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Floating Subaru???


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#1 PictureChasers

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 02:41 PM

Has anyone out there ever made or seen a Subaru float (on purpose)?

On Monster Garage they have floated a few impractical vehicles, but I am interested in a practical amphibious vehicle. My assumption so far is that most cars will float, until the water gets in. Waterproof & add a little bouyant foam from a boatbuilder in the cavities, and it will float?!? Not sure about hot engine into cold water, but will do some more homework.

We considered rebuilding a VW Schwimmwagen, but they're crappy EXPENSIVE cars other than they float. I have seen modern production 30' RV's that float using outriggers to stabilize them. I remember a VW bug commercial where they drove a bug on the water & it floated, at least long enough to film a commercial.

Now we are modifying a Justy as a daily driver / adventurer / rally, and want to know if anyone has ever floated one, longer than a few seconds.

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#2 SuBrat84

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 03:04 PM

I haven't floated any subaru's myself... but I think this is an awesome idea! If some cubans can do it with an old pick up im sure it could be done with a sooby!! I would imagine you would have to seal up the bottom of the engine bay with a type of keel.. and depending if you just wanted a land/water vehicle or a land/water/off-roader... but you could use the rear drive line to attach a propeller to.. so when you engage 4wd then you prop is turning.. but then maybe you wouldn't want your front wheels to still be turning? Maybe you could add a lever that disengaged your drive line and axles and engages a driveline for the prop.. definately would be a fun project!

#3 A DOG

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 03:21 PM

I saw a video of a lifted suby with big tires that went into a water hole and lost traction and started to float. They had to tug him out.

#4 mtsmiths

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 05:53 PM

If a boat is a hole in the water, lined with wood or fiberglas, into which one throws money ... what would a floating Subaru be?

#5 Snowman

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 10:14 PM

They made some pretty neat amphibs on Junkyard Wars over the years. I was most impressed with the first one, which was an old diesel-powered Land Rover with fuel drums on outriggers. They mounted a prop and drove it with the rear drive shaft.

It CAN be done, it just depends on how much money you've got whether it will "work" or actually be a practical vehicle that wouldn't make yacht captains run and hide.

#6 Ross

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:21 AM

A floating subie is an extremely good idea. Im very suprised no one on this site already has one!
It would certainly further increase the versitility of the vehicle!

An amphibious vehicle has recently went into production, cant remember what its called though. it uses no protruding outriggers, and looks very much like a normal car apart from a bow shape at the front.
when it enters the water, teh wheels fold up into the guards so they are out of the water!

A justy is very small though, maybe you would be better with a wagon that probably has a greater displacement to wieght ratio?

#7 82bratavenger

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:33 AM

Not too long ago I was readin a Popular Mechanics issue where the have a couple of mid to late 80's cameros that were street rods/speed boats. they are capable of 100 mph on land and about 50 mph in the water. They appeared stock but the wheels would retract and there was a lever to ingage a prop off the drive shaft. Anyway it was pretty cool. Go for it!
Nothing a lot of duct tape and expanding foam can't handle!! :grin:

#8 Zefy

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 01:13 AM

hmmm... i want one...

#9 Snowman

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 02:54 AM

A floating subie is an extremely good idea. Im very suprised no one on this site already has one!
It would certainly further increase the versitility of the vehicle!

An amphibious vehicle has recently went into production, cant remember what its called though. it uses no protruding outriggers, and looks very much like a normal car apart from a bow shape at the front.
when it enters the water, teh wheels fold up into the guards so they are out of the water!

A justy is very small though, maybe you would be better with a wagon that probably has a greater displacement to wieght ratio?


I remember reading about that in C&D or PM or something....I think it was 4wd and was powered by a small jet-drive unit.

#10 PictureChasers

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:48 PM

It seems that I have started something...

I honestly expected to get flamed for such a suggestion. I was HOPING that a discussion like this might follow later.

I would imagine you would have to seal up the bottom of the engine bay with a type of keel..


Had not considered a keel, but only plan for 5-10 knots, same speed as some adventurous souls bow plane in NON-amphib soobies. If you mean a hull, the entire car will be the hull.

and depending if you just wanted a land/water vehicle or a land/water/off-roader... but you could use the rear drive line to attach a propeller to


No propeller in my design, many attempted production amphibs use churning of wheels to propel. I think that wheel selection may affect propulsion. My plans are for still/slow water only, once floating & stable, I expect that simply driving will propel us foreward. Am hoping that when wheels hit anything that resembles ground, they will grab & climb out of water.

Check out http://www.terrawind.com/, their RV steers with front wheels & steering wheel.

I plan to tub in the engine bay to keep water out. You guys that do water crossings ever have anything cracked from temperature shock? Not certain at this time, which method to use to keep water out, but allow drivetrain through.

