This is a 1964 Lambretta Amphi-Scooter, and as the name suggests, it’s a Lambretta scooter-based amphibious vehicle. The first was developed and built in the 1960s, floats were attached at either side on a hinged mechanism that allow the Lambretta to be used on land or water.

Britain has a long, proud, and slightly strange history when it comes to amphibious motorcycles and scooters. The first known example was built by Harry Perrey, who crossed the English Channel on his Ariel motorcycle with floats attached back in 1929. It took him 7 hours and 25 minutes.

Fast Facts – The Lambretta Amphi-Scooter

  • The first Lambretta Amphi-Scooter was developed by Lambretta Concessionaires, the UK importer, in the mid-1960s. It was conceived of by Phillip Keeler and built by Rex White.
  • The Amphi-Scooter consisted of a 1964 Lambretta J125 scooter, fiberglass floats were attached on either side by way of a hinged mechanism that allowed them to be folded up for road riding, then folded down for use on the water.
  • This invention caused a sensation when it was shown to the world at the 1965 Brighton Motor Cycle and Cycle Show, it completely stole the show and demonstrations appeared in period newsreels and in various newspapers and magazines.
  • The Lambretta Amphi-Scooter was built more recently as a 100% functional homage to the original (which had long ago sunk in an English lake), and it’s now being offered for sale as the only known amphibious scooter in the world.

Building (And Sinking) The Lambretta Amphi-Scooter

The first Lambretta Amphi-Scooter was dreamt up by Phillip Keeler in England, then shown to the world at the 1965 Brighton Motor Cycle and Cycle Show where it upstaged everyone else and became a darling of the media circuit.

Above Video: This newsreel film from the 1960s shows the original Lambretta Amphi-Scooter in action with Douglas Bedford at the controls and model Donna White on the back. It includes footage of it being launched into the water and piloted down the Thames past major London landmarks.

The Swinging Sixties in London were a time when scooters from companies like Lambretta and Vespa were decidedly cool, particularly among the Mods, and they provided a cost effective commuting solution that required very little in the way of petrol.

The Amphi-Scooter would be the invention of the Lambretta Concessionaires in the UK, Phillip Keeler (who came up with the idea) was the Communications Director and the vehicle was built by Rex White who was the Head of Lambretta Development at the company.

The design is remarkably simple, foam-filled fiberglass floats are attached at either side to provide enough buoyancy to keep the scooter and two people above water. Propulsion on the water is provided by a rotary paddle attached to the rear wheel hub, and steering is accomplished using the front wheel, which has a small rudder attached to the side.

When you’re riding on the road the pontoons can be raised up on their hinges, they can then be lowered down and locked into position when you want to get out on the water. In the newsreel film embedded above you can see the Amphi-Scooter in action as well as the folding pontoon system, though it does look like it almost goes under when it’s initially launched.

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Image DescriptionHere we see the original Lambretta Amphi-Scooter being demonstrated in 1965, note that the pilot seems a little concerned about the water level! The vehicle was demonstrated on the sea, on the Thames river, and on the lake at Mallory Park, however it sank during that final demonstration run.

Douglas Bedford, an employee of Lambretta Concessionaires, was made the official Captain of the invention however some trepidation remained about its ability to not sink immediately and embarrass the UK Concessionaires.

As a result of these concerns the vehicle was given a secret test launch into the sea at Portsmouth where Bedford dressed up as a sailor for luck. This secret test session was a success, and the vehicle went on to be displayed at the show.

It’s not known if the Lambretta Concessionaires in the UK ever intended to offer a production version of the Amphi-Scooter or if it was developed from the outset solely for the show in Brighton in 1965.

Sadly the fate of the original Amphi-Scooter wasn’t to be the first in a production run or even to be displayed at a prominent motoring museum – it unfortunately sank in the lake at Mallory Park where it presumably remains to this day.

The Lambretta Amphi-Scooter Shown Here

The Lambretta Amphi-Scooter you see here was built as an exact replica of the original, right down to the year, model, and color of the Lambretta and floats that were used. The project was started by Costantino Frontalini in Italy in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of the original.

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Image DescriptionThis is a model from the 1960s showing off the Amphi-Scooter, eagle-eyed viewers will notice the Bond Minicar Mark G in the background. The Lambretta Concessionaires made good use of the advertising space on both sides of the pontoons.

Frontalini and his team are well known for their unusual motorcycle and scooter-based projects including the construction of a giant Vespa Faro Basso. He’s also the author of numerous books on historic side cars, and recognized as a global authority on the subject.

This project started with the acquisition of a 1964 Lambretta J125 which was then modified using the available historical documentation including the addition of the blue fiberglass pontoons, the paddle mechanism, the front rudder, and the hinges that allow the pontoons to be locked in the up or down position.

All in it’s believed that the project took approximately 700 hours and cost over €20,000. It was tested on the waters of Lake Cingoli in Italy, not far from the Sidecar Museum where it is still on display today.

It’s now been decided to sell the Lambretta Amphi-Scooter and it’ll be sold by H&H Classics in a live online auction that ends on the 10th of May. If you’d like to read more about this unusual vehicle or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Image DescriptionDuring water trials on Lake Cingoli in Italy a tether was tied to the Amphi-Scooter at all times for safety.

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Images courtesy of H&H Classics

Published by Ben Branch -