We don’t see flying cars yet, although they are in production, but you can own a fleet of fantastic vehicles that can drive right off the highway and into the water, thanks to a self-made mechanical genius named John Giljam.
An ideal portrait of the American story, Giljam grew up on a farm in upstate New York, but in ninth grade scored 98 on a college aptitude test for mechanical engineering. His father, Harold, was good at fabricating fixes for broken equipment, which sparked John’s interest in creative design. As farmers flocked to pay them, father and son went into business together.
“I love the problem-solving,” John said in a telephone interview. “After enrolling in college, I quit after one semester because I was always teaching the professors.”
15 years ago, about a decade after his dad died, he started a new company — Cool Amphibious Manufacturing International (CAMI) — to build amphibious vehicles for the worldwide tourism trade. If you’ve ever been to the Charles River in Boston you’ve seen his vehicles used on the Super Ducks tours.
The South Carolina company, based near Hilton Head Island, has built 75 of these Hydra-Terra tour buses, which are currently whizzing down boat ramps in 17 countries.
“The fun side is that my wife Julie and I get to go to all these countries. Tokyo was beautiful. We’ve been to Dubai three times; they bought a fleet of five.”
Ingeniously unparalleled, the Hydra-Terra is the only Coast Guard approved “T” Vessel in its class, according to the CAMI website. “It’s foam-filled compartments make it unsinkable even with the drain plugs removed and the full engine room flooded!”
But it was the couple’s luxurious motor home that won CAMI internet fame after an amazing video was posted on YouTube last year showing off their one-of-a-kind Terra Wind. (Watch the video above)
Luxuriously appointed teak and granite cover every inch of their RV that contains a full kitchen, full bath and queen bedroom.
CAMI has also designed an all-terrain search and rescue Amphibious Responder, for helping those in need. The Responder was built to give search and rescue crews a mobile ambulatory that can go over land and water in some of the toughest terrain imaginable.
John’s love of speed inspired him to design a beautiful sports car powered by a Corvette V8 engine, the Hydra Spyder, which can whip through small waves at 46 knots.