My biggest unknown (unresearched) issue is shutting engine off (or stalling) in water. Obviously I will require a snorkel for fresh air intake, but exhaust underwater will only keep clear while running. I believe it will fill exhaust & cause problems up the yin-yang (pardon the expression). Other than exhausting at snorkel height, I have not solution for this issue. Maybe a simple heat proof, waterproof one way flapper valve would work. I don't want to have semi-truck type exhaust if I can help it.

Engine comes out today so I will get a better look at engine bay. I am NOT floating car at this time, simply prepping if for light offroad fun & TSD rallies.

I saw a video of a lifted suby with big tires that went into a water hole and lost traction and started to float. They had to tug him out.

Ya! When I see the offroaders float, it encourages me. I watch movies just because I heard a car went into the water, to see how they sink. I want to go where there is NO traction, and slowly dogpaddle accross.

They made some pretty neat amphibs on Junkyard Wars over the years.

I KNEW I should have been watching that show! It was monster garage that turned this fantasy of mine into a plan.

It CAN be done, it just depends on how much money you've got whether it will "work" or actually be a practical vehicle that wouldn't make yacht captains run and hide.

Hoping for modest money, lots of effort. Practicality is the driving force. It WILL make yacht captains run & hide, as we drive past the marina & up the boat ramp.

You gotta consider where I live. I am in Penticton BC, across the street from Skaha Lake, a watersports paradise. There is an underpass I can use to drive directly from my house across beach to water, and still hear my phone ring at home. 5 minutes away is 70 mile long Okanagan Lake, complete with sea monster "Ogopogo". I could swim from one lake to the other, but have to drive around dam.

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#11 MorganM

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 01:46 PM

Subarus sink! :lol:

Start with a completly unrested one. That will help with the water sealing for sure. To your question about water fording; no you won't crack a cylinder head or block if the engine is running at normal operating temp.

#12 PictureChasers

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 01:51 PM

A justy is very small though, maybe you would be better with a wagon that probably has a greater displacement to wieght ratio?


Good one Ross, you had me worried so I went to check. PLEASE if anyone finds a flaw in my rough theory speak up. I am a photographer, not an engineer Jim!

It seems that to float anything, it must simply weigh less than the water it displaces. Ignoring for nor both stability & saftey simply to test feasability . Let's assume the Justy will weigh 2000 lbs both stripped down & beefed up. Likely more but I need a round number. Fresh water weighs roughly 8 lbs per gallon. This car will displace very roughly 250 gallons of water, hopefully surface water, not deep water. If the Justy measures about 60" wide by 145" long, or about 8700 square inches. The first inch of my theoretical Justy would be 8700 CUBED inches. 8700 cubed inches divided by 0.004329 = 37 gallons for this theoretical inch.

In my abstract reasoning, simply to determine if possible says that if the Justy were a cube, and it sunk an inch (draw), it would displace about 37 gallons of water. We need 250 gallons, or close to 7" IF THE JUSTY WERE A CUBE.

So if the Justy were a box, my guess is it would sink (draw) about 7" (should have bought a Volvo?). Assuming the engine bay will be sealed somewhere near floor level, here's the factors I already know must be factored in.

- Wheel wells won't be sealed, and must be subtracted from car mass
- also subtract mass that doesnt exist at both ends of car below bumpers
- Air in tires will want to float, anyone know how to calculate that? The swamper guys know it's no laughing matter, but what about on a 175/60R-13. I know my Cherokee threw my 15" spoked steel front wheel a mile over a cliff, and it floated.

I suspect that 4 tires mounted at corners will act as outriggers and add at least some stability. I do not plan to go surfing in any wave action.

Should I actually need more area to displace water, the Monster Garage guys extended the bumper of their Swamp Buggy Beetle a few inches at both ends, filled with some 2 part foam that I need a good source for. This would assist with bouyancy and greatly improve stability by being at extreme ends, the full width of the car. Hoping to not require these pontoon bumpers, but mine would be removable & weigh almost nothing.

I am estimating & hoping that car will ride just below top of tires in still water.

Any engineers out there got any ideas, or a reason why it simply won't work?

Darren Sweet
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#13 PictureChasers

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 02:05 PM

Subarus sink! :lol:

Start with a completly unrested one. That will help with the water sealing for sure. To your question about water fording; no you won't crack a cylinder head or block if the engine is running at normal operating temp.


Ours has only fender rust that's visible, was pretty well cared for, that's why we picked this one. Will have small sump pumping from engine bay, floor & spare tire compartment for any leaks or splashes. We plan windows open during all nautical operations, to prevent a death trap. Have no plans to ever swim more than a few yards from land, the stuff we want to see & photograph will be at the edges of water, not in the middle.

