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Finding Minnesota: Still Floating After All These Years

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Sometimes people think they’re witnessing disaster at a Minnesota lake when they see a classic car plunge into the water.

But then, the car doesn’t sink; it floats.

Minnesota has several collectors of Amphicars, quirky vehicles that are part car, part boat.

They haven’t been made since the 1960s and there are just a few hundred still in use. But Minnesota’s lakes still attract dozens of them.

Rich Rosenberg of Minneapolis received one as a gift from his wife 27 years ago.

“This is the best place to have a car that drives in the water,” he said. “The Amphicar changed our lives.”

In the southwest metro, there are six families that own Amphicars and they’ve become closer friends because of it.

Robbie Soskin also received an Amphicar as a birthday present from his wife.

Dave Wright said he “married into it,” because his wife owned one.

“Just that moment of going in the water. When you’re driving from land into water, it’s just, it’s always magical,” Wright said.

“It just makes you smile,” Soskin said. “You’re smiling to be in it. People are looking at you, they’re smiling.”

Members of the group enjoy the reactions they get from people on shore and in the water. Rosenberg pulled up to a group of canoeists in Eden Prairie’s Bryant lake, saying “Excuse me, sorry. Am I in your parking place?”

“You get it all,” Mark Lellman, another Amphicar owner, said. “It’s like you’re in a parade wherever you go.”

The German company that made the vehicles in the 1960s failed after just a few years, and for good reason.

“Because it’s actually a pretty bad car and a pretty bad boat,” said Soskin.

That’s why members of this group rarely go out alone.

“I mean these cars are 50 years old,” Wright said. “And most of them have original parts.”

“You’re not really sure each time you go in, is it really going to float,” Soskin said. “When there are four, five, six of them, chances are something will go wrong with at least one, so you just pretty much count on that.”

They put up with the mechanical issues because they have so much fun the rest of the time.

“On the way here, a police officer came up behind me and I thought, ‘Oh no, what’s going on?’ Wright said. “And of course, he just wants to talk about the car.”

It’s been decades since anyone made parts for the vehicles, and only a few mechanics can figure them out. But these loyal owners find a way.

“You do what it takes to keep them floating,” Soskin said.

The Amphicars can ride in any freshwater lake that allows motorized vehicles. Each one is registered in Minnesota, both as a car and a watercraft.

 

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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