dutton won the case, which barely covered legal, but apparently was great publicity. They ended up next to the Ford stand at the UK motorshow that year entirely by coincidence too, which must have been awkward. Their Lotus 7-a-like the Phaeton was the biggest ever selling uk kit car too.

  • Troggy

    I love that a tow bar can be fitted, giving you the option to tow a second boat or jetski. I like the idea of an amphibious car that can bring its own rescue boat.

    • Or, you know, a camp trailer if one anticipates a long wait.

      • Troggy

        Now you’re almost selling it to me.

      • Tiller188

        At that point it seems like it would be simpler to just combine the two and build an amphibious camper van. Come to think of it, I can’t believe no one’s done that before…it could be something like this:

        …oh. Hold on…

        pics.imcdb.org/0is841/topgearvwtransporteramp.9730.jpg

        • Vairship

          or (if you somehow doubt the quality and/or waterproofing of the above):

      • nanoop

        The text next to the image:
        “The F 430 ‘S’ is also available with outboard motor. The interior corresponds to regular F430 caravans. The swimming caravan has a grease-sealed axle and foam-filled double floor and hence, is unsinkable and non-capsizing.”

        The last line may be something for Tiller188:
        “Polyester camper van “Orion”: structure length 6m, width 2.10m, engine power 45 – 105 hp. A floatable version is available, too”… with either a Hanomag or Mercedes diesel engine . ()

        Only proof of the swimming Orion I could find:

        A bit OT, but I’m fascinated.

        • Troggy

          This is what I dream of owning one day:

  • Lokki

    What is the point of the six-inch deep door on the side of the Reef? A symbolic door?

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