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Claire's Diary
Claire


On paper it sounded amazing but in reality it just didn't work. The amphicar is a fantastic example of a machine that tried too hard to be everything. It was great fun but at the end of the day it was a terrible car and a lousy boat.

I never managed to get over its biggest crime: that a vehicle which shouts 'Look at me!' could be so ugly – even after a full bodywork makeover, new interior and brand new paint. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but if you're tempted to get one, please listen to my advice: don't buy one; drive someone else's. You'll be glad to hand it back.


Amphicar
IntroductionBody worksUnder the surfaceThe final touches

Introduction
We discover our Amphicar sitting in a barn near Upton-upon-Severn, with nothing but a cow for company. Owner David Chapman originally bought it for spares for his other Amphicar but since there are only 10 of these strange vehicles in Britain, he jumped at Salvage Squad's offer to restore this one. But where do you start with a car that doubles as a boat?

The Amphicar 770 was designed by German auto engineer Hanns Trippel for the American market – though it was based on his wartime work, making amphibious cars for the German army.
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Body works
One good look at the body (or is it the hull?) of our vehicle tells Claire that the main problem is going to be getting this old sieve watertight. Any vessel that goes on Britain's rivers has to meet the tough standards laid down by the Boat Safety Scheme, an MOT for inland cruisers, so we'll need someone with excellent bodybuilding skills. Enter Rolls Royce-trained panel beater and custom car supremo Lance McCormack of classic car restorers, Romance of Rust, who appeared in the first series of Salvage Squad.

Claire soon discovers that the Amphicar has been patched up in the past so a lot of filler and some dodgy bodywork need to be removed. Lance gives Claire a masterclass in panel beating and bodybuilding: no lap joints between the old and new; every piece of metal has to be perfectly formed to butt up edge to edge before being welded in to place. The result: a near seamless piece of new metal.
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Under the surface
The Boat Safety Scheme throws up some nasty surprises. The petrol tank is instantly condemned and a new one has to be made from scratch by Lance's friend Metal Mickey – Michael Bleakhouse of Sportscar Metal. The interior trim needs attention, too. Claire fails to make the grade as a seamstress despite the watchful eye of Garry 'the Stitch' Kybert of Car Interiors.

Suggs is given the task of finding a company that can recreate the Amphicar's brake linings, which are designed to ensure that the brakes work perfectly as soon as the car comes out of the water. It's off to Ferodo's factory in Derbyshire, where the recipe for the new pads is based on a formula first developed for Brenn Gun carriers for the D-Day landings. The linings work well – too well for Suggs, as he takes the car up to Ferodo's brake testing track before we've finished bolting the seats to the floor.
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The final touches
After five month's hard work by Lance and his Squad, the Amphi is ready to take to the water for the first time in 20 years – but first we need the dreaded Boat Safety Certificate. We fail first time for using the wrong sort of petrol hose. That's lucky, though, as, when the Amphicar is launched, we discover a dodgy door seal. Owner David Chapman could end up on the bottom of the river if we give back the car in that condition.

After tweaking the seals and installing a new petrol pipe, though, the Amphicar travels almost 200 miles from London to Upton-upon-Severn by a combination of road and river and arrives home fully tested and, best of all, dry.
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The body is in need of specialist attention


The body is in need of specialist attention


Lance welds the rear panel


Lance welds the rear panel


Stripped back to the basics


Stripped back to the basics


The seats are in


The seats are in


Lance and Claire on the open road


Lance and Claire on the open road


A life on the ocean waves


A life on the ocean waves