This might be a question for an online search engine: How many cars had a pool built around them, then had water pumped into the pool – and survived unscathed?
One correct answer: at least 1.
In case you haven’t noticed, cars don’t ferry about lakes and streams like they’re on a drive in the country – and rightly so. The vast majority of cars and trucks don’t float, at least not for more than a few seconds, and water can raise havoc on a powertrain and most anything electric.
But Arnold and Sharon Hite, who live in the Charleston area, possess one of the few private passenger vehicles built to drive on land and in water. They own a 1966 Amphicar – light blue, naturally.
In the early 2000s, Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., highlighted the couple and their floatable coupe.
“We were the featured car, in the swimming pool two years,” said Sharon Hite, who with her husband brought their amphibious mobile to the Steel Pony car show Aug. 25 on Wadmalaw Island. “They built the pool around it.”
The two-door convertible was one of 89 cars, along with more than 200 motorcycles, that took part in the third annual car show last Sunday at Charleston Tea Plantation.
The Amphicar, manufactured in what was then West Germany and powered by a 1,147 cc rear-mounted Triumph engine, sports two propellers and a drainage bilge just like a boat. But it does have limitations. Notably, you can’t putter around in salt water.
“We do take it in Goose Creek Reservoir,” she says, as well as at least once in Trophy Lake on Johns Island.
For the Steel Pony show, the Hites decked out the Amphicar with a knee board and orange life jackets in the back seat, two rubber duckies on the dashboard and a vanity license plate, HafBoat.
Across the way, Steve Blackman of Johns Island displayed an uncommon 1952 Pontiac Chieftain. The wide-bodied sedan, which was his grandmother’s car, has logged just 33,000 miles. “It’s got an old fashioned flathead (engine),” he said. The Pontiac “rides like a truck.”
According to organizers, the numbers of cars and cycles at the Steel Pony event were up from last year. An island ride that takes place as part of the show boasted 245 cycles with 96 passengers.
“It’s four times bigger than last year,” said Kathy Hartman, who brought an eight-year-old Road Star Yamaha 1700 (cc) with Rhonda Morris as passenger. “The ride is super,” she said.
Show proceeds go to the Lowcountry Firefighter Support Team, a nonprofit organization that helps identify struggling firefighters and families and responds effectively by guiding them to the appropriate health services.
Next year, Steel Pony backers plan to add an imports class upon recommendation from the show registrants, said Kelly Carroll, who was involved with organizing the show.
“It was a spectacular event that we are very proud of,” she said.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
William and Jenny Hilburn parked their 1940 Buick Special C46 near the tea plants on Wadmalaw Island (Jim Parker/Staff 8-25-2013)×
Dozens of motorcycles were on hand for the third annual Steel Pony car show Aug. 25 (Jim Parker/Staff 8-25-2013).×
Kelley Blackburn’s 1931 Model A Ford was one of several vintage cars at the Wadmalaw Island event (Jim Parker/Staff 8-25-2013).×