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07/11/21: A Humvee That Loves Waves: The Watercar H1 Panther

In a world where marketers are slapping flamboyant monikers on mass-produced models, it’s hard to see a vehicle that justifies its bonkers and often misleading name. However, a California-based company called WaterCar decided to change that by introducing a true all-terrain vehicle. The WaterCar H1 Panther is exactly what it sounds like. Based on a rugged military transporter with water capabilities, it is as badass as the donor car, but able to go where the road ends and water begins.



Rugged Foundations

The company based in Fountain Valley, California has chosen the HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) as a basis for their amphibious 4x4. Over 20 years of experience, including trial-and-error testing, has allowed the company to create the most badass truck that could go both on road and on the water.


The original HMMWV was produced from 1984 onwards, exclusively as a military transport vehcile. In 1992, a civilian version was made available to the masses due to demand, and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was instrumental in pushing for a civilian version of the rugged military transport. Around 2020, the former bodybuilder went further and together with Kreisel Electric, they teamed up to make a fully-electric Hummer H1.



Surprisingly Lightweight

Dave, the owner of the company was interviewed by YouTube channel Dirt Complex about a year ago, about a year after the idea for an amphibious Hummer H1 came about. What the company did was it took the Hummer’s aluminum body and discarded the heavy frame and all the running gear that comes with it. However, even with all the marine equipment, the body still goes up to 5,200 pounds (2,359 kg), which is still significantly less than the 7,558-pound (3,428 kg) curb weight of a regular Hummer H1. It may not sound like it but the power-to-weight ratio was something the engineering team was considering when building the H1 Panther.

Reliable, American V-8 Power

Depending on the year, the original Hummer H1 was powered by a few different engines. They include versions of the 6.5-liter Detroit Diesel V-8 engines, a Chevry L05 V-8, and a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel (2006 model year only). Three different automatics, with three to five forward gears, were available. Motivating the WaterCar H1 Panther is a Chevrolet LS3 V-8 engine, developing 395 horsepower (290 kilowatts) and 375 pound-feet (508 Nm).


Naturally, the amphibious Hummer still has legendary 4x4 capability and power is managed through an automatic transmission. As for water propulsion, the H1 Panther relies on a Mercury Bravo 2 Outdrive with a 20-inch propeller, which has the ability to work with gasoline engines of up to 450 horsepower (335 kilowatts) and diesel engines of up to 370 horsepower (272 kilowatts).


More In Common With A Porsche 718 Than You Think

The Humvee, typically, has a front mid-engine layout and that’s a problem when you want to go swimming. To prevent the H1 Panther from nose-diving into the water, Dave commissioned his team to figure out a way to put the engine in the rear of the vehicle. As a result, the body was turned 180 degrees. So now, the vehicle itself essentially facing backward while the engine remained where it was. And yes, this means that the WaterCar H1 Panther features a rear mid-engine layout, similar to what you find in a Porsche Boxter 718.



Still, Plenty Of Off-Road Capability

The Hummer H1 is based on the military M998 Humvee; which automatically makes the H2 and H3 models look like a massive compensation item. The rugged, military-derived SUV boasts impressive numbers such as 16 inches (41 cm) of ground clearance, 30 inches (76 cm) of fording depth, and approach/departure angles of 72/37.5 degrees, making it a proper all-terrain vehicle.


Of course, the H1 Panther puts an entirely new meaning to “all-terrain” but small sacrifices had to be made in the name of versatility. The high-strength aluminum body and hull have been designed to withstand the harshest of conditions and the amphibious Humvee has a deep enough Vee to tackle rough waters. The transition from land to sea and vice versa takes under 20 seconds. Ground clearance has been reduced compared to the standard Hummer H1, and is now 10 inches (25.4 cm). With that said, it’s still more than almost any modern SUV currently on sale and that's really saying something for the segment.


Even with all that tech, the H1 Panther is able to get up to highway speeds and on water, it can go up to 35 knots. The 38-gallon fuel tank is good for 380 miles (611 km) on land and 96 miles (155 km) on water. At 20 feet long, the H1 Panther is 4.63 feet longer than the regular H1 and can seat between five and six people on board.



Not As Affordable As You Might Expect

It goes without saying that engineering and custom work does not come cheap. If you have been following the market for retired military tech, you may know that on websites like govplanet.com, there are Humvees as cheap as $2,000. Essentially, this is the military, off-road equivalent of what happened with the Ford Crown Victoria police interceptors.


With that said, WaterCar’s conversion does not come cheap. The H1 Panther comes with plenty of amenities, the military version was deprived of, among which are a heater and optionally, air conditioning. The price for all this custom fabrication starts at $465,000. While the amphibious H1 Panther is nowhere near as affordable as a retired military Humvee, you do get true, all-terrain capabilities, and one of the most bonkers-looking vehicles currently on the market.



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