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Thursday, 10 April 2014 21:17

WaterCar Has Body Shop Owner Swimming in Business

Dave March, owner of Fountain Valley Bodyworks in Fountain Valley, CA, owns a busy body shop that repairs roughly 500 cars every month. When he isn’t wrestling with insurance companies and making sure every car leaves his shop in pristine condition, March is a dreamer and an inventor. He enjoys thinking outside-of-the-box, or in this case—on top of the water.

His brainchild is called the WaterCar, a hydro-friendly, amphibious vehicle that can be used to drag water skiers and tubers at more than 40 miles per hour.

Inspired by the Amphicar of the 1960s, March started working on the WaterCar more than 15 years ago as a personal challenge to build the world's fastest amphibious vehicle. He had no plans to ever offer it to the public, March explained, but as he began refining his creation, he saw a need and a market for the WaterCar.

“We’ve designed several models over the years with the goal to make it better every time,” March said. “Our first version of the WaterCar was a purpose-built vehicle, to be very fast on both land and water. But, when the WaterCar established the amphibious speed record with our Python model, our attention turned to reliability, and we began designing a vehicle to offer to the public.”

After numerous successes and failures, 27 patents, and literally thousands of labor hours, March’s dream has been achieved. It’s called the Panther—and the very first WaterCar to be offered to the public. March and his all-star team consisting of top automotive designers and technicians have tweaked the WaterCar’s design, and, by using state-of-the-art equipment at Fountain Valley Bodyworks, they’ve come up with the ultimate vehicle for both land and sea.

Is the WaterCar more automobile or more boat? Legally, amphibious vehicles need to be registered both as a car and as a boat in the U.S. and display both license plate and hull numbers. “In some states, the Department of Transportation is still a little confused about the concept, but more and more they’re embracing the WaterCar,” March said. “Arizona, California, and Nevada have been a little tough in getting on board, but we’re confident that they will eventually embrace the idea. We’re getting them approved, but, in some cases, we have to jump through hoops to get it done.”

During its development years, March was continuously approached by people around the world who wanted to purchase a WaterCar, but he wasn’t ready to put them on the market for a wide range of reasons. “While we were flattered that people wanted the WaterCar, we just felt it wasn’t ready,” March said. “It was difficult to say no for all those years, but we figured hey—let’s not rush it. In 2013, we realized that the WaterCar was ready for the public, and pretty much right away the orders started coming in.”

March received a ton of publicity when he drove his WaterCar all the way from his shop in Fountain Valley to Catalina Island in January 2014. The story, “Amphibious water car dives into land and sea market,” made page one of the Chicago Tribune and created a buzz worldwide. “We made the 30-mile trip at around 40 miles per hour, and we used about 10 gallons of fuel one-way. Typically, a boat will get around four miles per gallon, so the WaterCar isn’t just fast, it’s also green and very economical. When we pulled into that harbor, the people were shocked and surprised when we drove up!”

Celebrities and billionaires are showing interest in the WaterCar, but anyone with $140,000 lying around can buy one, March said. “Wealthy folks are always looking for the newest toy, and the WaterCar definitely fits the bill. These famous people make us sign non-disclosure agreements, so I can’t tell you any names. But I can tell you that one individual who is awaiting delivery of his WaterCar is the founder of a very well-known tech company.” (And his last name isn’t Zuckerberg, Ellision, or Wozniak!) “The attention this vehicle has received is pretty amazing, to say the least.”

The hottest markets for the WaterCar are currently in Florida and Dubai, March said. “Millionaires with 200-foot yachts want to have a WaterCar so they can taxi around and then hit the streets. With all of those little islands, the WaterCar is perfect for Dubai, as well as in the Florida Keys.”

March is now selling WaterCar kits and believes that body shops would be ideal to assemble them. Since he has a backlog of orders and can’t make them fast enough, this might be the best time to jump into a sideline business by putting together WaterCar kits.

“The kits cost around $75,000, so there’s plenty of room there for profit,” March explained. “We’d like to get body shops from different regions of the country involved, especially those that are close to lakes or the ocean, for example,” March said. “They already have all of the equipment needed to assemble the kits and paint them, etc. If you can assemble a Volkswagen, you can do this. You have to install the motor and transmission, do the upholstery, and paint it. A body shop can do the job in three to four weeks, and if they really want to fast track it, they can do it in a week. It might be a good additional source of revenue for them, and they will definitely get some attention for these WaterCars.”

We asked March what the future looks like for the WaterCar and he said, “I think it’s definitely bright. Once people start seeing them more and more, they’ll want them. The next big thing we’d love to do with the WaterCar is take a trip down the English Channel by Big Ben and then all the way to the Eiffel Tower. I’m pretty sure that would get some attention from the people at the Guinness Book of Records!”

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