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"Splash" car turns James Bond fantasy into reality

Fancy an open-top lake cruise? Rinspeed

Swiss engineers have unveiled a one-of-a-kind amphibious flying machine at this year’s motor show in Geneva.

This content was published on March 3, 2004 - 14:19

The frog-like concept car, called “Splash”, can reach speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour above water and was designed by the Zurich-based firm, Rinspeed.

“When I was a kid, I played in the bathtub with my toy cars; in my dreams, cars could do whatever I wanted them to,” said the 48-year-old founder and chief executive of Rinspeed, Frank Rinderknecht.

“There’s also an element of James Bond to it, because those films featured cars that could do the impossible,” he told swissinfo. “But the Splash is more than just a moviemaker’s fantasy…it actually works.”

Floating to flying

At first glance, the sleek blue convertible looks very much like a land-loving cross between a beach buggy and a futuristic roadster.

But at the push of a button, the car’s concealed hydraulic mechanism allows the vehicle to drive off the road and into the water.

“It’s quite easy… you get on a ramp, open the rear hatch, free the propeller, engage the gear box and drive into water,” explained Rinderknecht, as he shimmied over the side of the car’s watertight body.

“Once you’re deep enough in the water, around 1.5 metres, you can lower the wing system,” he added.

An integrated hydrofoil system then lifts the car as high 60 centimetres above the surface – transforming it from floating to “flying” mode.

Green machine

Seated behind the steering wheel of the Splash’s spartan, cockpit-like interior, Rinderknecht lets a boyish grin cross his face as he revs its turbocharged engine.

Over the noise, which sounds like a motorbike missing a silencer, Rinderknecht explains that the machine is actually very eco-friendly.

“As a concept car designer, I have a social responsibility to ensure that my vision protects the environment,” he said. “The Splash is the world’s first amphibious vehicle to be equipped with future-oriented engine technology.”

“Natural gas is an extremely clean-burning fuel that consists almost entirely of methane, with near-zero sulphur content…so it helps reduce CO2 emissions.”

Showing off

With an estimated price tag of around SFr500,000 ($394,000), the Splash took approximately 10,000 man-hours to produce.

According to Rinderknecht, it was never meant to be a commercial success and the company has no plans to launch into retail production.

“The Splash is a one-off… it’s not for sale, so it has no target market,” said Rinderknecht. “It’s meant to be admired and to be fun and to give people the ‘wow’ factor of discovering the unexpected.”

He added that the vehicle was also designed to highlight Rindspeed’s core business as a contract designer and engineer for mainstream automotive firms.

“The purpose of this car is to show off what we can do and the talents of our partner companies,” he told swissinfo.

Swiss-made

In designing his amphibious flying machine, Rinderknecht drew on expertise from a wide range of Swiss firms, including the engineering company, Esoro.

Switzerland does not actually have an automobile production industry of its own, but a large network of innovative Swiss suppliers does exist.

“For us it’s an advantage to be a Swiss company and I’m proud to say the car is Swiss-made,” Rinderknecht said.

swissinfo, Anna Nelson

Key facts

Rinspeed says the Splash can accelerate to 100 kilometres per hour in under 6 seconds.
On the road, it can reach speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour.
Thanks to an integrated hydrofoil system, it can “fly” around 60 centimetres above the water at a top speed of about 80 km/h.
The Splash also operates as a conventional amphibious vehicle and can go fast enough to tow a water skier or knee boarder while in the water.

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In brief

Rinspeed’s amphibious flying car, “Splash”, was unveiled on Thursday at the start of the Geneva Motor Show, which runs until March 14.

The frog-like flying machine is the Swiss company’s 10th concept car and was designed as a one-off prototype.

It is the brainchild of Rinspeed founder, Frank Rinderknecht, who had dreamt of designing a flying car since childhood.

Later this year, Rinderknecht plans to make a world record attempt in the two-seater convertible by crossing the English Channel.

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