This Ingenious Car From 1923 Turned Into a Boat

Illustration from the October 1923 issue of Practical Electrics magazine

It seems like every futurist and her sister wanted to turn cars into boats back in the 20th century. Remember the Water-Mobile of 1947? Or how about the poor man’s yacht of 1958? Well, this Jazz Age invention had them all beat.

The October 1923 issue of Practical Electrics magazine included this peek at the future of motoring—a future when every car could turn into a boat with ease. John Cowan of Kansas City even got the idea patented in 1921.


From Practical Electrics:

Why go to the trouble of hiring a boat when out on a fishing trip when the top of your automobile makes a very serviceable skiff? As a matter of fact, John A. Cowan of Kansas City, Mo., has patented an automobile of just such a type in which the top comes off. It may then be carried down to the water, the oars removed and a pleasurable boat ride may be experienced. Of course if it should rain while the rowers are on the lake, the interior of the automobile would get wet, but who wants to be in an open boat while it is raining, so the cover goes back in place.

It looks like any old car...


But as the magazine explains, the top simply pops off...


And can be carried right into the water...


And as the author of the magazine article explained, you wouldn’t want to get caught in the rain...


As best I can tell, this invention didn’t really take off. But they certainly had the right idea when it came to fantasies of futuristic living.

Maybe the only thing more American than the promise of owning your own car is being able to turn that car into a water recreation vehicle for smooching your flapper girlfriend on a fishing trip.


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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog