Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

A locally made amphi-bus, G-Duck, is set to open up a new market for special-application CV.

The first amphibious bus built in India by Automobile Corporation Goa Ltd. (ACGL) in association with Goa-based Amphibious Design India (ADI) will be handed over to the Goa tourism department in the next few months, post the completion of some testing procedures. The delivery of the amphi-bus will mark a high point of an unique endeavour, and in the life of the resulting product – the G-Duck. Involving the bus body building expertise of ACGL, the G-Duck also brings to the fore the specialisation of ADI, an Indian arm of the Hawaii-based Advanced Amphibious Design (AAD), which has been building amphibious vehicles for 11 years. Mentioned on AAD’s website is that over the years, problem areas have been identified and addressed, followed by the testing of the findings to arrive at a low maintenance hard-working amphibious vehicle. Describing AAD as a USD 3.5 million company, Miles Needham, Chairman of ADI, and President of AAD, mentioned that they supply larger equipment in USA, China, Japan and the Caribbean. Referring to the nature of usage of the amphi-bus as those that are used by tourism companies to take people on a one-hour waterway tour, Needham mentioned that the G-Duck is capable of seating 32 people.

The construction of G-Duck was entrusted to ACGL after much deliberation. ADI carried out discussions with various bus body builders across the country, before zeroing on ACGL. “We talked to many companies. We found out that ACGL was more willing,” said Miles. “We wanted to produce the vehicle in India, and we have achieved that,” he added. Employing local content to the tune of 80 per cent, and with an aim to take it to 100 per cent, the G-Duck has the lower half of its body made of steel. The upper half is a soft-top supported by a tubular structure made from aluminium tubes. Sources close to ACGL claim that ADI showed them that it was possible to weld steel and aluminium to form a structure. Expected to provide a ‘open-top’ experience, the G-Duck rides on 20-inch wheels. Power comes from a 130 hp, 5.8-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a four-wheel drive mechanism. If the specs seem to indicate that this vehicle has drawn a fair deal from Tata’s 1212c 4×4 truck, a power-take-off arrangement from the centrally mounted transfer case (with pneumatic engagement operation) powers the impeller at the rear via a propeller shaft. Weighing about 10-tonnes, the amphi-bus, Miles expressed, was designed specifically for the Indian market. “We are working on a mass amphibious transport concept,” he said, drawing attention to the use of amphibious vehicles in other markets for rescue, transporting goods, etc., on lakes, waterways and oceans.

Particularly useful where ports are not easily available or accessible, the G-Duck is likely to find use with other states in the country as well. Miles wouldn’t reveal however. He said that his company was in discussions with other potential buyers. Describing passion as the driver for developing the amphibious vehicle, Miles mentioned that he does not want to be a typical coach builder. “It’s passion, and even though the mass transit option interests me, I don’t have an expectation for regular numbers,” he said. Of the opinion that India is an ideal market for amphibious mass transit, Miles said that his design and engineering were based on safety. The specs of the G-Duck read that it has a fully automated fire suppression system, life jackets, life buoys, hull plates (to withstand 20,000 lbs per square impact) and is fully marine compliant. A single deck bus with 32 all weather seats in the form of a 2×2 seating arrangement, the right-hand drive oriented G-Duck has a simple dashboard with instrumentation that is identical to those found on many Tata vehicles. At the centre of the dash is a bank of switches and warning lamps. These enable the G-Duck to perform some of its unique tasks. Built on a chassis that is claimed to have been engineered by ACGL, the G-Duck, apart from transporting tourists or commuters across the rivers Mandovi and Zuari, or across Goa’s 30 km shore line may find its way to cities like Chennai and Mumbai. There, it could prove to be a water-based travel alternative for train commuters and tourists alike. It was late last year that the Union Minister for road transport, highways and shipping, Nitin Gadkari announced that Mumbai would get amphibious buses, and roll-on and roll-off services connecting the island city with the distant suburbs.


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