What about water getting in exhaust if engine shuts down, does it need to be above water, or does some miracle (or even a P-trap) keep the water out of exhaust when you stall during water crossings?

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#14 MorganM

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 04:15 PM

Ours has only fender rust that's visible, was pretty well cared for, that's why we picked this one. Will have small sump pumping from engine bay, floor & spare tire compartment for any leaks or splashes. We plan windows open during all nautical operations, to prevent a death trap. Have no plans to ever swim more than a few yards from land, the stuff we want to see & photograph will be at the edges of water, not in the middle.

What about water getting in exhaust if engine shuts down, does it need to be above water, or does some miracle (or even a P-trap) keep the water out of exhaust when you stall during water crossings?

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I'd put on an exhuast snorkel that keeps it above the water line.

#15 PictureChasers

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 09:59 PM

I'd put on an exhuast snorkel that keeps it above the water line.


The exhaust snorkel would be a last resort, I would prefer not to look like "Smokey and the Bandit". I dont even really want an intake snorkel cause many figure they are only for show, but don't see much choice.

What if the exhaust tip went straight down from muffler for a few inches to the exhaust tip? I wonder if the air in the exhaust will keep out the water trying to get in, exactly the reverse of a P-trap under a sink? If the air in the exhaust upon stall can't escape the down section of exhaust, and the exhaust has no leaks, then no room for water!

Maybe my P-trap idea and a flapper either at the tip or in the pipe somewhere?

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#16 82bratavenger

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 12:41 AM

You could put a removable exaust snorkel that clamps on the end of the tail pipe and could be easily removed after exiting the water. Another thought, is this an automatic or a manual? If manual how will you seal around the gear shift? Also how do you plan on sealing the doors?

#17 PictureChasers

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 01:09 AM

You could put a removable exaust snorkel that clamps on the end of the tail pipe and could be easily removed after exiting the water. Another thought, is this an automatic or a manual? If manual how will you seal around the gear shift? Also how do you plan on sealing the doors?


Have considered a removable exhaust snorkel. Still my favorite option if my own P-trap air system doesnt work out.

It's manual. Gear shift an interesting question. At this time I am planning to tub engine bay, but must let drivetrain out. Have considered including transmission in my engine bay tub, to keep it dry, then do the tub sealing mostly to the trans, and leave the shafts freely protruding from my waterproofing tub.

Originally planned this flotation for Rabbit convertible, but needed 4wd to get out of water, among other things. We will use our convertible for our initial "flotation" tests, for easy exit. Planning to sink the Rabbit a few times in stock trim, to see HOW & hopefully WHY it sinks.

Upgrading seals around doors from a larger car for thicker door molding, water will push in on door & assist seal once door begins to submerge. Hoping that water will only run about 9-10 inches from BOTTOM of door opening. No idea how yet, but plan to have secondary door latch of some kind, mostly to prevent human error and trying to opening the door. Emergency egress is through the window.

It's a 2 door, and I don't think we will allow anyone in back seat during any serious flotation for safety reasons.

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#18 Ross

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 06:53 AM

Could you clarify what means of propulsion you plan on using?

It sounds as if you plan on using the tyres to provide in water propulsion?
This will work to some extent IF the entire tyre is not submerged, but will be fairly unsatisfactory unless your tyres have huge lugs or paddles.

I think a propellor would be a much better option.
The most obvious way of doing this would be to use the rear drive shaft to run a propellor, which could be lowered into the water. You probably wouldn't want to do that, because you wouldn't have 4 wheel drive anymore.

Another option would be to use one or more electric motors to drive propellor(s). These could be powerd by a large alternator on your engine, might be expensive.

Or, you could put an outboard on the back! Attach it to the rear bumper mounts, power trim etc and all the controls in the car!

#19 PictureChasers

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 10:44 AM

Could you clarify what means of propulsion you plan on using?


A few amphib cars from the past. http://mitglied.lyco...ch/carlist.html

The Amphicar and many others simply used tires for propulsion. The plan is to only achieve 5 knots. No water skiing with this soobie. Our criteria involves a water crossing say 50' across and too deep to drive, with a 30 degree incline at sides. I will hope for up to 45 degree shore capability but require 30. I know we will never get out if shore is 30 degrees and muddy.

Tires partially submerged would be ideal, but I calculate (with several assumptions) that we will ride close to top of tires in water, with tires mostly or all submerged but not deep. While I am NO engineer, I believe that the wheel bottoms will provide propulsion foreward. While the TOP of the wheel is indeed going foreward and still moving some water, that water is trapped by fenders and I think will mostly churn around. If we remain high enough to keep air in the fenders then I think this will help as well.

