We're going to go off the beaten path with this one.
It's easy to forget, if you live in a First World country, that things like water, power, and sewage just sort of sort themselves out. Beyond the network of pipes and wires in your residence, there's likely a larger network under your neighbourhood, city...but beyond that, it's difficult to figure out just how all of our utilities are connected.
In the case of things like pipelines and power lines, they're tended to by small groups of tradesmen, often with specialized equipment for maintaining infrastructure way out in remote areas.
Rheinauer Maschinen- und Armaturenbau KG, or RMA for short, recognized that there was a need for a truly rugged, go-anywhere, amphibious SUV that could be taken deep into remote areas and allow a small crew of workers to get a job done.
And so, the Amphi-Ranger became a sort of side project for RMA, whose production line consists of pipeline fittings and equipment—ball valves, fasteners, gas meters—the hearty components needed to maintain vast amounts of infrastructure.
First, the company realized that, as an amphibious vehicle, it would be in production a lot sooner if they designed and built it from scratch. Why? Well, think of any time Top Gear tried to modify a road-going vehicle to perform well on water: there's more to it than building a hull, mounting a propeller, and hanging a few nautical bumpers over the side.
It's the little stuff—steering arms, suspension components, brakes, etc.—that ends up being much easier to manage if they're designed from the start to be used in an amphibious vehicle.
First introduced in 1985, the Amphi-Ranger 2000 SR (Reewasser Resistant) was fitted with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with 100 horsepower. That was connected to a 4-speed transmission and 2-speed transfer box with power take-off (for powering equipment while in remote areas).
Production of each Amphi-Ranger took about a month; from its seawater resistant aluminum-alloy hull, to its simple selection of Ford engines, it was designed to be strong and relatively lightweight. At 1650 kg (3637 lbs), the truck wasn't a total heavyweight—but with just 100 horsepower, there was no way operators could hope to keep up with traffic on the highway.
By 1986, the weight had increased to 1940 kg (4321 lbs), but now with an extra forward speed in the transmission and a 3.0-litre V6 engine with 145 horsepower. It speed on land was 140 km/h (87 mph), and in water 15 km/h (9.3 mph / 8 knots). The company said Amphi-Ranger operators now had a range of 450 km on land, with the vehicle able to operate in water for up to 20 hours—while carrying a load of 860 kg (1895 lbs.)
Most were sold to industrial companies, government agencies—including police—but some were bought by private individuals. AMR even offered a choice of a soft or hard top! Creature comforts? Probably, "It floats!" is at the top of the list, right? As the YouTube video below briefly shows, inside there's a lot of black plastic, rubber, and metal.
Under the rear bumper hides a retractable—electric—propeller that's deployed once there's enough water underneath the vehicle. Once afloat, the front wheels act as rudders.
Production ended in 1995, with between 66-85 Amphi-Rangers completed, all different depending on their intended use. Of course, the limited production and immensely specialized construction conspired to make the Amphi-Ranger expensive, with the most recent "new" sticker price listed as more than $100,000 USD.
During my research I came across a page for Interessen-Gemeinschaft Amphi-Ranger (IGAR), a small group of owners who are trying to band together and support the continued use of their beloved amphibious vehicle.
Like so many of the cars featured on #bcotd, even an amphibious pipeline maintenance vehicle can develop a following. From the IGAR website:
"It’s already 20 years since the Amphi-Ranger was first released by RMA in Rheinau. This was an amphibious vehicle that set new standards, its off road and sea going abilities and its comfort is still unequalled in amphibian technology. The Amphi-Ranger provides both pleasure and fun but it should not be forgotten that this is a hand made vehicle, each one is unique. The maintenance is complicated, finding spare parts is difficult and there are several other technical problems.
"It has been 10 years since RMA stopped producing the Amphi-Ranger so the problem of getting spare parts is getting more difficult. It won’t be long before RMA stop supplying spares altogether. It is now time for the Amphi-Ranger owners all over the world to unite and solve these problems."
Let's hope they help keep the Amphi-Ranger hobby afloat.