This unusual Hobbycar B612 amphibian was introduced to the world at the 1992 Paris Motor Show. It is a mid-engined, jet-drive, forward-control four-seater, designed to be offered as seen, or with an optional four-door rigid top, or as a pick-up. Steering on dry land is conventional, by the steering wheel, while in the water, control is by joystick.
The Peugeot diesel engine is transversely-mounted amidships, and powers both the terrestrial four-wheel drive system and the twin 150 kg-thrust hydrojets. Three of the seats may be removed or clipped in facing either forward or backward. Production models also featured an electrically-retractable windshield, although it is fixed in this pre-production model. The Citroën-sourced hydropneumatic suspension allows a range of height-adjustability to the Hobbycar, and pneumatic cylinders at each wheel counteract the natural sag of the unloaded suspension in the water, keeping the wheels pulled up tight to reduce drag. Freeboard was only 10cm, or less than 4”. It was suitable for smooth water only, as the slightest waves could swamp the craft!
This pre-production prototype lacks some of the features and refinements found in later B612s, and is amazingly complex and tightly-packed under the blue skin. Over 100 pieces of individually numbered, hand-cut and fitted foam pieces tumbled out during the Museum’s restoration work in 2014!
Hobbycars were the vision of designer and engineer, François Wardavoir, and were built in the $25M purpose-built Hobbycar factory in Thenay, France. Only 52 B612s and a handful (or fewer) Passport vans were built in the few years of production. Outrageous prices (the B612 sold for about as much as two contemporary Jaguar or BMW sedans, or a four-bedroom house) and the relative lack of utility smashed any hopes for real commercial success.
Country of Origin: France (Thenay)
Drivetrain Configuration: Transverse, mid-engined, four-wheel drive
Engine: Peugeot 1.9L four-cylinder turbodiesel, 92hp
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Top Speed: 140 km/h (87 mph)
Years of Production: 1992-1996
Number Produced: 52
Original Cost: 280,000 FF ($ 56,000 approx.)
Designer: François Wardavior