Licensed to thrill

I can never be James Bond.

But last Friday afternoon, at the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club, I was reliving a scene from the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

In that film, the British spy sneaked into the villain's underwater base on a "WetBike", which was a cross between a motorcycle and a jet ski.

So I imagined I was, Bond-like, in an ocean racing against time to save the world, with a wide camera shot from a helicopter, as I hurtled across the water at close to 70 kmh on a vehicle that is a combination of a quad bike and jet ski - the Quadski.

Developed by Michigan-based company Gibbs Sports Amphibians Inc, the Quadski is a one-seater sports vehicle that offers both off-road and on-water thrills.

I was amazed by the transformation process when I drove it down the jetty into the water.

With the push of a button, I activated the jet ski mode, and within five seconds, all four wheels folded up and the power supply was automatically switched from the BMW K1300 engine to a water jet.

No weird mechanical vibrations or sounds, just a couple of beeps and I was good to go.

I was not able to test the Quadski on terra firma, but I was thoroughly thrilled by its performance at high speeds on water.

Thrice, I was propelled into the air as I rode over a large wave, landing a second later and creating a huge splash behind me each time.

It felt sturdy, and not once was I afraid that I would fall off as I peformed fast turns in open water.

The Quadski is marketed in the US as an "affordable sports vehicle", selling for between US$40,000 (S$50,000) and US$50,000.

It is targeted at those who are looking for a convenient vehicle to take part in an off-road adventure, said Mr Neil Jenkins, chairman of Gibbs Amphibians Ltd

ST Kinetics, which is the sole distributor in South-east Asia, said that Singapore enthusiasts would have to pay more after including the Certificate of Entitlement and licences for operating the vehicle as both a motorbike and a watercraft. But it did not give a specifc price range.

I was also taken for a ride aboard a much larger amphibious vehicle called the Humdinga, designed by Gibbs Amphitrucks and also sold by ST Kinetics. It is essentially an amphibious lorry that can carry six people and it operates on the same design as the Quadski.

Press the water mode button and the lorry becomes a boat in less than 10 seconds.

On the road, it can reach up to 130kmh. On water, it can hit 48kmh.

While the Humdinga could be configured with add-ons like air-conditioning and more seats, its main purpose in the region is to aid in disaster relief efforts, said Mr Patrick Choy, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer of ST Kinetics.

The vehicle costs about half a million dollars in Singapore, which is, Mr Choy, still "much less expensive than a Ferrari".

He added: "Who knows, maybe amphibious vehicles can be our answer to expensive ERP charges in the future.

Perhaps, unless they start building ERP gantries on the water as well.

benlim@sph.com.sg


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