Backup plan is an electric trolling motor. Though I had not yet thought of tying controls to car. We could turn steering wheel, front tires assist in steering and fishing motor turns as well, I kinda like that.

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#20 PictureChasers

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 11:24 AM

Floating school bus to circumnavigate the world amphibiously


http://mitglied.lyco...ea/wheelsea.htm

#21 MorganM

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 12:43 PM

The engine will force the exhuast out the pipe and exhaust will just bubble upto the surface. This works fine for most of the time. Now if the engine stalls the water is going to rush up the pipe.

It's going to look pretty crazy anyway when you are all done. A functional exhuast and intake snorkel wouldnt be bad. Will some assume its all show and no go? Sure... untill you hit the water! :brow:

#22 PictureChasers

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:32 PM

It's going to look pretty crazy anyway when you are all done. A functional exhuast and intake snorkel wouldnt be bad. Will some assume its all show and no go? Sure... untill you hit the water! :brow:


Good point, just challenge me to a race across water. What's better, 5 knots of glub, glub, glub...

Don't worry though, the car will be camooflaged as a cow, so no one will notice it. My original Cowcar was in the Freemont Art Car Parade all over Seattle in 2001. It didn't float (that I know of), and was 2WD though.

Looks like I will be seeing my first Amphicars up close in Seattle for "Opening Day Parade" (boats) next weekend.

#23 mtsmiths

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 05:21 PM

The Junkyard Wars episode I saw where them build a floatable car produced a failure. The nose plowed under and swamped it as soon as they got it underway. When you see an Amphibicar you'll notice it has a very defined bow so that it will plane up out of the water.

I really can't see making a Justy float. Too short, too square. too tall. I think the CG would be way too high and it would capsize if you sneezed. At the least I would weld the doors closed and cut the top off, and form a true prow that could be filled with foam and provide some bouyance for the (heavy) front end. Also, I'm not so sure that your dog paddle plan will provide enough propulsion, inless maybe you got sand paddle tires.

#24 baccaruda

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 12:13 AM

I've got to say that I'm not a big fan of this idea for two major reasons:

One: the car's weight is not balanced in a way that it will be stable and safe to pilot as a boat. Amphibious cars are designed to be stable in the water as well as streetable. You'd have to add a lot of weight to the bottom and rear of the car to add stability while floating, and that will create its own problems.

Two: I think it is environmentally irresponsible to drive a street car in a body of water. Think of it as using the lake or river as your own private carwash. All that grease and oil on the bottom of your engine and chassis ("all" subarus leak oil, it's no secret) is going to end up in the water, as well as the exhaust pollutants. Our rivers and lakes are having enough problems caused by callous industrial practices, and I'm sure the fish would prefer that you didn't expose them to this crud.
I don't know about the geology where you're from, but Spokane sits on top of one of the world's largest freshwater aquifers, and it is where we get our drinking water. Burlington Northern just built a railroad refueling depot right on top of it, and of course the damned thing leaks like a sieve, so now our aquifer has f#$%ing diesel fuel in it. Of course your subaru is not capable of causing problems of that scale, but the point is that petroleum products and public water resources should be kept separate. It only takes a miniscule amount of petroleum contaminants to pollute large quantities of water.
I for one would be one of the people sure to scowl at someone driving their car around in the lake. I hope you don't do this.

#25 Ross

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 01:35 AM

I've got to say that I'm not a big fan of this idea for two major reasons:

One: the car's weight is not balanced in a way that it will be stable and safe to pilot as a boat. Amphibious cars are designed to be stable in the water as well as streetable. You'd have to add a lot of weight to the bottom and rear of the car to add stability while floating, and that will create its own problems.

Two: I think it is environmentally irresponsible to drive a street car in a body of water. Think of it as using the lake or river as your own private carwash. All that grease and oil on the bottom of your engine and chassis ("all" subarus leak oil, it's no secret) is going to end up in the water, as well as the exhaust pollutants. Our rivers and lakes are having enough problems caused by callous industrial practices, and I'm sure the fish would prefer that you didn't expose them to this crud.
I don't know about the geology where you're from, but Spokane sits on top of one of the world's largest freshwater aquifers, and it is where we get our drinking water. Burlington Northern just built a railroad refueling depot right on top of it, and of course the damned thing leaks like a sieve, so now our aquifer has f#$%ing diesel fuel in it. Of course your subaru is not capable of causing problems of that scale, but the point is that petroleum products and public water resources should be kept separate. It only takes a miniscule amount of petroleum contaminants to pollute large quantities of water.
I for one would be one of the people sure to scowl at someone driving their car around in the lake. I hope you don't do this.


Considering it probably wont be in the water that often, or for very long, i doubt it will have any more environmental effect than a fizz boat with a dirty old 2 stroke merc on the back...




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