Washington Township woman proud of rare Amphicar

| Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 12:16 a.m.

When Edwardine Saul recently read a newspaper story about a California man inventing an amphibious vehicle, she wondered what the big deal was.

After all, Saul, 86, has had such a vehicle sitting in a garage since the late 1960s, an Amphicar model 770.

The German-made vehicle is the only civilian automobile that can drive in water that was ever mass produced, according to the International Amphicar Owners Club's website.

It was manufactured in Berlin from 1961 to 1968, under the Quandt Group, which still owns a controlling interest in BMW, according to another website for the vehicle's fans, www.Amphicars.com.

Saul isn't sure in what year her Amphicar was made. She believes it was around 1968 when her late husband, John Edwin Saul, who owned a concrete plant in Washington Township, bought the car used when they saw it during a trip to Chicago.

“I think he paid only $2,500 for it,” Saul said. “Really, I couldn't see why it wasn't more popular. It didn't cost that much.”

According to the owners club website, 3,878 of them were manufactured. They sold for between $2,800 and $3,300.

From 1961 to 1967, a little more than 3,000 of them were imported into the United States. But, the website said the company ran into trouble in 1968 when new regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation went into effect and became barriers to the Amphicar. It was a financial blow because 90 percent of its market was in America. The company stopped production, the website said.

“Riding in it was fine, but driving it was hard,” Saul said. “I only drove it a couple of miles. He (her husband) thought it was too difficult to control.”

“It goes good on the water, but it's kind of like a truculent turtle on the highway,” she said.

For that reason, the Sauls used it far more on the water and always towed the two-door convertible to area waterways.

“We took it up to Crooked Creek a few times and up to the Kinzua Dam,” Saul said.

“When we took it up to Kinzua the first time, you had to pay a launch fee of $3,” she said smiling at the memory. “When I went in and told the man what I wanted, he said, ‘That is so cute, I don't want to charge you the $3.' ”

Required 2 licenses

She said because of its dual purpose, the Amphicar has to have a motor vehicle license and a boat license.

While the Sauls liked the way the Amphicar performed on water, Edwardine said they always made sure they had an oar in the vehicle — just in case.

The Sauls had a love and appreciation for cars and motoring.

Edwardine even got to drive the car of record-setting NASCAR driver and team owner Kyle Busch during a recent visit to the NASCAR speedway in Charlotte, N.C. She has the certificate and photos to prove it.

A large garage houses several vehicles collected by her husband, who died in 2002, including a 1928 Dodge, a 1929 fire engine and a three-wheeled 1955 Messerschmitt.

But none are quite as unusual as the cream-colored Amphicar with red-and-white interior.

Although Saul can't remember the last time the car was driven, it appears to be in relatively good condition but apparently not to her standards.

“It would be worth about $60,000 mint, but, remember, it's far from mint,” she said.

An articulate woman who loves to wear red hats and clothing, Edwardine Saul gets down to basics when she talks about her Amphicar.

“What it is, is a bathtub on wheels,” she said with a smile.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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